For many, retirement means living on a fixed income. It's critical to make sure every dollar counts, especially when you may have decades of retirement ahead.
One of the biggest costs seniors face is housing. A study from Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies found the cost burdens of housing for seniors are at an all-time high. For some, a large mortgage or rental payment doesn't fit into a retirement budget for the long term — so it makes sense to explore your options for housing in retirement now.
Low-income senior housing is an increasingly in-demand option for seniors. Here is how to tell whether this alternative may be a good fit for your needs.
What Is Low-Income Senior Housing?
As you age, both your income and mobility change. While aging in place is an option for many, there may come a time where you need to find different accommodations to accommodate budget constraints or long-term care.
Low-income housing for seniors helps relieve some of these burdens. Across the country, low-income units are set aside and priced with more affordable rents and mortgages for seniors on a fixed income. The U.S. government helps coordinate many of these housing units through different departments and programs.
Different Types of Low-Income Senior Housing
Seniors have access to several common types of programs for low-income housing in retirement.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
Also known as Section 8, the housing choice voucher program is run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). With this program, you pay up to 30% of your adjusted gross income in rent. The government then provides a voucher that covers the rest of your rent and utilities.
To qualify for Section 8 vouchers, you must go through a screening process with HUD, which includes a background check, income statements and asset review. Not all landlords accept these vouchers, so you'll need to make sure you communicate your participation in the program at the start of your search.
Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
If you can live independently for the most part but need minor care, the Section 202 program —also run by the HUD — can make assisted living more affordable. It provides lower-cost apartments to seniors who need assistance with cooking, cleaning and transportation.
To qualify, you'll need to be at least 62 years old and have a fixed income that's 50% of the area's median income. As with many HUD housing programs, you will need to fill out an application and may also be placed on a waitlist.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit
This program, administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), gives tax credits to developers who build, rehab and buy rental housing that's set aside for low-income seniors.
Residents of these units must meet median age and income ranges set by federal regulations. For example, they might require you to be at least 62 years old and have a fixed income that's 55% of the median income in the area. If you meet those, you can apply.
Tips on Finding Low-Income Housing for Seniors
You can help simplify the process of securing low-income housing by leaning on the right resources.
Your search should begin with the federal government. The HUD has a resource locator where you can search for affordable elderly housing in your area. In addition to federal programs, each state has its own resources. The HUD state page listing can help you find information local to where you live.
Private organizations may be able to help, too. The AARP Foundation helps seniors find rent and mortgage assistance.
As you search, remember that many government programs have strict qualifications. Review your income and gather the right paperwork to help speed up the qualification process. It also helps to begin your search before you actually need housing in retirement. Many programs have waitlists for aid.
For many, affordable housing is key to a happy retirement. By understanding what's out there and planning ahead, you can prepare options that fit your needs both now and into the future.