What are Income Restricted Apartments?


Shelter is a basic need. The common ways of attaining this are by either renting out a house or owning one. Unfortunately, both to some extent can be expensive. If the two are compared, the former is cheaper.

One can rent out a house or an apartment depending on preference and/or your income. For those with a low income, renting out a place can be a very daunting task, hence income restricted apartments.

They are also known as affordable housing. These are apartments where the rent has been reduced to accommodate low-income individuals and families. This means that only specific people can rent out these types of apartments.

This article contains some information on low-income housing, what they are, and who qualifies to live in them.

Who owns income-restricted apartments?

Most of these apartments are owned by the city while others are privately owned. The owners of the private ones receive a tax credit from the government to lease out some of their units as income restricted apartments.

Who is eligible for income-restricted apartments?

There are a couple of requirements that you need to meet to qualify for this housing:

1. Income requirement

As the name suggests, only those with low incomes can qualify for income-restricted apartments. There are three levels of low-income limits:

  • Low income: this is 80% of the median income level of the area
  • Very low: this is 50% of the area’s median income level.
  • Extremely low income: 30% of the median income level.

If it is a family household or more than one person living in the apartment then the total gross income is what is used. This means every individual’s income is taken into consideration but during calculations against the median income in the area, the household income is looked at cumulatively.

2. Family requirements

The public housing authority in different areas defines what qualifies as a family differently. Get in touch with your local PHA to see your status.

3. Citizenship requirements

You will only qualify for low-income housing if you are an American citizen or if you have eligible immigrant status. You will be required to sign declarations and provide some proof of your citizenship and status. 

4. Eviction requirements

A background check is also done for one to be eligible. If you have an eviction history as a result of drug-related or criminal activity or you have ever been sent to prison because of producing methamphetamine in an apartment, you will be found not eligible.

Advantages of income restricted apartments

  • They are affordable hence one can live a more financially free and stable life. This means that money can be channeled into other things for example school fees, medical expenses to mention just but a few.
  • Rent is inclusive of some household and property maintenance which would have probably been an extra cost.
  • The number of people and families that are homeless is reduced therefore poverty levels in the area are also brought down.
  • Many elderly people are often living off their pension so affordable housing makes living more comfortable and less strenuous.
  • Companies that pay low salaries get to keep their workers and keep the businesses going because the workers can afford to stay within the area.
  • Affordable housing might attract or rather encourage a more qualified workforce in the region because let’s face it rent after all pays a major role in deciding on where to live.
  • Low-income families are lucky because then the children are able to experience stability and do not have to move houses so frequently due to rent. This is a plus because they get to have a stable social life unlike moving where they have to lose and make friends often.

Disadvantages of income restricted apartments.

  • Discrimination may happen. Some buildings have units that are income restricted while others go for normal market rates. Once your status is known to be an income-restricted tenant you might be a subject of bullying or harassment by the market rate tenants or the staff.
  • Fixtures, fittings, and finishing might not be the best or to your liking but you can always work with what’s available.
  • The waiting list may be endless because the harsh reality is, unfortunately, the demand for these apartments exceeds their availability. Getting one may seem to take forever especially in areas where many families and individuals deserve them. 
  • These apartments might be in a far-off area or the outskirts so some social amenities might not be accounted for within the proximity. This is because most developers will tend to build these projects in places where they can get land at cheaper prices to overcome the fact that they will have to rent out units at a lower market value.
  •  Income restricted housing may cost the community because a lot of taxpayer’s money is put into these housing which may have been used in other projects.

Misguided conceptions about income restricted apartments.

Many people think that income-restricted apartments are uncomfortable or found in bad areas but the reality is contrary to that belief.

A common belief is that most low-income renters are from the black community which is not true.

They encourage laziness. The notion that being poor automatically means you are lazy is wrong because life is not at all fair.

People living in income restricted apartments are looking for a temporary solution or rather always trying to live. This is false because some renters see it as a long-term solution to making life affordable for them and their families.

It is the wealthy people that live off the government resources. This is not true because during application for rent-restricted apartments checks are made and a thorough background investigation is done to make sure the individual or the family is well-deserving of the unit.

How to apply for an income restricted apartment

Before applying, check your region’s median income and definition of low income. Priority is mostly given to those falling under the extremely low income which is usually 30% of the median income in that region. Also, be prepared to wait. It is a process that requires patience due to the limited availability of these apartments. Remember good things come to those who wait! Lastly, be transparent and do not lie on your application. Now, let’s get right to it!

Look for a public housing agency in your region. Normally a form will be handed out to you to fill or in other cases, a representative might be allocated to you to collect all the relevant information. This includes your annual income, assets, and family size.

The agency or the representative will do some research to verify the information given to approve or decline your application. This is normally done by checking in with your employer and your bank.

Documentation such as credit score and tax returns may be required to help verify this information.

Based on this information the agency determines if you qualify for this housing based on your gross income, whether you are an elderly or disabled person or as a family, and lastly, or the basis of whether you are a citizen or an eligible immigrant.

Once you qualify, depending on the availability of an apartment, one shall be allocated to you. If all are currently occupied you will be put on the waitlist.

Housing selection

If one is using a housing voucher you get the luxury of choosing where to live. Most areas have a standard payment but it may end up being higher or lower depending on the market rate. Also, if it is privately owned, the price might be higher than the standard and one might have to make up for it from one’s pocket at a personal expense.

Once the renter has chosen a place and agreed to the terms and conditions laid out by the landlord, the housing agency then inspects the property to make sure it meets the health and safety standards.

Renters obligation

The renter needs to sign the lease and agree to its terms and conditions which may sometimes include a year rule minimum occupancy. If this is the situation then the terms of the lease may be renegotiated on a month-to-month basis after the year is up.

The renter will be required to pay the rent on time. Remember in case one wants to move your rent history is important, so keep it clean.

If there is any change in the number of occupants living in the property or any change in income then the respective housing agency must be informed immediately.

More information

Some people are automatically disqualified from applying for income restricted housing. These include felons with charges such as sex offenders and drug-related charges.

Also, there are laws against fraud for those who are undeserving of this housing and try to cheat their way into the system.

Income restricted housing despite some of its limitations is an important sector in the community to reduce homelessness and encourage family stability. It has also proven to be a lifesaver for the elderly, they get to live their sunset years in financial comfort. Even if it is taken out of the taxpayer’s pocket it is definitely on the plus column for government funds.

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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