Apartment hunting can be a long and arduous task. You have to consider numerous factors before making the final decision, such as location, safety, number of rooms, etc.
However, one of the biggest deciding factors is the price or rent of the apartment.
This alone can significantly limit your options and make it harder to find that perfect apartment with the perfect price.
But we’ll let you in on a little secret. The solution to your problem lies in income-restricted apartments. Keep reading to find out what those are.
What is an Income Restricted Apartment?
As rent prices continue to rise, it is becoming increasingly hard to find affordable housing that provides all the basic amenities needed to live a normal life.
That’s why the federal government, local government, as well as non-profit organizations, are providing and contributing to various affordable housing options. And one of these is income-restricted apartments.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) runs various affordable housing programs to provide quality housing for all.
Finding a basic apartment with all amenities is hard for people with low incomes who can’t afford to pay a major portion of their income to rent.
That’s why HUD offers income-restricted apartments as part of its public housing program. Income restricted apartments are apartments offered mainly at rent rates lower than the market.
The apartments are subsidized so that low and middle-income families can afford to pay for the housing.
To be eligible for an income-restricted apartment, you need to fall within a certain income range. This varies from state to state as these housing programs are run locally at times.
Since there is a big difference between the demand and supply, getting an income-restricted apartment can be quite competitive, and sometimes, people have to wait for years to move into one.
Some people tend to assume that income-restricted apartments are usually located in bad areas, but that could not be further from the truth.
You can find income-restricted apartments and buildings in ideal locations or even right next to non-restricted apartments as well.
Moreover, while you will sometimes find certain demography dominating such places, income-restricted apartments aren’t meant for any specific type or ethnicity, or background of people.
They are simply for those individuals or families who have low income, and this can include students, the elderly, the disabled, etc.
Other Options for Affordable Housing
Besides income-restricted apartments, there are other options, too, if you’re looking for affordable housing. Some of them are mentioned here:
Along with income-restricted apartments, another term or scheme you will hear about is income-based apartments. While they share the same purpose as income-restricted apartments, income-based apartments work slightly differently.
These come under The Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which was initiated back in 1986. Income-based apartments refer to subsidized housing or apartments that are privately owned. Owners of such apartments dedicate some of their units to low-income families.
Consequently, as a reward for participating in the program, such owners receive a financial benefit, usually in the form of a tax credit.
Along with the tenants, there is a strict criterion for landlords, too, for participating in this program.
For instance, if the apartments are part of a complex, the landlord has to set aside at least 20% to 40% of the units for low-income families.
These tenants can not pay more than the rent decided by HUD based on the apartment size.
Other than that, such housing can include duplexes, single-family homes, and townhouses besides just apartments.
Rent Stabilized Housing
Another option for affordable housing is rent-stabilized housing. People often confuse this to be the same as rent-controlled housing.
But that’s entirely different and is actually quite rare these days as rent-controlled housing is slowly being phased out.
So, most of the time, when people say rent-controlled, they usually mean rent-stabilized housing. But what is rent-stabilized housing?
Rent stabilization is another way to make housing more accessible to low and middle-income families.
Basically, it means that the rent can only increase by a small and fixed percentage every year. This way, low-income families don’t have to be overly concerned with rising rent prices. They know their rent costs from before and can plan for it accordingly.
Tenants are usually guaranteed that they can renew their lease after one term ends, and this leads to higher housing security.
However, landlords are not always keen to offer rent-stabilized apartments, and there are strict eligibility criteria for such housing programs as well.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher
The Federal government also runs the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. This rental assistance program involves low-income families getting a voucher issued from the government.
Then, they can use this voucher to reduce the rent they pay from their income based on the amount they earn.
Usually, this percentage is around 30 to 40% of their income, and the rest of the rent is paid to the landlord by the government.
This affordable housing program also usually has a long waiting list, and you have to make sure that you qualify first.
Rent in Income Restricted Apartments
There’s no fixed rent for income-restricted apartments. Instead, the rent amount is usually based on several factors. It considers the average rent of the area, the apartment size, your income, and other such factors.
Then, based on all these, the rent is calculated by applying a percentage, usually 30%, on your adjusted income, and that is the rent you must pay.
This is also referred to as the Total Tenant Payment (TTP).
Eligibility Criteria for Income Restricted Apartments
To qualify for income-restricted apartments or other similar affordable housing programs, you need to be mindful of several factors.
This includes your U.S. citizenship, family status, whether you’re disabled or elderly, your immigration status, etc.
However, the most important determining factor is your gross income. Your income has to be below a certain percentage of that area’s median income.
Since laws and regulations can change from state to state, this percentage can vary as well.
Moreover, this also means that if you qualify in one area, you won’t necessarily qualify in another area or city if the median income is too low.
Other Important Factors to Consider When Apartment Hunting
If you happen to fall in the low to a middle-income family category, the rent of the apartment is not the only thing you should be concerned about.
Various other factors can drive up your monthly costs, depending on the apartment you choose. Therefore, here are other things you need to consider when apartment hunting.
Certain locations are definitely pricier than the rest in terms of the average rent costs. However, don’t just consider location in terms of the rent.
Also, look at the location with your convenience in mind. If you choose a cheap neighborhood, but your office is quite far away, any potential savings in rent will just go into your commute costs.
Cost of Utilities
The apartment rent is not the only thing you’ll have to pay. You will also have to bear the heating or electricity or water costs, and these can also become a big drain on your monthly income.
Some areas tend to have higher utility bills as compared to others. Therefore, check the utility rates of the area before choosing an apartment.
Some apartments tend to come with some basic furnishings, while others are completely bare.
Obviously, the more furnished your apartment is, the less you have to spend, and therefore, you can save your income.
You should also consider what other amenities the apartment unit or complex offers.
If there’s a laundry room within the building, that could save you some costs as you won’t have to buy a washing machine yourself or go to a laundromat.
While parking may not have a direct effect on your monthly bills, it can be a big convenience or hassle. If your building has designated parking spots, you can comfortably park there.
Otherwise, you will have to spend half an hour every day looking for a parking spot two blocks away.
One of the most important things you have to consider is the landlord. Having a reliable landlord and establishing a good relationship with them can make a big difference.
Any time you have to get repairs done in the apartment or you’re running a few days late in paying your rent, a good landlord can help relieve some of the tension and worry.
Having a roof over your head is one of the basic necessities of life.
However, it’s not easy to obtain for everyone. Those who are elderly, disabled, or in the process of emigration can be stuck with low-paying jobs.
As a result, they might find it hard to find affordable housing in a convenient location with all the basic amenities. For such people, housing programs such as income-restricted apartments or rent-stabilized housing can be a godsend for their housing needs.
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