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Your Guide to Section 8 and Rent Assistance

Every year, millions of Americans struggle to pay their rent. Furthermore, some households that are able to afford their rent each month are required to put the majority of their paychecks toward their housing costs. 

Unfortunately, this means that many of these people are unable to put aside any of their money and contribute towards an emergency fund or a savings account.

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It also usually means that families have less money they can put towards groceries, utilities or other basic living expenses. 

In some instances, tenants who struggle to make their monthly payments may require some rent assistance to help them stay afloat financially.

Whether they were recently laid off from their job and need some time to find a new one or there was a health setback that might make it difficult for them to work, there are places to go for financial help. 

Here are some useful ways to find rent assistance.

Tip 1: Negotiate Your Rent With Your Landlord

One of the first things you should do when you are facing financial hardships and need rental assistance is to attempt to negotiate with your landlord. 

By doing so, you may be able to work out a modified payment plan that is more manageable for your current budget.

Although your landlord is not required to work with you, he or she may be willing to receive your payment balance over an extended period or lower your overall payment amount for a period of time. 

Another option for negotiating is offering to trade labor or provide services to your landlord in order to receive a reduction in your monthly rent.

Your landlord may be willing to modify the payment terms on your lease if you can provide them with something of value in return. 

If they agree to this type of arrangement, be sure to ask for some written proof that your lease has been adjusted. 

Some examples of things you can offer include:

  • Mowing the lawn or tending to brushes or flowers that are located on your landlord’s property. 
  • Cleaning and shoveling property driveways and other areas your landlord owns.
  • Performing small repairs or completing jobs like painting and other tasks that do not require specialized training. 

Your discounted rate would depend on the task you perform, but you can receive some substantial savings on your rent using this method. 

Tip 2: Apply for Charitable Grants

If you are facing housing insecurity or if you are in imminent risk of being evicted, you should consider applying for charitable grants.

These types of funds are available both locally and nationally. 

Many faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits across the country provide emergency rental assistance grants to individuals and families in need.

Regardless of where you live, there should be local resources for housing and rental assistance available in the area. 

Some faith-based organizations will have funds to provide emergency housing assistance grants to help you pay your rent when you are struggling financially. Other secular organizations like the Salvation Army may offer you a one-time rental assistance grant in order so you can afford to pay your rent. 

Check your local housing authorities for more information about local short-term housing assistance resources. 

Tip 3: Sign up for a Nonprofit Credit Counseling Program

Although a credit counseling program will not directly provide you with rent assistance, completing one of these programs can help you improve your credit score. 

In turn, you may be eligible for more personal loans at better interest rates. Additionally, it is much easier to pay for rent when you are free of debt. 

Finding a nonprofit organization that offers credit counseling is an effective tool for paying down your current debt and making your monthly fees more affordable. 

These credit counseling programs can help you pay off your total debt by a predetermined date and alleviate a significant portion of your financial strain. Then, you can take the money you would have been spending on loans and put it toward your monthly housing expenses. 

Tip 4: Apply for Rural Rental Housing Assistance from the USDA

If you are currently living in a qualified rural area in the United States and you are spending over 30 percent of your total household’s income to pay for rent, you may qualify for rural rental housing assistance. 

The Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is designed to help low- and moderate-income households afford to own housing in certain rural areas.

These loans are a great option for people living in rural areas that require housing assistance. The funds from this loan program are backed by loan guarantees and can be used to purchase new or existing residential properties for use as a permanent residence. 

With the help of the Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, families with qualifying incomes in rural areas can afford homeownership. 

Tip 5: Apply for Section 8 Housing Assistance 

The Section 8 housing choice voucher program was created to help households with low-income, an elderly member or a member living with disabilities to afford decent and safe housing. 

Unlike with most traditional housing assistance, Section 8 participants are able to use their housing vouchers to pay the rent on qualifying privately-owned facilities, such as: 

  • Apartments.
  • Houses.
  • Townhouses. 

As opposed to other programs, Section 8 enrollees are not limited to living within designated public housing facilities.

Instead, these housing vouchers can be used at any appropriate location, so long as the landlord agrees to accept that form of payment.  

In order to be considered eligible for Section 8 housing assistance, a household’s income may not be more than 50 percent of the median income in the county or city that the family chooses to live in. 

The median income levels will vary based on location, so applicants are recommended to check their area’s median income with local authorities before they apply. Applicants can also visit their local public housing agency (PHA) for more information about income limits and eligibility requirements. 

Note: Since funding is limited for the Section 8 housing assistance program, many areas have a waiting list for benefits.

Once candidates are approved for benefits, they will likely be put on a waitlist until vouchers are available for them to use.  

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