#TenantTipTuesday: Finding Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing is like the unicorn of the rental world – you’ve heard about it, people have suggested you try it, but what is it? What does “affordable” mean? What about “income-restricted” or “Section 8”? Here’s your chance to learn the ins and outs of affordable housing.

Types of Affordable Housing

Section 8

Housing authorities administer the Section 8 Voucher Program. In Multnomah County, the Housing Authority is known as Home Forward. The Section 8 program offers renters an opportunity to find a place to rent in the private market and sign a lease directly with the landlord. Renters are given a coupon called a Section 8 Voucher, which they can shop around to private landlords. As of July 1, 2014, landlords can no longer refuse Section 8 coupons.
To be eligible for Section 8, you must be a U.S. citizen or eligible non-citizen and be low-income. Eligible applicants are put on a waiting list. Names are selected at random from the list when vouchers become available. In Portland, the wait list is open for only two weeks every other year.
This makes it very tricky to get the elusive Section 8 Voucher, and you can learn more by calling the Section 8 Hotline at 503.802.8472.

Project-based Section 8

There are a number of small and medium sized buildings where everyone in the building pays about a third of their income for rent. You can get a list of these buildings in your area by calling Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1.800.955.2232. ext. 4, or by visiting their site.
Sometimes their are individual buildings where select homes are also priced this way. You can learn more by visiting this HUD page.

Community Development Corporations (CDCs)

CDC housing is generally more affordable than privately owned rentals. CDCs offer their services to medium and low income people. They may offer apartments, houses, or both for rent at below market rates.
There is often a waiting lists and waiting lists vary in length. Don’t be put off by a waiting list. Put your name on as many as you can, keep track of your application, call the manager periodically to see where you are on the list, and update them if your contact information changes while you are on the waitlist. Putting your name on a waiting list does not require to accept an offer of housing.
Although there are no guarantees, CDCs may be more open to some screening barriers (i.e. bad credit, eviction) than private market, for-profit landlords. Different CDCs may have different criteria for who they try to provide housing for.
Some examples of CDCs in the Portland metro area include:

Income-restricted

Sometimes apartment buildings offer individuals making less than a certain income to rent at cheaper-than-normal rates. This is sometimes known as subsidized housing or affordable housing, and usually targets households earning about 50% of the geographical area’s medium income – but varies significantly from location to location.
Qualifying for income-restricted housing depends on the area and federal, state, and local programs. Tenants must meet limited-income requirements to rent such apartments. Always check the building’s website to figure out what the requirements are!
Qualifying requirements often vary among apartment buildings and areas of the state, depending on specific federal or local programs. Some rentals might have a maximum $20,000 annual salary, while others might be $40,000 or higher. Rental buildings also have a minimum income requirement. Potential tenants with extremely low income can use other sources of income. Students, for instance, might have income from parents or college grants and scholarships.
Finding income-restricted units can be tricky since they are not listed in a group in any one place, and are frequently embedded in mixed-income housing with market rate units. Some income-restricted apartment buildings are located near or next to no-restriction buildings and appear just as attractive. Many management companies own limited-income apartments along with market and even luxury rates. Property representatives will tell you about the income-restricted qualifications when you inquire or apply for a unit. You can also find low-income units online through apartment search guides, and can use terms like “income-restricted,” “affordable,” and “subsidized” to filter through . If you see nice-looking apartments with various amenities at lower rates than normal for the area, they might be income-restricted.
Income-restricted apartments are often applied to just like regular apartments, and you may be asked to pay some application fee. Income-restricted apartments can offer a solution for many middle-to-low income earners who don’t meet all the qualifications for Section 8 vouchers or who are out of time to wait for housing through waitlists.

Some apartment buildings that offer income-restricted units in Portland include:

Eugene

Medford

Ashland

Beaverton

These are just some of the apartments – and cities – listed throughout Oregon. Again, a quick search on Apartments.com, Craigslist, Apartment Finder, with search terms like “low income,” “income restricted,” “affordable” and “subsidized” can go a long way to finding units opening up near you.
Got more questions? Find out more at oregoncat.org.

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