Public Housing

Public Housing

This is the oldest subsidized housing program in the United States. County or city-based Public (Local) Housing Authorities own and operate rental buildings that charge lower rents (project0based subsidized rental units). People ages 62 and older occupy approximately one-third (1.1 million) of these apartments. Key factors when considering this option include:

  • Some buildings are older and run down and not in the best of neighborhoods.
  • Families of all ages occupy most buildings, and the older person must consider the pros and cons of living among younger families with children.
  • Some buildings are not well maintained.
  • Some buildings are dedicated to seniors, but the apartments are very small.
  • Seniors-only building are more likely to have service coordinators on staff, persons who assist seniors in finding the home and community-based services they need.

Tenant-Based Section 8

Public Housing Authorities also administer the Housing Choice Voucher program (the merged Section 8 Certificate and Voucher programs), referred to as tenant-based assisted housing, which makes it possible for eligible low-income applicants to afford rental housing available in the private market. They receive financial assistance in the form of a rent subsidy (the sum is actually paid directly to the property owner) valued roughly at the difference between what applicants can afford (i.e., 3o percent of their income) and the market rent of an apartment (within 90 percent o 110 percent of HUD fair housing rent guidelines). Age 62 and over households occupy roughly 15 percent of the 1.4 million subsidized units in this program. Key considerations are:

  • In higher-priced rental housing markets with a low vacancy rate, it is often difficult for seniors to find apartments that charge a low enough rent that would qualify under this program.
  • Tenants of all ages will often occupy these apartment buildings, and seniors may find such mixed-age buildings undesirable.
  • Because of the mixed ages of their tenants, seniors in these buildings are less likely to enjoy the benefits of service coordinators, supportive services, or accessible design features.

Affordable, Privately Owned and Manged, Multifamily Buildings (Section 202 Housing)

A variety of HUD programs have encouraged the construction of rental projects available to household with low incomes (80 percent or less of their area's median income). They are variously owned by for-profits and non-profits, the latter often faith-based organizations. One such highly lauded program is named Section 202. Section 202 is restricted to nonprofit organizations and specifically targets low-income seniors. Age 62 and over households occupy just over half of the over 1.6 million subsidized units in all these HUD programs. Some of these seniors-only buildings may be more attractive to some seniors because:

  • families with children will not occupy them;
  • the buildings are more likely to have service coordinators on staff, community space for social and recreational facilities, on-site meal programs, housekeeping services, and transportation assistance;
  • the buildings have security systems - front, door, and "in apartment" call system.

However, the more attractive buildings are likely to have the longest waiting lists. For example, Section 202 programs have nine applicants for every vacant unit.

The Section 515 Program

This program is administered by the Rural Housing Service (formerly known as Farmers Home Administration), part of the Department of Agriculture. It offers low-rent apartments in rural areas to households with low incomes (80 percent or less of area's median income). Age 62 and older households occupy roughly 42 percent of its more than 450,000 rental units. Seniors considering this type of housing should be aware that:

  • these buildings may be less geographically accessible to the medical and shopping needs of seniors because they are located in rural America;
  • many of these projects are very small and there is sometimes no on-site manager for older occupants to report building-related problems;
  • these buildings often lack design features or staffing that could be helpful to more frail seniors.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program

 Many new affordable rental units are produced under this program, which is typically administered by a state's housing finance agency. Household earning up to 60 percent of their area's median income are eligible. Older households occupy roughly one-quarter of its more than 433,000 units (Kochera, 2002b). Key considerations:

  • Most properties in this program have an average waiting list of eight months.
  • Housing projects targeted to elderly occupants, rather than mixed-aged occupants, are more likely to ahve special dsign accessibility features in their units.
  • Projects vary considerable as to whether they offer services to seniors such as transportation, group meals, or housekeeping.
  • Over 42 percent of the properties for seniors are located in rural areas.

State, County, and City Affordable Housing Programs

A variety of other state and local affordable housing programs, particularly federal block grant programs, will fund the building of new affordable rental units. They will be more available in some states and communities than others.

The information above is reprinted from Working with Seniors: Health, Financial and Social Issues with permission from Society of Certified Senior Advisors® . Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.