Can Students Live In Income Restricted Housing?


Education is one of the most essential needs of a child. It is equally important to ensure that children can focus on schoolwork by making certain that they have everything else they might need.

One of such needs is proper housing. Although students in college might not be considered to be children, they need access to affordable housing just as much since college tuition is already expensive as it is.

Since the government already has a couple of assistance projects set up, a student in need might want to know whether it is possible to be a part of this program and what one will need to qualify. All this and more is covered in this article. Happy reading!

Are there restrictions for students?

Simply put, there are a couple of rules in place when low-income housing and students are put together. The main reason why the measures are in place is to ensure that the service remains as fair as possible. This is done by ensuring priority is given to members of society with the lowest incomes and not to adult students who just want a free pass at rent.

The restrictions were also set since at the time when this program was started, some students used the funds to live in dormitories and short-term housing options like motels. The presence of rules made it easier to ensure the proper use of government funds.

Also, there was a rise in situations where educational financial aid awarded to students was not included when counting income. This results in an incorrect amount and it is harder to truly tell whether the student qualifies for an income-restricted living arrangement.

What low-income housing options are there?

Many government housing schemes have a couple of rules when it comes to giving housing assistance to students. Here are some of the options that a student has when it comes to housing programs together with some of the requirements:

Section 42 housing

This is the common name for the government service called the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). These are apartments that can only be leased out to people whose income lies between 30% and 60% of the average median income amount of other similar-sized families in the area they live in. 

Can a student qualify for section 42 housing?

Section 42 housing is not available for full-time students (students in kindergarten all the way to grade 12 and students in higher learning institutions). However, there are a few exemptions that can be made:

  • If the student was formerly in a foster care program at some point in the past six years.
  • If the student is in a job training program and receives financial assistance either from the Job Training Partnership Act or because of federal, state, or local laws.
  • If the said household is made up of a single parent and their children. In this case, the single parent has to be independent of any other person and the children have to be dependent on nobody else but the single parent.
  • If the student has been receiving assistance under Title IV of the Social Security Act, also known as TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families).
  • If the household has among them a married couple that files their tax returns jointly.

If the student qualifies for LIHTC housing because of any of the exemptions above, they might be denied housing because of failing to meet the income requirements.

Income requirements for section 42 housing

How a student’s total income is calculated depends on a few factors:

  • If the student has been receiving section 8 assistance, then any financial aid that they might get such as work-study payments, grants, scholarships, and entitlements will be counted as income after deduction tuition and other required student charges.
  • If the student has not been benefiting from section 8 assistance, then any form of educational financial aid that they are awarded does not count as income.
  • Some students also do some work on the side. If a working student is dependent on a household and is neither the head of the household, the co-head, or a spouse, only $480 of their income will be counted annually. This amount will be counted in addition to other benefits given by the government like unemployment and social security.

It is important to note that to be considered a full-time student for a calendar year, one only has to be a full-time student for five months out of the same year and these months do not have to be in succession. A month will be counted if the student is present in school for at least one day. A student is also said to be full-time if the institution they study at considers them to be one.

Section 8 housing

This is housing assistance that is given to individuals that make incomes that are between 30% and 80% of the area median income. This scheme helps people of low income spend as little as possible on rent since once you qualify for section 8, you won’t have to pay more than 30% of your income on both rent and utilities.

Can a student qualify for section 8 housing?

A student can be considered eligible for section 8 housing if they meet one or more of the following qualifications:

  • They are aged 24 and over.
  • The student is a U.S. military veteran.
  • If one or both of the student’s parents/legal guardians qualify for section 8 housing.
  • If the student’s parents are not qualified for section 8 housing, the student might be eligible if they can provide proof that they are independent of their parents.
  • The student is a person with disabilities and they have been benefiting from this aid as of 30th November 2005.
  • The student is either married or separated, but not divorced.
  • If the student lives with a minor who is dependent on them.

For students who are under 24, to apply for section 8 housing, one has to include their parents’ income details together with their own. This is necessary even if you will not be living with them.

Who is considered an independent student?

Unlike section 42 housing, for a student to qualify for section 8 housing, they have to be classified as independent.

The United States Department of Education defines an independent student as an individual that meets one or more of these criteria:

  • If the student is at least 24 years old.
  • In addition to their spouse, the student has other dependents.
  • If the student is married. If they are separated but not divorced from their spouse, they are also considered independent.
  • If they are professional students. These are students who are pursuing a postgraduate degree like a master’s or a doctorate.
  • If they are a U.S. military veteran.
  • If they are orphaned. This means that by the time the said student turned 13, both of their parents had passed away, they were a ward of the court, or they were in foster care.
  • A student who is either homeless or is at risk of the same.
  • If the student’s parents or guardian do not claim the student as their dependent.
  • If a court judge can ascertain that the student is an emancipated minor.

If one claims to be an independent student, there are two things that a building owner/manager will use to validate this:

  • Depending on the laws of the state, the student should have reached the legal contact age.
  • The student should also prove that they have been living separately from the parents for at least a year.

Income requirements for section 8 housing

When calculating whether you qualify for section 8 financially, they consider both the total household income and the household size.

In addition to salaries, some of the other income sources that are counted are alimony and child support, retirement funds, and social security.

What if I don’t qualify for income-restricted housing?

If you are unlucky in getting housing assistance, there are a few things you can do to make having a roof over your head easier. This will also ensure you have an easier time as you go through your studies:

1. Apply for a job

Sometimes campuses offer positions like dorm resident, which usually comes with a room. Apartment buildings also offer jobs for repairmen and building managers and more often than not this position comes with a house in the same building. In some cases, you will get a deduction on the rent and in other cases, you won’t need to pay any rent.

2. Get roommates

Splitting the rent with one or more people makes it a much lighter expense. If you do, ensure you are very careful when vetting potential roommates.

3. Grants

Some government and private grants can be channeled to housing costs. In most cases, the grants can only be used to get residence on campus and the board fees. Also, some institutions offer housing grants, and the only way to find out if your institution offers such and whether you qualify is to ask.

Final thoughts

Being a student is already expensive with the hefty tuition costs and adding rent and utilities on top of that may be a burden that is too heavy for low-income families to bear. Luckily, the government stepped in by offering housing vouchers. Although it may take time and effort to qualify it is a financial relief once you succeed.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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