How to Find Low Income Housing For Seniors

There is a basic hierarchy of needs to applies to us all, no matter our age, race or socio-economic circumstances. The bottom line for us all is food, water, and shelter. A warm, comfortable home that we can for safe in and be happy in. This should be a certainty for seniors once they hit retirement age. They have worked hard their whole lives to earn a place of their own and the peace of mind that they can live up their retirement well.

The problem is that seniors on low incomes don’t always have this peace of mind. They don’t always have the savings and future income in place to let them remain in the home they once had.

So What Can Seniors and Their Relatives Do To Solve This Issue?

There are schemes in place that can help seniors transition into new low-income housing. Those with a low income are means-tested and assessed to see what support is on offer. There are rental schemes across the US that are suitable doer seniors that need a helping hand – both with their rental payments and other care needs. In this guide, we will look at some of the different options that are available to low-income seniors in need of retirement accommodation.

First of all, we will look at the HUD and some of the programs that can help seniors across the states. We will then look at some of the important considerations for choosing one of these rental properties. We will also consider some of the alternatives to these typical schemes, such as shared housing initiatives. Before that, let’s take a closer look at what it means to be eligible for low-income rental accommodation and why there is such a high need for apartments.

Why Do So Many Seniors Require Help?

There is a surprisingly high demand for low-income and low-cost housing solutions for seniors facing retirement. There is an idealized notion that we will all work hard, earn our social security, save money and have enough to enjoy a golden retirement at home. The truth is that this isn’t the case for many Americans. Workers in low-income situations and low-level employment may not have the means to secure their future in this way.

In fact, a study by the Insured Retirement Institute found that as many as 70% of baby boomers in a middle-income bracket don’t feel confident about being financially secure in retirement. A related survey by the Associated Press showed that those just 35% of those earning below $50,000 felt the same way. Many within this generation need a helping hand to find a rental property they can afford.

Let’s look at some of the basics about low-income housing and seniors.

What is Considered Low Income for Senior Citizens?

What is low-income and what are the income limits? The basic criteria for a low-income household in 2018 was any family whose income did not exceed 80% of the median income for the area. Therefore, values are highly dependent on localities, rather than national averages. For example, eligibility in upstate New York could have entirely different parameters than it does in a rural part of Idaho. There is also some additional adjustment in areas that have an especially high or low income-to-housing cost ratio. Also, remember that the income limits could change again come April 1st.

What Age Does Qualify for Senior Housing?

Eligibility for public housing doesn’t just depend on the income of the household and not all seniors will be eligible for senior housing under Section 202 (more about this below). The minimum age that qualifies for senior housing is 62 and the person must be of very-low income.

There are other factors to keep in mind. The department will also look at an applicant’s status as a senior, a family in need or an individual with disabilities. Some seniors may, therefore, qualify under two grounds. There is support available to seniors regardless of marital status.

Finally, they will also consider an application based on the citizenship and immigration status of the applicant. Those that pass all three criteria can look at finding low-cost solutions with federal assistance.

On the subject of rental prices and affordability, it is important to remember that rental prices can vary wildly depending on the area that you choose. In some cases, suburb prices will be cheaper than those in the neighboring city. The extent of this could be significant and may mean savings that can go towards other care needs. It pays to browse different districts to see if the change in price is worth the move to a new area. Rental costs also vary from city to city. There is no average for the state and it may all depend on the availability and current trends for city apartments.

What is HUD Housing for Seniors?

HUD or U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for overseeing the government aid to HAs or local housing agencies that do the actual management of low-income housing. This is what has become to be known as HUD housing.

Who is Eligible for a HUD Public Housing Scheme?

The best course of action for those uncertain about their eligibility is to talk to an agent from the HUD. They make the rules about the parameters of low-income. They also have a number of schemes in place to help seniors that fall below that 80% target. The HUD offers public housing to those that qualify under the rules stated above. This means access to all kinds of homes, apartment and communal living blocks for those with low incomes, disabilities or those of retirement age.

There are around 3,300 individual housing associations across the states, which means local, tailored support wherever you are. These housing associations receive federal aid to create low-income housing solutions for vulnerable citizens in need of assistance.

