Many seniors, especially those on a fixed income, struggle with the high cost of living and paying for their home. Often they can’t afford to live in an independently owned house, but are being priced out of the market. These days it’s not just boomers who find themselves in this situation, but older generations too.
This article is going to explore the different kinds of subsidized housing that are available for seniors or people over 55 years old, including affordable housing units that are privately owned and run by nonprofits or government entities. This post will also cover advantages and disadvantages of these types of apartments so you have all the information you need before deciding what type is best for your needs.
Affordable housing—or Section 8 housing—is federally subsidized. The government doesn’t pay the full rent, but rather a portion of your monthly income, down to a maximum extent. Depending on the state and when you apply for housing, you may be able to get up to 8-10% of your annual income for rent. Typically this affordable housing is rented from private landlords who own the property. There is also some affordable housing owned by non-profit organizations like Catholic Charities that are rented by the government on behalf of their residents.
Advantages: You get to choose your own apartment, and you can rent for as long or as short a period as you like. You will probably have internet and cable TV included.
Disadvantages: You may not be able to move depending on where you live, and the government won’t help if you want to move to another city or town. If the apartment is in a city like New York City where the rent guideline increase (or “Greedy renters raise” guidelines are in play), then the rent could rise substantially over time, putting you at risk of being priced out of your apartment. Some landlords ban pets because they don’t get paid by the government for pets.
Non-profit housing is private property that is run by a non-profit organization like Catholic Charities, the YMCA or a housing cooperative. The idea behind this type of housing is to provide a variety of services to its residents, such as education and training in the case of Catholic Charities and other faith-based programs. Most non-profit apartment communities are located in cities where there is a large low income population. Churches often own their own buildings and lease them out as affordable housing too.
Advantages: Property can be kept affordable by using stipend funds from its foundation or church, so the rent price can stay steady or even go down over time. Residents can work with agencies to get the help they need to become more independent.
Disadvantages: There are often waiting lists, and there is no guarantee that you will get in. Unlike government subsidized housing, if an apartment opens up in one of these buildings, you have to relinquish your spot in line for the next available unit. There is also no guarantee that you will be allowed to keep pets or have subsidized rent for your pet by working out a payment arrangement with the landlord.
Privately Owned Affordable Senior Housing
Privately owned affordable senior housing is typically not subsidized by the government in any way. Instead, the landlord takes a very small cut of your rent to cover costs, and then passes the rest on to you. A typical example of this type of housing will be an apartment complex where the landlord owns 100% of all apartments but decides to charge less than average rent because he wants to increase his tenant base or community around him. Because these traditional landlords are not getting a piece of your income, their rents are high—often 40% above market value—but they can take pets and you may have other incentives like free cable TV, internet or home washer/dryer units.
Advantages: If you live in an area where there is a high-cost of living, you can still afford to have a nice apartment that is close to shopping centers and other conveniences.
Disadvantages: The landlord is not getting any kind of subsidy from the government, so the rent may be higher than what you would normally pay, though often these rents are lower than other apartments in the area. There is also no guarantee that your home will remain affordable over time. The landlord could raise the rent at any time but typically only does this when he wants to invest more funds into repairs or upgrades for his property (or just wants to make more money).
Government Affordable Housing
For seniors who don’t qualify for Section 8 or private affordable housing, there is also government subsidized housing available. Senior citizens are eligible for government subsidized housing in every state. The government will pay the full rent or a portion of your annual income if you rent in federally assisted housing. You will be required to pay a portion of your monthly income as long as you live there, and that amount will vary depending on what type of housing the government provides.
This type of affordable senior rental townhouses is typically located in low-income neighborhoods where many older people have settled down and opened their homes up to others—so you may have neighbors when you move into your government subsidized apartment building. You will have to get on a waiting list for this type of housing, which can take years. You will also need a social worker or other professional who can vouch for you as well in government subsidized senior apartments.
Advantages: You’re guaranteed housing assistance, and the government will work with you to find the right apartment. This is also a great way to live if you want to stay close to your family because it’s cheaper in the long run than staying in their home.
Disadvantages: These kinds of apartments are typically located in cities where crime rates are high or poverty rates are high due to high levels of homelessness. The buildings are not located in the best of areas and you may have to walk through or live around danger or blight. There may also be a long waiting list for these kinds of apartments.
There are many ways to get affordable senior housing assistance as a senior citizen if you qualify, but have no fear if you do not because there are always low income senior housing options out there for you. You just need to be creative when it comes to your search in order to find what is right for you.