Do I Qualify for Income Restrictions on an Apartment?


Getting access to affordable housing has become more of a challenge, especially with the rise in population and the increased cost of living, mostly in big towns and cities.

There has been a need for a solution to this problem to curb homelessness. One of such was the introduction of income-restricted apartments. These are apartment buildings that are owned either by the city or by private citizens. They receive a percentage of the rent from the government and the tenant is left to raise the remaining bit.

As a member of society earning a low income, moving into an income-restricted apartment would go a long way in ensuring long-term financial security. However, these units are not enough for a large number of people, and among other reasons, there are a couple of boxes you need to check to be considered eligible for income-restricted housing and this article covers all of these criteria.

Who is eligible for income-restricted apartments?

For you to qualify for income-restricted apartments, there are 4 main requirements that you will need to satisfy:

Family requirements

The Department for Housing and Urban Development has a definition of family and you have to match up to it to qualify. Also, the department has given the Public Housing Authority some freedom in their definition.

Here are some of the conditions that an individual or a group of people is expected to meet to be considered to be a family:

  • They should be with or without children.
  • One or more of the people should be 62 years or older.
  • One or more members of the household have a disability.
  • If they have been displaced from their previous residence. This could be as a result of government actions or a natural disaster.
  • A tenant that remains in the house after all the other members of the family have moved out of an income-restricted apartment.
  • A single individual who meets none of the options above also satisfies the definition of a family.

If you are unsure of where you stand concerning this requirement, you can always contact your local PHA office so they can give you detailed information on what qualifies as a family.

Income level requirements

Income-restricted apartments are given to those whose earnings are not enough to cover both the rent on market-price apartments and the cost of other living expenses like food and clothing.

This led the HUD to come up with a system that determines whether the income is low enough for one to qualify for income-restricted apartments. A family’s income is calculated by putting together incomes from all members’ sources. Some of the sources considered are salaries, overtime, commissions, child support and alimony, unemployment checks, welfare, social security, pensions, retirement funds, and lottery winnings.

Once the income is calculated, it is looked at as a percentage of the area’s median income level. If the income is to be considered as low, it can be categorized in one of these three groups:

  • Extremely low income- this means that the family’s income equates to 30% of the area’s median income.
  • Very low income- if the family’s income is around 50% of the area’s median income they fall into this category.
  • Low income- these are families whose income is 80% of the area median.

The category a family lands on is also determined by the size of the family. The extremely low-income amount for a family of seven will be a higher number than the extremely low income for one individual. This is because it takes more resources to cater to more people.

When allocating income-restricted apartments, the top priority is given to families in the extremely low-income group and those in the low-income bracket are naturally considered last. However, in cases where a family is regarded as continuously assisted. This means that they are already receiving assistance for housing and there should be no break in offering the said assistance.

Citizenship requirements

In addition to your family and income information, there are a few things about your citizenship that might determine whether you qualify for the apartment. There are two options- one is either an American citizen or an immigrant from another country.

1. American citizens

If you are an American, the Public Housing Authority will have you sign a declaration that says you and your family are all American citizens. They might also require you to provide proof of citizenship by asking to see some documentation like a U.S. passport or a birth certificate for the children. 

2. Individuals with immigrant status

The PHA will have to verify whether your immigrant status is eligible. This is done through a series of steps. First, you will be needed to sign a declaration that says your immigrant status is eligible and then ask you to provide documents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The PHA official will then cross-check this information with the INS.

Finally, you will be asked to sign a consent form that permits the use of the information the PHA has got from you.

3. Families with mixed immigration statuses

In some cases, some members of the family have eligible immigration statuses and others do not. This does not mean that they will not be considered for income-restricted housing. 

Unlike in both cases above, however, only the income of the family members with an eligible status will be considered when calculating the amount of assistance they will be given. 

History of eviction

Even if all the above requirements are met, a person in need of income-restricted housing will be denied if:

  • They have ever been evicted from a unit for drug-related crimes.
  • They have ever been convicted because of producing methamphetamine in a government-assisted housing project.

What would make me ineligible for income-restricted housing?

Here are 3 of the main reasons why an individual would be denied income-restricted housing:

1. Violation of HUD terms

A family will not be allowed income-restricted housing if any member of the household has done any of the following:

  • If they have ever been evicted from HUD housing any time in the last five years.
  • If they have had any form of housing assistance revoked by the PHA or any other housing authority for any reason.
  • If they owe money to any housing authority.

2. Presence of a criminal record

Having a criminal record does not mean you will automatically be denied the chance to apply and qualify for income-restricted housing, but it will certainly make it harder to access the assistance. Here are a couple of things that you might want to note:

  • If a household member was convicted of drug-related charges in three years, then housing might be denied. However, if the member of the household successfully goes through a drug rehabilitation program that has been recommended by the PHA, then income-restricted living arrangements can be made. There is also the option of removing the said member from the household.
  • A person who has been convicted has a smaller chance of getting an income-restricted apartment compared to a person who was arrested but did not get a conviction.
  • Some of the factors that can affect your chances of qualifying for an income-restricted apartment include the nature of the offense, how severe the crime was, and how long in the past the incident happened.
  • Convictions that have happened in the near past are likely to render a family ineligible.
  • Individuals who appear on any state lifetime sex offender registry is automatically disqualified.

3. Misleading information

Putting down information that you know is not true will not only make you ineligible for government housing assistance, but it might get you into some trouble with the law. Ensure you are as honest as possible in all your answers, both written and spoken. If at any point you are unsure about what a part of the application requires from you, contact your local PHA office for clarification.

How to apply for income-restricted apartments

This section looks at some of the steps you will take if you are in the market for an income-restricted unit.

  1. Check whether you qualify

One of the first factors you will need to check for is the income requirement. This amount is not the same across the country and it is subject to change every year. You can check the Housing and Urban Development website for up-to-date income limits.

  1. Contact the PHA

This is the surest way to know whether you qualify for low-income housing. To get the contacts and locations of the PHA in your area, you can consult the HUD website. Once you find out that you qualify, a PHA caseworker will be assigned to you.

They will then conduct a couple of interviews that will ensure you meet all the other requirements (like family and citizenship) in addition to finance. 

If your caseworker deems you fit, you will be put on a waiting list if there are no apartments available at the moment. Also, you may end up on the waiting list if at the time you were applying for an apartment, enrollment was closed.

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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