Housing association agents are obliged to find appropriate housing for seniors and to support them as much as possible. This means helping them to find suitable housing in the required area. But, the support shouldn’t end there. The HA should remain a reliable figure of support for new tenants. They can provide help with the lease, handle security deposits and generally act as a landlord. Some seniors may also find that their HA will provide them with services and support in retirement. This may include residential support such as transportation service, housekeeping and other needs.

HUD Support and Services for Seniors

What is Section 202 Housing for the Elderly?

This is the most important clause to understand when dealing with seniors in low-income housing. This clause was established by HUD in 1959 in order to provide housing that was exclusive for seniors. This section then allowed the HUD to offer loans to help finance the construction of housing projects that would meet the demand of these low-income seniors. These properties are generally one-bedroom apartments with a kitchen and bathroom. Further aid for those eligible can include housekeeping, transportation and home-delivered meals.

Congregate Housing Services Program (CHSP):

This option is basically an addition to the scheme above, which came into place in 1978. The idea was to provide additional funds to those living on the terms of Section 202. More specifically, the services were created to “help frail and persons with disabilities avoid premature or unnecessary institutionalization”. In other words, the CHSP was designed to allow seniors to live an independent life in the home of their choice, delaying any need for residential care.

Further support is on offer for those in greater need. There is an attempt to provide residents with one communal hot meal per day while applicable. There are also the same non-medical services of housekeeping, personal assistance, transportation, and social services.

Housing choice voucher program:

In addition to this, there is a housing choice voucher program. Here applicants are able to choose housing that best suits their needs with the help of this HUD-approved voucher. This puts greater control into the hands of the senior and their families.

In turn, this may allow for a better choice or something a little less conventional. Housing chosen must meet appropriate standards in order for seniors to receive a lease. The potential downside is that more responsibility then falls on the applicant to find suitable accommodation, rather than the HA agent.

Multifamily Rental Housing for Moderate-Income Families:

Then there are the seniors that may benefit from the multifamily scheme. It is important to note that this is for moderate-income families rather than low-income families. However, this could be a helpful back-up solution following the application process.

Some seniors that consider themselves as low-income earners may earn too much in the eyes of their HA. The alternative is this multifamily housing, which does include some senior-friendly properties. The rental costs may be a little higher here, but there are still some perks for those with care needs and disabilities.

Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program:

When you start to look around, there are actually a number of different programs out there that can help people in different circumstances. However, it is clear that some programs are more suitable than others. For example, the idea of this supportive housing scheme sounds great. It works to provide independent living options to people with disabilities – which could include many low-income seniors.

However, there is a focus here on group homes, rather than apartments for singles. These units combine multiple bedrooms that connect to a kitchen and shared living area. The promise is that there will be at least one bathroom for every four residents. This is great for people with learning difficulties and other disabilities that need that social support. It isn’t so beneficial for seniors.

How Do I Apply for Low-Income Senior Housing?

How can seniors and their families apply for HUD help with low-income housing and other support? The application process can be quite long-winded and detailed. The department will need to obtain as much information as possible to process the claim and move forward with the application. Some of this information is fairly formal. Applicants will need to provide personal data, contact information, banking details and references of previous landlords.

They will also ask for an estimate of the expected family income for the next 12 months. This will help them to calculate financial eligibility. There will also be some aspects of a more personal nature. The HA representative will ask about possible reasons for seeking specific accommodation, the make-up the family and everyone’s relationships.

The later won’t be so applicable for seniors unless they plan to live with a relative as a carer. After filling out the application with you, the agent will also inspect the applicant’s current property for a better understanding of their situation. It can be long and stressful in some cases. But, preparation and cooperation go a long way.

Important Considerations When Finding the Right Apartment

These services are a great starting point for seniors that need a little help finding something more affordable in retirement. Agents and representatives can point applicants in the right direction. But, there is more to the process than simply finding a home that is affordable. It is important to find a property that not only has an affordable rental price, but that also meets other important criteria. Seniors and family members should take the time to sit down and go over everything that is important.

This can include features of the property itself, but also important aspects of the neighborhood and local services. It is essential that as family and caregivers, we actually listen to the preferences and desires of our elderly parents. It is too easy to focus on what we think is best for them as a demographic, rather than as individuals.


