Affordable housing is becoming a concern across the country. Rents are increasing even in places like Kentucky, which has lower housing costs. For example, in Lexington County, rents increased 17% year-over-year as of April 2022.
Inflation like this is worrisome for working, middle-class Americans since wages are not keeping up. Unfortunately, paying more for the basic necessities can lead to them becoming unaffordable and out of reach. Fortunately, there are several relief programs and methods for struggling families.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) helps low-income renters with assistance. Renters that meet income requirements can pay reduced rates for subsidized properties. Subsidized usually means the government makes up the difference.
For example, if the market rate for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,000 a month, low-income tenants will pay $500 a month at a subsidized property (with H.U.D. covering the difference).
However, subsidized housing is usually known as public housing or housing projects. HUD can pay for these places directly, and local or state housing authorities can run them.
Public housing or HUD properties cap rents at 30% of a resident's income, making them more affordable. So, if you make $2,000 monthly, your rent would be $600. You can search for local subsidized housing on HUD's website.
Section 8 housing is essentially subsidized rental assistance. However, renters do not necessarily have to live in public housing or projects under Section 8. Instead, the program provides a voucher to assist with paying rent in eligible properties.
The voucher reimburses the landlord for the difference between market rental rates and what low-income residents pay. That being said, landlords or property managers have to agree to accept Section 8 vouchers. In addition, not all private properties will take government funding.
So, while Section 8 can provide families with more housing options, it doesn't exactly involve the same breadth of choices that others have. And families do have to apply for Section 8 assistance or subsidized housing. In some areas, there might be a waiting list.
On the other hand, many communities build or welcome the construction of Section 8 housing. It helps increase the options families have for affordable housing. Section 8 housing also benefits property owners whose apartments or homes might have higher vacancy rates.
The government introduced public housing to provide affordable and safe living quarters for low-income families and those unable to work. This includes the elderly or retired and individuals with disabilities. Many senior citizens and the disabled depend on Social Security.
While Social Security income can prevent people from becoming entirely destitute, this income is often not enough to keep up with typical living expenses. As a result, many of these individuals live near the poverty line or work with quite limited budgets.
Public housing reduces some burdens by keeping a lid on one of life's high costs — rent or a mortgage. However, housing agencies typically manage public housing units, whether they are apartment complexes, duplexes, or townhomes.
However, HUD usually provides planning, development, and financial assistance. The agency can bring together the contractors and other experts who are needed to build public housing units or projects.
Across the country, 970,000 households live in public housing. Eligibility is based on yearly gross income, household size and income limits, and citizenship or immigration status. In addition, there is a background check when people apply to live in public housing.
Part of the background check includes interviewing references, whether they're personal or professional. Housing authorities need to know that you and your family are not going to put the property or other tenants at risk.
Income requirements usually exceed 80% of the median income for your household size and area. For example, say the average income for a family of three in your area is $75,000. To qualify, your household of three cannot earn more than $60,000 per year.
Eligibility requirements for Section 8 vouchers are slightly different than public housing income caps. Generally, you cannot earn more than half the median household income for your area, family, or household size.
So, the example of a household size of three and a median area income of $75,000 would put someone at the $37,500 mark. This limit applies to the area where the home is. This can impact people who find housing or want to live in commuter towns versus major metro areas.
Say a town with a lower median annual income is within commuting distance of a central metro area. You get a job in the city and consequently command a higher salary. Living in a commuter town might make you less eligible for Section 8 housing.
The law also stipulates that public housing authorities must grant 75% of Section 8 vouchers to households that don't exceed 30% of the area's median income. So, while subsidized housing is a viable solution and available, there are strict eligibility requirements.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to record-high inflation but has also caused people to lose income. This can be from a complete job loss, reduced hours, or lower pay at a replacement job after a layoff. Less pay means more people are struggling to pay their rent.
Governments have implemented several emergency rental assistance plans during the pandemic. These programs are designed to provide temporary relief to families and prevent evictions due to nonpayment. Emergency rental assistance covers different payment types.
The programs can help residents pay and recover from back rent. For instance, your monthly rent obligation is $2,000. But you missed three months because you lost your job. You've found a new position, but it'll take a while to get back on your feet.
Emergency rental assistance can help cover the previous three and current months until you start receiving regular paychecks. Here are some of Kentucky's emergency rental programs aimed at helping residents during COVID.
Here are some resources for where you can get help with rent:
Funding for this program comes from the federal government. But people who live in Kentucky can ask for help from the state, the Lexington-Fayette Urban County government, or the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro government.
What this program does is cover 100% of applicants' back rent. In addition, the program can cover up to three months' worth of upcoming rent payments. This program is critical because the eviction moratorium has passed.
When the moratorium was in place, landlords could not legally evict tenants for the nonpayment of rent. But, of course, the reasons for nonpayment or late and partial payments had to be related to the pandemic. A job loss or reduction in income, for example.
The back rent payments can date back to April 2020. Although there is an application process, all approved individuals receive the same assistance. There isn't necessarily a cap on the amount but on the eligible timeframe.
This program is designed to help residents and landlords. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County government administers the housing stabilization program. One of the goals is to minimize the number of evictions. The program also provides landlords with back pay for missed rent.
Another goal of the housing stabilization program is to prevent and mitigate homelessness. When struggling families lose their housing, it puts an additional strain on the system. As a result, more homeless shelters reach capacity and accumulate waiting lists.
The housing stabilization program works alongside the state's eviction relief assistance. Its main goal is to ensure more families and individuals can secure affordable housing.
