Rental assistance can take various forms. Grants are the most generous means of rental assistance, as they don't require repayment. However, grant programs are relatively few and far between compared to subsidized housing and other low-rent programs. Grants vary widely by locale, but local public housing authorities and charitable organizations are the most common sources. To ensure long-term rental stability, case management and other social services often are offered to grant recipients.
Need-Based and Emergency Situations
Rent-assistance grants generally are reserved for tenants who demonstrate immediate financial need. These include individuals and families who:
- Are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness
- Live in unsafe or substandard conditions
- Earn little to no income based on local median incomes and household size
- Have a disability
- Are elderly, a veteran or fleeing from domestic abuse
- Need temporary assistance to remain in their rental unit due to job loss or other circumstance beyond their control
- Experience displacement due to a natural disaster
Grants for Security Deposits
Relocation costs can add up quickly, preventing low-income households from transitioning to more suitable housing. A government or charitable agency may provide grant money to help cover a rental deposit. Rental deposits often include first and last months' rent and security, which covers unpaid rent or damage to a rental unit. For example, the government offers rent deposit grants to households displaced by natural disasters via the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also, many cities have nonprofits such as the the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul, which provide rental-deposit grants. Eligibility and availability vary by organization and location.
Grants That Cover Back Rent
State and local housing authorities may administer federal grant money to prevent eviction. A housing authority can offer grants to cover unpaid rent via the Eviction Prevention Program. The rental assistance is temporary and intended for tenants who have been served with an eviction notice. Recipients usually must prove that their financial hardship was cause by one-time or brief events beyond their control, such as a serious illness or job loss. They must pass a financial evaluation and the housing authority must determine that the household can afford to make regular rent payments on their own subsequent to being provided grant assistance.
HUD Grants Help Prevent Homelessness
The Department of Housing and Urban Development funds the bulk of rent-assistance grant programs. HUD finances state and local public housing authorities, which administer grants to the community. Find a local PHA on the HUD website for grant availability. PHAs are a good starting point, as they can refer you to neighboring PHAs, charities and nonprofits if they do not offer rent grants directly.