The location is important when choosing a new retirement property for seniors. There are financial benefits to choosing different areas. As we mentioned above, some suburbs are a little cheaper than inner city areas. But, different districts can vary from each other too. Once you have an idea of what you can afford, you can start to favor certain locations that are more suitable.

Areas out of town can be quieter and more pleasing than some inner-city areas. Many will have a good community feel to them. Applicants may already have friends and family in the area that that can call upon for support and companionship. This could make a big difference when moving to a new home. Other seniors may want to hold onto a city location as long as possible. Maybe they thrive on the vibrancy and activities in the local area. Maybe there is a city park they like to walk in to keep active.


The benefits of a local area also mean accessibility to local amenities and transport links. Moving away from a city can be a good way to enjoy a calmer pace of life. But, does this then place seniors too far away from their social clubs, doctors, friends and other facilities they rely on? Is there a good bus link in place to help to get around, or will they find themselves a little isolated? If there are doctors and specialists in the area that they can use instead, are they actually able to take on new patients at this time? Can seniors walk to a grocery store and get everything they would normally buy?

Property features:

Then there are the extra details and services regarding the property itself. Many of the low-income housing options for seniors have some of the same basic facilities. They have those senior-friendly floors, grab rails and a good, accessible layout. But, some apartments will be better fitted out than others. Some landlords will scrape by with the bare minimum requirements while others will make a point of attracting seniors with other features and services. For example, there may be housekeeping, transportation and other social services that can lend a helping hand.

One way to learn more about the properties and services is to talk to other residents in a block. How many seniors live there and how long have they been there? Are they happy with the facilities and services provided, or have they experienced problems? It may also help to ask about the policies on pets. Many seniors have beloved animals that have been companions for many years. In some cases, such as with widows/widowers, they may be the only companion they have at home. Make sure that a new landlord allows these pets before signing up for a new apartment.

Waiting Lists for Low-Income Housing for Seniors

Another important consideration for anyone that is looking to move into a new low-income housing rental is that there are waiting lists. There are only so many places available, especially with some of the HUD schemes. This availability can depend on the number of properties that there are in your chosen area and the number of seniors looking to rent. Some seniors will get lucky. They may opt for a place in a less popular area that has accommodation that is more readily available.

Others that insist on moving to a more popular area may have to wait a little longer. There is also the fact that the elderly population is growing fast. The baby boomer generation has reached retirement age and we are all living a little longer. That means a lot of seniors in need of appropriate housing – and not necessarily enough properties to house them all.

Shared Housing is a Popular Alternative for Low-Income Retirement Home

With so many seniors in need of help, and such strain on the system, some seniors are turning to alternatives means to help them with their situation. Sharing housing is a great way to solve a number of problems in one go. It can take some time to adjust, as some of these schemes are a little unconventional, but many seniors actually thrive in these situations. Shared housing lets seniors open their home to other tenants, or to share a home with someone they know. This can be highly beneficial for the right people. So why is shared housing such a popular alternative for seniors on low incomes?

First of all, shared housing can offer seniors the chance to stay in their own home. One of the biggest issues for retirees is the idea of no longer being able to afford to live in the home they have created and loved for so long. In fact, it is said that as many as 87% of seniors want to continue to live in their own home – even if it is now a little emptier than it used to be.

Rather than move to an affordable property elsewhere, they can instead make their current home more affordable with a little financial help. A second tenant in the property can take some of the financial strain. This new occupant can also provide valuable social care and support where needed. They may provide companionship for those that live alone. They could be able to help with household chore or transportation as part of their rental agreement. There are some interesting schemes out there that can help.

Sharing with people your own age:

One option is to find a tenant that is around the same age as your relative. This is a good way for two people in need of a better living arrangement to find the support that they need. A second tenant of a similar ages offers someone that seniors can relate to. They can help and support each other with different issues and start a great new relationship. Some seniors may have someone in mind for this. There could be someone at a local social club, church or another meeting place in a similar situation.

Others may find a stranger that ends up being an ideal fit. The Golden Girls Network is designed to do just that. This is a great service that brings together seniors that are ready to create a form of houseshare experience. They can match people together and ensure that two lives are transformed for the better.

Sharing with younger people:

The alternative is to share a home with younger occupants. This has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it may be harder for seniors to relate to their new tenant. There isn’t the same shared experience of life as there is with others their own age. The younger tenant also has to be a good fit and able to respect the home and schedule of the senior. Therefore, nobody that’s going to work unsociable hours, live like a slob and bring questionable friends round.