Kentuckians who live in Jefferson County can apply for emergency rental assistance through the local government's program. This assistance falls under the state's Healthy at Home Eviction Relief program.
As a result, Jefferson County residents can apply for assistance with back rent and up to three months of future rent costs. The back rent eligibility extends from April 2020 forward.
The City of Henderson's rental assistance falls under the Kentucky CARES+ program. It helps the city's residents with up to three months of rent assistance to help avoid evictions. The program's funding consists of $25,000.
Because the city's program funding is more limited, each applicant's award is capped at $1,500. That means an application can only receive up to this amount to help with up to three months of back rent. The $1,500 limit is per rental lease or agreement.
Back rent can be from April 2020 forward. After that, the program doesn't pay for future rent, and people who want to use it must owe money to their landlords.
This program works a bit differently from the others. Applicants must be residents of the City of Louisville and own back rent to their landlords. However, the fund pays the property owners or managers directly. Therefore, the money does not flow to the tenant or resident first.
Renters can get up to three months of assistance for back rent. The fund is backed by $21 million earmarked for CARES+ initiatives in Kentucky.
This $500,000 emergency fund addresses affordable housing, childcare, transportation, utilities, and prescription medications. The fund is designed for residents facing hardships due to the pandemic. First, however, residents should apply through the City of Louisville.
The city's government can provide more information on how much is distributed to each applicant and whether there are caps on different expenses. However, as you can see from the list above, the fund's purpose is to help residents pay for basic living costs.
The City of Owensboro is providing emergency rental assistance for low-income city residents. The fund has a value of $150,000 and can cover up to three months of rent per application. However, applicants must earn less than 80% of the median income. Furthermore, this is based on household size.
The good thing about emergency rental assistance programs is that they are need-based. And eligibility is related to additional factors besides income limits in most cases. But limited funds can be available, and some applicants can be denied because funds are dried up.
In hard-hit areas, this can prove to be problematic. For example, say the funds a municipal government provides are gone within two months. This puts additional strain on statewide programs that must serve a more extensive population base, which is now at risk of running out.
To meet demand, state, and local governments may need to ask for additional funding from the federal government. However, those funding requests may be put on hold or denied, causing cash-strapped residents to turn elsewhere. That can include the private sector or charities.
The private sector can help fill any gaps between government funding and community need. Various forms of assistance exist in the private sector, including fundraisers and donations.
Private assistance for Kentuckians may be available through donations and individual charities. Examples include GoFundMe pages and United Way charities and organizations. In addition, there is a community resource guide that residents can consult for complete details.
Some residents may also be able to ask for temporary assistance from friends and family. In addition, they might have the resources to help renters catch up on back payments and avoid eviction. However, this strategy often requires people to swallow their pride.
Plus, residents may not know of friends and family who have the means to help out. For example, a family member could want to help but live paycheck to paycheck. This can make it challenging for well-intentioned friends and family not to put their livelihood and bills at risk.
Because donations can sometimes be less than reliable, some people turn to loans to help them through temporary financial difficulties. For example, a lender like Simple Fast Loans provides installment loans in Kentucky with amounts ranging from $200 to 3,000.
You can apply online and receive approval within a few minutes. There isn't the typical red tape and waiting period you usually must go through with a traditional bank. You can get up to $3,000 approved and wired to your bank account.
Kentucky Housing Corporation sponsors a program for families already receiving housing assistance. For instance, your family could be in public housing or receiving Section 8 vouchers. The self-sufficiency program goes a step beyond just providing rental assistance.
The family self-sufficiency program consists of courses about money management, developing employable skills, and becoming a homeowner. Each participant receives a savings account as part of the program. In addition, the Kentucky Housing Corporation actively makes contributions.
When a program participant's earned income increases, the amount they receive in rental assistance decreases. Besides learning self-sufficiency, another program goal is to help families save for a down payment on a home.
Program participants don't have to use the money in their savings accounts toward a home purchase. Instead, they can leave it to grow further for another goal, such as sending children to college. All Section 8 participants are eligible for this program.
Like other states, Kentucky's residents are facing rapidly increasing housing costs. In addition, more living expenses, such as utilities and groceries, are also rising in price. This is putting increased pressure on low and middle-income Kentuckians and their families.
Compounding the problem are the job losses that occurred during the pandemic. A stop and slowdown in economic activity led to a long, ongoing recovery process. The federal, state, and local governments have all stepped in to help with rent payments and stop people from being kicked out of their homes.
An increase in evictions exacerbates the problem of homelessness, drains public resources, and makes it harder for families to recover economically. Several programs throughout the state exist to help low-income families.
Rental assistance coverage varies based on factors like program type, income, and location. Contact your local housing authority, provide financial information, and understand program rules to determine the assistance amount.
The Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program, does not have specific bedroom requirements that apply uniformly across all states, including Kentucky. Instead, the bedroom size is determined based on the composition of the household, specifically the number of people living in the dwelling. HUD uses the following criteria for bedroom size:
It's crucial to note that local housing authorities in Kentucky may have some discretion in interpreting and applying these guidelines. Therefore, individuals interested in Section 8 housing in Kentucky should contact their local housing authority for specific information on bedroom size requirements and eligibility criteria based on household composition.
Condo acceptance of Section 8 vouchers depends on individual landlords. Check local regulations, communicate directly with condo owners, and consult local housing authorities for lists of Section 8-friendly options. Always confirm information with authorities and landlords.