For seniors, calculating the cost of housing can be difficult when they have limited finances. Whether living in a home they have owned for decades or looking for a rental property to move into, seniors can face a variety of struggles when it comes to housing.
If you are a senior, or you are helping an elderly loved one, assessing the housing assistance options available in your area may help alleviate some of this stress. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers multiple programs to provide housing assistance for qualifying senior citizens.
Eligibility requirements vary based on the housing assistance program. If you or your loved one does not meet the requirements for one program, other options might be available through HUD.
From rental assistance to mortgage assistance, help is available for seniors. To learn more about the housing assistance available for seniors, read the following sections.
Learn About Housing Assistance for Senior Rural Landowners
If you are a senior and own land in a rural area but struggle with the maintenance costs of the property, then the Section 504 Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grants program overseen by HUD may be able to help.
To qualify for this program, you must meet income requirements, which vary, as they are calculated using a specific formula. This formula considers the percentage of occupied rural residences in your state, the percentage of very low-income residents and the number of seniors occupying these rural residences.
Qualifying applicants receive grants to make necessary improvements to their homes. The improvements you make to your home with the Section 504 Rural Housing Repair grant must meet designated guidelines.
Repairs must be necessary for your health and safety and the grant is only usable for improvements of these hazards. The maximum amount of assistance you can receive from this program is $7,500 within your lifetime.
To apply for a Section 504 Rural Housing Repair grant, contact the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) office in your state. USDA staff work with you to determine your eligibility for the program.
In addition to completing the application process, provide the USDA with three contractor bids for the cost of the repairs needed to improve your home. If approved for this grant program, you could receive repayment for the repairs once they have been made and approved by your local USDA office.
Learn About Supportive Housing for Seniors
If you are 62 years of age or older and you require a supportive living environment as you age, you can apply for housing assistance through the Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly program.
This program, overseen by HUD, places seniors into rent-assisted communities to receive the care and help they require. Seniors who can live independently but require help with daily activities, such as housekeeping, bathing and transportation, often benefit from living within these communities.
Additional features include counseling and referral services for seniors who require these benefits. The exact features vary from one community to the next, though each community provides the same basic level of care and assistance.
Eligibility for this program is dependent upon your age and your income level. Seniors who are 62 years of age may apply for the program, though most residents within this community fall into the median of 79 years of age.
Seniors must have a low income to retain eligibility for this program, which is commonly considered 50 percent of the median income for your designated area. Contact the housing communities in your area to determine the exact threshold and to discuss your eligibility with a community employee.
Wait lists are common for seniors who are receiving help through the Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program. Preference is given to seniors who can pay up to 50 percent of their rent with their own income and those who are currently living in housing that is considered substandard. Seniors who have been displaced involuntarily receive preference for the program as well.
Learn About Housing Assistance for Senior Homeowners
If you are a senior who currently has equity within your home, you may qualify for a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage. This program is designed for seniors who are looking for a way to enhance their income without sacrificing their home in the process.
Home Equity Conversion Mortgages are available for seniors through FHA-approved lenders in their area. To qualify for this housing assistance program, you must be at least 62 years of age. In addition to meeting the age requirement, you must live in your home currently.
Seniors who have paid off their mortgage entirely or have paid a significant portion of their mortgage could benefit from this conversion program. If you are approved for a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, you are granted the ability to draw from the equity of your home to supplement your income.
The amount you are permitted to withdraw varies on a case by case basis. These amounts are calculated by assessing the following:
- The current interest rate on the mortgage
- The age of the borrower
- The age of an eligible spouse who qualifies as a non-borrower
- The lesser of the appraised value of the home
- The FHA mortgage limit imposed in a designated area
- The sales price of the home
If more than one applicant is applying for assistance through this program, the age of the youngest applicant is generally used to determine eligibility requirements. The only variation to this stipulation is if the borrower has a spouse who qualifies as a non-borrower.
When you contact your local FHA lender, discuss the exact eligibility requirements in your area to ensure you qualify before completing the application. The lender helps you determine the amount you may receive through this program.
Reverse mortgage counselors are available to assist you as well if you need additional help with the mortgage conversion process. As of writing, these counselors may be located by calling the following number provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: 800-569-4287.