On the other hand, a younger tenant could have a good source of income to pay their share of the rent and utilities. They may also have the time and energy to help with chores and shopping, or transportation to offer a ride to appointments. It all depends on the tenant. Some single people in their twenties or thirties may prefer this approach to a more traditional house share.

Sharing with college students:

One new way to bring younger tenants and seniors together is via a house sharing scheme with college students. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved – as long as the two parties can get along with each other. Seniors get the same benefits as they would with other young tenants. There is someone there that can support them and provide a steady income to supplement the rent.

In return, students get a secure place to sleep and study with great facilities. They also get a roommate that may be a better cook, a better listener and perhaps even someone knowledge about their chosen major. This is a great scheme for students that either can’t afford the high rental prices of college accommodation or simply don’t like the idea of crowded dorms and the stereotypical freshman scene.

This approach has proved to be a hit in other countries and is now on the rise in the US. Dutch students have transformed the Humanitas retirement community in recent years. Here college student can become active, respectable members of the community. They receive rent-free accommodation in exchange for offering services to elderly residents. This means 30 hours a month where students talk with seniors, run errands and help with chores. This isn’t the best financial model for those on low incomes, but it does help those determined to stay in their own homes.

An alternative approach is underway at New York University. Accommodation for students isn’t cheap, with a typical year’s rent ranging from $10,000 to $18,000. Some now choose to move out into Greenwich Village. This trendy area has a senior population struggling with rising costs. So, these students rent the spare rooms for half the price of a university dorm and help seniors stay in their own home. This scheme only began in 2017. But, the success means that other universities are sure to follow suit.

Other Helpful Services for Seniors Looking for Low-Cost Rental Accommodation

It is important to look into every avenue possible when trying to get the best low-income rental accommodation for seniors. Those that are on waiting lists may benefit from these shared schemes – if only on a short term basis. At the same time, it also helps to understand the rights of seniors in this situation. Discrimination still exists in this area of the housing sector – even with some of the nationwide government schemes. It is vital that seniors feel confident to apply for help and recognize discrimination. There are agencies and acts that can help.


SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders) is an important network that seniors need to be aware of. There are many older tenants that identify as gay, bisexual or have another sexual orientation. For a long time, many will have felt the need to hide this information on rental agreements. Attitudes and questioning for low-income rental applicants still have a way to go. Questions are still asked in blatant acts of discrimination. SAGE works to improve the experience of the senior LGBT community in the housing sector. Anyone worried about their application, or that have experienced discrimination themselves, should talk to SAGE for support and advice.

The Fair Housing Act:

Finally, it is important to remember that there is such a thing as the Fair Housing Act. This basic human rights act works to eliminate any form of discrimination based on an applicant’s race, gender, sexuality, religion and/or disability status. Therefore, the same type of housing opportunities and rental options should be available to all seniors in a community. There should be no favoritism towards all-white neighborhoods or and questioning about religious practices or sexual orientation.

Find the solution that is right for you.

As you can see, there are lots of different options available to seniors that need a low-cost housing solution in their retirement years. Many seniors with low incomes will, understandably, turn to the HUD and its related schemes. Those that are eligible can find a great senior-friendly apparent with an affordable rental price. They will also have the help and support to live an independent life, while still having their needs met.

However, waiting lists, costs, and availability issues can mean that this path isn’t right for everyone. That is where is it important to consider the alternatives, such as shared housing. These schemes can prove to be a great support for seniors that want to stay in their own home, get help with the rent and gain a little more support.

If you have a relative reaching retirement age, and you are both unsure of how to afford housing, take your time researching the options available. Look into local housing schemes for low-cost rentals and see if any properties are a good fit. Listen to there concerns and needs about their new home and neighborhood. This is the only way to ensure that they will be truly happy with the move.

If the idea of a new home in a new neighborhood is scary, talk about shared housing options. Look into local schemes and consider the prospect of bringing in a paid tenant. The more that you discuss with your relatives, the easier it is to find the ideal solution. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution here – nor should there be. Take your time, do the research and weigh up the pros and cons. Talk to the right services and they will steer you in the right direction.