I received a disturbing phone call yesterday. The caller was contacting me to order a Senior Housing Directory, and had lots of questions about how to find affordable housing in the Minneapolis area. I'll call her Sheila. Sheila told me of her 92 year old mother, who is renting an independent living apartment, and her rent had continued to skyrocket to the point she can no longer afford. Sheila and her mother started this process about a year ago, and thought they had taken all of the appropriate steps by applying through the Housing Authority. Throughout the year, Sheila checked to see where her mother was on the waiting list, expecting to hear she was getting closer to the top. Instead, she found her mother's name was DROPPING on the list. Then to make matters worse, they had learned a newer senior subsidized housing complex had opened near their home, a friend had gotten right in, but by the time they learned about it, there was a waiting list.
Affordable housing for seniors is a tough market to navigate. I work with seniors every day in the senior housing market and I have hard time wrapping my arms around all of the available programs and the eligibility requirements. Here are some of the basics I hope you'll find helpful.
- Publicly owned and managed rental units for low-income households
- Units usually cost 30% of the household's adjusted gross income
- Rents are based on your income and are very affordable
- There is a single access point for applying-and this often gets you on the list for a large number of units
- The application point is the public housing authority
- Waiting lists can be long
- A credit and criminal history check will likely be required.
Subsidized Housing - Section 8 housing
- These are privately owned and managed rental units for low-income households
- This subsidy goes with the building and unit
- Units usually cost 30% of the household's adjust gross income
- Some units are a lower, fixed amount
- Some senior buildings may have a combination of "market rate" units and "subsidized" units
- Many different landlords participate in this program
- Each property keeps it's own waiting list, which can be either closed, or long.
- There is NOT a single access point for applying, you have to apply at each property individually.
Housing Voucher - Section 8
- This program helps low-income households pay rent on market-rate rentals
- This subsidy goes with the tenant. A renter finds a unit and the housing authority pays a portion of the rent directly to the property manager.
- The amount the renter contributes is usually 30%-40% of the household's adjusted gross income.
- The application starts with the housing authority to obtain a voucher. Once the voucher is obtained the application process continues with the individual property.
- The property does not have to accept vouchers.
Here are the questions everyone asks "What kind of condition are these subsidized or public housing buildings in?" "Are they safe?"
Here's the answer. It's no different than any other apartment building-some are nicer than others. To determine if a particular building is appealing to you, go look at it and talk with the property manager and the people that live there.
To make matters even more interesting, there are other programs available to seniors who need services to stay out of nursing homes that some senior housing building accept. I'll cover that in another post.
Here are a few tips on how to use this information:
- If you've been looking for senior housing and find that you cannot afford to live in anything you've looked at, there's subsidized housing available.
- Identify a senior subsidized rental building, and talk with the property manager. The property manager will help you understand the application process and the waiting time.
- For each property manager you talk to, ask them if it's a problem for you to apply to more than one subsidized senior housing facility. If it's not a problem, then get out there and apply to more than one building. The waiting lists can be long, and if you're on more than one list, you'll have a better chance of getting into a building sooner rather than later.
- If you're not sure where to find subsidized housing in your area, and you live in the Twin Cities or surrounding areas, order a senior housing directory. I'll send you one for free.
- Other resources that might be of help include www.Minnesotahelp.info and the Senior Linkage Line.