What to Do if You’re a Senior Struggling to Pay Rent

On a fixed or low income and worried about your housing situation? There are tons of options available to help seniors secure affordable housing.

Following retirement, not everyone has a nest egg to fall back on. Not to mention, unforeseen events like job loss, divorce, or medical emergencies can put a major dent in our best-laid plans and budget. Oftentimes, financial setbacks lead to a depleted savings account and concerns about the future, especially for those on a fixed income.

Following the events of 2020, older Americans have been struggling to find and keep affordable housing more than ever before. If you find yourself on the verge of eviction or struggling to make ends meet, know that you are not alone right now. And there are options available to help you. Federal, state, and local programs and resources are designed to assist seniors with low income and secure stable housing.

First things first, decide what’s desirable and affordable for you. It’s time to find out if you qualify for rental assistance or subsidized housing. Then begin your search for affordable senior housing within your community. There’s often more available than you think.

Let’s talk about how to save money on housing, negotiating rent with your landlord, if you should look into senior complexes, and when finding a roommate might be your best bet.

Start By Reaching Out to Your Local Housing Authority

Knowing where to start is often the most difficult part. Take advantage of what resources are available and rely on their guidance. Chances are, you’ll not only learn about how to get more affordable housing, but you’ll discover free and/or affordable activities and resources for seniors you may not have heard about.

For instance, your local public housing authority can help you find affordable senior housing, introduce you to financial assistance resources, and connect you with available grants. Because they’ll be able to tell you what you qualify for, they’re always a great place to start.

elderly people in exercise class with hula hoops

These local agencies will be able to guide you through the application process for all senior housing options, including low-rent public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, and Urban Development (HUD). To locate public housing agencies in your area, check out this HUD directory. If you’d like to speak with someone directly, you can call HUD customer service at (800) 955-2232.

A HUD-approved housing counselor will be able to help you explore all options you qualify for, help you build a budget, provide professional insight on foreclosure avoidance and reverse mortgages, and even help you tackle credit issues. If you’re not sure if HUD or its programs are right for you, contact your local HUD office today.

Browse Your Senior Housing Resources Online

Not so shockingly, one of your best resources for senior living information can be found online. There are tons of websites that allow you to search for affordable housing options, caregivers, and community activities for seniors in your local area. Here are the best senior living websites of 2022, compliments of Comrade Digital Marketing.

Also, be sure to check out reviews of nearby senior apartments via websites like SeniorAdvisor.com.

Do You Qualify for Senior Housing? Here’s What to Know

In determining if you qualify for low-income housing, your income and age will play the biggest roles. In most cases, your income must be less than 80% to 50% of the median income in your area.

Senior couple being advised on insurance
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With that said, every housing program has a slightly different set of guidelines and eligibility requirements. When you apply, make sure you are able to provide the following:

  • An original copy of your birth certificate
  • Annual gross income
  • Bank statements showing your income
  • Extensive Rental history
  • Social Security and Disability benefits statements
  • Your Federal tax returns

Compare Affordable Senior Housing Programs

If you’re planning on applying to any affordable housing program, be sure to apply as early as possible. Subsidized housing programs for seniors with low income are relatively easy to find, but the waiting lists can be lengthy. Sometimes, you may have to wait for up to a year, so be prepared and plan ahead. Start by familiarizing yourself with the various affordable housing programs that exist in your area. Here’s what to know.

Public Housing

retired couple on bench in front of senior housing complex

There’s a wide array of public housing options out there, all of which cater to older adults and those with low incomes. Start online exploring now. You’ll likely discover there are a plethora of suitable, affordable housing types in your city or county. As with most programs, however, income limits vary by region.

Do your research on what’s available and contact your public housing agency. Most times, the elderly and those who are disabled are given precedence when it comes to public housing. Per Affordable Housing Online, rent can cost between $25 and $50 or come to 30 percent of your household’s monthly adjusted income. So if your rent is too high, it’s definitely worth considering.

Housing Choice Vouchers

HUD’s housing choice voucher program is available to assist seniors, the disabled, and extremely low-income families in their search to find affordable housing. With this program, a housing situation will not be assigned to you. Instead, those seeking housing will be responsible for finding a housing unit that meets the minimum safety and health guidelines of the program and getting it approved.

senior male reading on his couch

The nice thing about housing vouchers is that you won’t be limited to subsidized housing projects. This program’s options include single-family homes, apartments, condos, townhouses, and even the home where you currently reside. Vouchers are also sometimes used to buy homes.

