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Senior Housing for Low-Income Residents

If you’re a senior with a modest income, you may find it challenging to pay for housing. Soaring inflation rates and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are only exacerbating the problem. Harvard University's 2022 State of the Nation's Housing report found housing costs rising for the first time in 10 years and significant housing shortages increasing costs even further. 

The burden on seniors with low incomes has probably never been greater. Not only have people who are considered poor become more worried about paying their bills because of inflation, but many people who are considered financially stable have also become concerned. 

The Elder Index suggests 54% of older women who aren’t officially poor are finding it difficult to pay for living essentials. The figure for men is slightly less, but remains high at 45%. A 2022 Bankrate report found 17% of baby boomers, most of whom are now seniors, worry about money daily when they're supposed to be enjoying their hard-earned retirement.

If you have low income and are worried about meeting your living expenses, this article can provide you with useful information about housing. It goes into detail about how you may qualify for low-income housing and how you can find an affordable home in your area.

What Is Considered Low Income for Seniors in the United States?

Seniors with an annual income at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines are defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as having a low income. If their income falls below 50% of the guidelines, they're regarded as being in deep poverty. 

According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1-in-3 adults aged 65 and older in 2022 (about 15 million Americans) were deemed economically insecure — a term that applies to people with incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. 

The following tables provide the guidelines for small households in 2023.

Contiguous United States and the District of Columbia
Persons in Family/HouseholdPoverty Guideline
Persons in Family/HouseholdPoverty Guideline
Persons in Family/HouseholdPoverty Guideline

How Do You Qualify for Low-Income Senior Housing?

Senior housing is accommodation subsidized by the federal government, sometimes for the exclusive use of adults aged 65+. Depending on the program, rents can be subsidized or cost-controlled or paid through vouchers or credits.

To qualify for low-income senior housing, you need to prove your income and assets are within the relevant program's limits. These vary from program to program. For example, HUD's Public Housing Program sets limits of 80% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and 50% of the median income for the county or metro area where the senior will live. Consequently, your income may qualify you for one location but not another.

Low-Income Housing Options for Seniors

Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV/Section 8)

The federal government's Housing Choice Voucher Program makes housing in the private sector more affordable for seniors. It allows you to choose the single-family home, apartment or townhouse you need in an area you wish to live — so long as it satisfies the program's requirements. 

Your home of choice doesn't need to be within a subsidized housing project and can be where you already live, so long as it meets the minimum standards of health and safety

Eligibility and How To Apply

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant
  • Your total gross annual income can't exceed the guidelines for your area
  • At least one member of your household must be aged 62 or older
  • You can't have been evicted from a property for any reason within the previous 3 years
  • You can't have a criminal record (there are exceptions but if the conviction is within the previous 5 years, you'll almost certainly be rejected)
  • Some PHAs specify the applicant must already live within their jurisdiction
  • Disability isn't a requirement but some PHAs fast-track requests if at least one household member has a medically proven disability

To apply, contact your local public housing agency PHA, or get in touch with your nearest HUD office for more information.

Rural Rental Assistance (Section 521)

The USDA's Rural Rental Assistance Program subsidizes rents in homes whose construction was financed by Section 515 or Section 514/516 loans. If the monthly rental rate exceeds 30% of your income, the program will cover the difference between the two. 

The Rural Housing Service pays the owner directly. Rental agreements can be up to 20 years for newly constructed homes and 5 years for existing ones. The program isn't available in every state and county.

Eligibility and How To Apply

  • Must live in a Rural Rental Housing project that was financed by the Rural Housing Service
  • Your rent must exceed 30% of your household's monthly income
  • Households mustn't exceed 50% to 80% (depending on their location) of their area's median household income to be considered "low-income"

If you live in an eligible accommodation, contact your building's owner or manager to apply for rural rental assistance. To get more information prior to your application, contact your local USDA Rural Development field office.

The Housing Improvement Program (HIP)

The Housing Improvement Program is administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reform substandard housing in or close to tribal lands and end the problem of homelessness among native communities. Its scope is wider than other programs, as it can pay for several options, all of which must result in the senior living in a safe and secure home. The options are:

  • A modest new home if you don't already own one
  • A replacement dwelling if your home can't be upgraded to building code standards
  • Up to $60,000 to repair and renovate your home to a habitable condition
  • Up to $7,500 to repair issues in your home that threaten your health and safety

Eligibility and How To Apply

  • Must be a member of an American Indian tribe recognized by the federal government or an Alaska native
  • Must live in a tribal area
  • Cannot have an income exceeding 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
  • Can't have access to other housing assistance resources
  • Present housing must be substandard

To apply for the relevant part of the program, contact your local tribal office or BIA Regional Housing Office to obtain an application form. Both offices can also supply you with more information about HIP within your area.

Supportive Housing for the Elderly (Section 202)

Unlike those already listed (which are available to anyone over age 18), the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program is specifically designed to help seniors on low incomes who need affordable housing. 

HUD provides affordable loans to nonprofits to build homes that satisfy senior-specific requirements, such as grab rails, walk-in showers and easier access for disabled persons. Many buildings also have communal spaces where residents can socialize and eat. Be prepared to join a waiting list if your application is successful. 

Eligibility and How To Apply

  • One or more people in the household must be aged 62 or older
  • The household's income can't be over 50% of the area's median income, as defined by HUD

To apply, directly contact the Section 202 housing project in which you want to live. Get in touch with your local PHA office to locate the nearest project.

How To Find Low-Income Affordable Housing for Seniors

To find low-income affordable housing, follow these steps:

    • Search the database to find affordable rental housing where you live.
    • Contact the relevant agency, office or project responsible for your chosen housing option to begin the application process.

If you want free help from experts in senior living housing, call SeniorHomes at 1-800-748-4024 to speak to an experienced advisor.

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Those with certain disabilities or diseases have more obstacles to overcome when searching for a quality assisted living home. If you have questions, we are here to help provide the answers. Give our senior care advocates a call and read our guides for specific information and resources related to your or your loved one’s condition.

Those with certain disabilities or diseases have more obstacles to overcome when searching for a quality assisted living home. If you have questions, we are here to help provide the answers. Give our senior care advocates a call and read our guides for specific information and resources related to your or your loved one’s condition.

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