How to Find the Right Home for You

It is often not easy to find great low-income housing options that meet all of your family’s needs.

There are many factors you need to take into consideration during your search, including your household size and desired location. In addition, the property must meet Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines if you plan to use a housing voucher.

Before you can move in, an inspection is performed by the local public housing authority (PHA) to ensure it meets the standards of sanitation, safety and fair pricing.

As a Section 8 tenant, you have the right to choose housing that properly accommodates your family. With this in mind, it is often beneficial to develop a list of priorities so you can narrow down your search.

Keep in mind that you may need to make certain compromises to secure a comfortable home at an affordable rate. However, it is important to know how to spot red flags for yourself when comparing properties. If you need additional help in your search, housing counseling and other resources are readily available.

Finding a Home that Fits Your Needs

Programs like Section 8 provide assistance for a variety of housing options, from apartments and studios to townhouses and single family homes. Voucher recipients can choose any option available, as long as the landlord agrees to accept housing vouchers and the property meets the established standards.

It is commonly believed that low income housing is only available in under-developed or crime-ridden neighborhoods. However, housing assistance programs can help applicants to access affordable housing just about anywhere.

When it comes to choosing a home that meets all of your family’s needs, there are an abundance of factors to consider. During your search, you must weigh these different factors in order to determine your housing priorities. Aspects like number of bedrooms, yard and storage space, neighbor proximity and location all play a role in your final decision.

Location in particular has a significant effect on how suitable a home is for you. For example, you may want your child to attend a certain school. This requires you to understand where the boundaries for that school zone are, and search for homes within that area. Other factors you may want to keep in mind include:

  • Proximity to public transportation.
  • Distance from work.
  • Local traffic.
  • Nearby stores, restaurants and other businesses.

Whether you decide to live in the heart of the city or in the suburbs can drastically affect your home life.

For example, residential neighborhoods are often quieter and have lighter traffic. On the other hand, apartments in the city typically require less maintenance and make it easier to access public transportation. When available, town homes can provide elements of both.

Location and size both impact the price of homes as well. If you choose to live in the city, expect to pay more for a quality unit. Meanwhile, homes in the suburbs tend to be cheaper, though they often require more upkeep, such as a yard and driveway.

Due to the wide variety of options you can choose from, it is helpful to establish your housing priorities before you even begin your search. That way, you can be better prepared to weigh the pros and cons between properties and select the best option for your family.

Amenities and Red Flags to Look Out For

Once you narrow down the type of home you want and the location you prefer, you can begin to look at the finer details. Many homes come with additional amenities and features for you to consider. At the same time, it is important to look out for any red flags that may lead to issues for you in the future as a tenant.

Amenities vary widely depending on the type of housing you are considering. For example, most apartments come with shared communal spaces, such as lobbies, pools, gyms and even laundry facilities.

Alternately, you may prefer an apartment that includes private laundry appliances within the unit. Single family homes commonly offer perks like these, including private yards, driveways and extra storage areas.  

When it comes to potential red flags, you want to pay attention to areas of the home that may be outdated or easily damaged. While the PHA is responsible for conducting an initial inspection of the premises, this only covers certain aspects, like cleanliness.

As such, make sure to examine elements like the following before you decide to move in:

  • Kitchen appliances
  • The air conditioning unit
  • The heater
  • Carpets

While this is not an exhaustive list, the items listed above are some of the most important and expensive features in a home. Therefore, if any of these items stop working or become damaged while you are living there, you can experience discomfort. For example, if the air conditioning unit is old and malfunctions, you may have to deal with the heat until it can be fixed.

More importantly, if any of the damage is caused by you or a family member, you may be required to pay for the repairs out-of-pocket. Likewise, if you plan to use your voucher to purchase a house, any future repairs become your financial responsibility.

Housing Counseling Services

The main purpose of government housing initiatives like the Housing Choice Voucher program is to help low-income families to secure adequate housing. Since vouchers can also apply towards purchasing a home, HUD also offers counseling services to guide first-time home buyers.

The Housing Counseling program provides a variety of educational services regarding homeownership. These resources help home buyers learn about topics like:

  • Homeowners and renters insurance.
  • Housing and home buyer assistance programs.
  • Mortgage loans and insurance premiums.

Participants in these counseling services can also receive advice on how to negotiate with lenders, raise their credit scores and avoid evictions or foreclosures. For renters, Section 8 housing counselors can provide insight into the best low-income housing options in the area as well.