Who Can Apply for HUD Assistance?

The Department of Housing and Urban Development helps low-income families and renters with special needs, such as the elderly and the disabled. HUD's assistance programs pay a portion of the rent for eligible tenants, making safe and decent housing more accessible. HUD funds are also used by public housing agencies to provide affordable rental units in government-owned developments. Applicants must meet income criteria and pass a background check to qualify for HUD assistance.

HUD's Main Assistance Programs

HUD funds three primary housing assistance programs:

  1. Public housing, which are government-owned dwellings and projects reserved for low-income renters.
  2. The Housing Choice Voucher Program, which provides a rent subsidy that can be used on any privately owned housing; also known as tenant-based Section 8.
  3. Project-Based Section 8, which involves a rent subsidy for certain, privately owned rental units.

HUD gives states and local public housing authorities funding to administer the assistance in their respective jurisdictions.

Applicants Who Meet Income Restrictions

HUD sets income limits based on area and household size. In general, areas with higher median incomes have higher income limits. Larger families also get higher income limits than smaller households. HUD sets limits annually by county or metropolitan area. Applicants can check the HUD website for current limits in their area.

Generally, a public housing authority, which qualifies applicants, counts the income of each household member age 18 and older. A portion -- $480 -- of a full-time student's annual income may be excluded from his family's income calculation to help meet income limits.

Tip

HUD sets three income categories for applicants. At least 75 percent of assistance recipients must have extremely low income.

  • Low-income limit is set at 80 percent of an area's median income.
  • Very low income is set at 50 percent of the area median income.
  • Extremely low income is set at 30 percent of area median income.

Individuals and Families May Apply and Receive Priority Placement

Individuals can apply for HUD assistance, however, due to high program demand and limited housing availability, public housing authorities may grant priority placement to certain single persons, such as the elderly or disabled.

Placement preferences may also be granted to:

  • Families with children.
  • Families in substandard housing.
  • Homeless families.
  • Families paying more than 50 percent of their gross income in rent.
  • Involuntarily displaced families.
  • Families that meet any local needs established by a housing authority for preferential placement.

Legal Restrictions Placed On Applicants

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents with an eligible immigration status. Federal law prohibits applicants with certain criminal backgrounds from obtaining HUD assistance. However, public housing authorities can exercise discretion when selecting applicants with criminal backgrounds, and typically, they set stricter standards than required by federal law. Housing authorities place their own specific restrictions regarding alcohol abuse, drug abuse and criminal activity, causing guidelines and tolerance levels to vary widely among the agencies.

Certain criteria can prevent an applicant from obtaining assistance. For example, a household may be denied if a member who intends to reside in the property has been evicted under a federally funded housing assistance program for drug-related activity in the past three years. However, a housing authority may grant program admission three years after eviction. Also, applicants with a household member on any lifetime sex offender's registry will be denied HUD assistance.