For those that meet all criteria, housing vouchers are paid directly to landlords by a public housing agency on a monthly basis. If you qualify, you will be required to pay the difference between the original rent amount and the program’s decided subsidized amount. Typically, tenants are required to pay 30% of their rent and utilities, as decided by their monthly gross income. In most cases, the voucher will cover the rest.

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Have you heard of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program? Here’s how it works. Developers and/or investors are given tax credits from the state and buy, fix up, or construct rental housing properties for those with lower incomes. One of the main focuses is senior apartments. By law, these developments are required to have a minimum number of units for those who qualify, which are usually those with extremely low income.

To qualify, those interested typically must prove they have a limited or fixed income that does not exceed 60% of their area’s median income. Interested in learning more? Contact a HUD-approved housing counseling agency in your area to see if you qualify and explore local options.

Section 202 Supportive Housing

senior woman laughing and talking to nurse

Oriented towards the elderly, the Section 202 program subsidizes apartments for older Americans living independently. If you are at least 62 years old with very low income, living on your own but requiring assistance from time to time for small tasks, you may qualify.

Under Section 202, various forms of assistance are available, including housekeeping, meal delivery services, counseling, pharmacy-related needs like medication, and transportation.

Other Ways to Get More Affordable Housing

If your income is too high to qualify, but you still are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage, don’t fret. There are other options to consider. For starters, you should talk to your landlord.

As you’re probably well aware by now, rent prices have been spiking in recent years. The housing cost rise has proven to be a problem for renters of all ages. But if you are a senior citizen, disabled, and/or living on a fixed income, make negotiating with your landlord a priority. It may very well work in your favor.

elderly couple in kitchen preparing dinner

Come prepared. And if you feel you are overpaying regardless of your financial status, do some research regarding lower rent prices in your area and be ready to present your case. Here are 5 tips for negotiating a lower rent payment, compliments of Rent.com.

Obviously, these routes come with no guarantees. But don’t let that stop you from negotiating. After all, you never know until you ask. Try to reach an agreement that is fair to you both. If you’ve been a reliable tenant so far, they should be willing to work with you in some capacity. If not, it may be time to move.

Consider a Roommate

This may not sound like your cup of tea, especially if you’ve already retired. But let’s face it, living alone can be incredibly expensive for just about any and everyone. Living with a roommate will take some of the financial burden off of your shoulders. You’ll be able to split bills, save more money, and achieve more financial stability while staying exactly where you’re at.

Even if you own a home, offering some of your space to a renter can help with your mortgage significantly. Not to mention, you’ll have much-needed financial assistance for things like homeowners insurance, property taxes, and HOA fees.

elderly female roommates eating dinner together and laughing

If you’re renting an apartment with a spare bedroom, strongly consider renting it out. But do vet potential tenants thoroughly. While taking on a roommate always comes with risks, you want to make sure that you can rely on this person. Reach out to friends or loved ones first. Perhaps they know someone who is looking for a place, and recommendations from people you trust can ease your mind and help narrow down the candidates.

There are also helpful resources out there designed with this scenario in mind. Whether you are looking to move in with someone or have them move in with you, sites like SilverNest help seniors find a suitable roomie of a similar age and income.

Work on Lowering Other Bills

senior woman and dog sitting on couch

If you can lower other bills, rent will undoubtedly become easier to pay. Thankfully, there are hundreds upon hundreds of nationwide programs in place to help seniors find ways to make ends meet, cover unforeseen expenses, and pay their utility costs with ease.

Start by checking out the Eldercare Locator. This federally operated website helps older Americans navigate their financial terrain. Its primary job is to connect senior citizens with their local and best resources.

Read More: Take These 12 Small Steps To Improve Your Finances

Don’t Overlook Accessory Dwelling Units

Once you start looking, you’ll quickly find that affordable options are more abundant than you realized. You just need to know what your local options are. In every community, this type of housing is available in some capacity. With that said, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled. Typically, accessory dwelling units aren’t as readily advertised as typical rental properties.

happy couple sharing bicycle in front of tiny cottage

Accessory dwelling units remain a popular and affordable options for seniors with lower incomes and those looking to save money, especially retired people living alone. Some of the main types include tiny houses, detached backyard cottages, pool houses, attached home additions, converted garages, basement apartments, attic apartments, and above garage studios.

Through organizations like the Habitat for Humanity, it’s also possible to have accessory dwellings built. You can find out if you qualify for their low-income housing program here.

Obviously, finding out what programs you qualify for is an important step in securing more affordable housing. But only you can decide which housing options meet your specific needs. So reach out, shop around, and know your local options. Remember, there’s something out there that’s more affordable and reliable resources ready to help. But it’s up to you to take the first step.

Read More: Don’t Get Blindsided By These Retirement Expenses

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