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The first wave of baby boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—made it to age 65 in 2011. Now a person turns 65 every 10 seconds. By 2030, the number of persons 65 and older will reach 71.5 million. Many in this enormous human wave will need affordable living options once they stop working and there are several HUD programs to help seniors. Because let's be honest: many folks are not as prepared for retirement as they would like to be.

A survey by the Insured Retirement Institute found that “70 percent of middle-income Boomers are not confident in having enough money to live comfortably in retirement.” In an Associated Press poll, among families with incomes below $50,000, only 35% said they felt financially ready for retirement; 66% of those in higher income households felt ready. With the recent economic collapse, many older adults find themselves in an unexpected position entirely.

A recent AARP Public Policy Institute Study found that:

“Another daunting issue facing retirees is the cost of senior living options. Senior living is a general term that includes all kinds of senior-centered housing: independent living, assisted living, nursing homes, home care, and others.”

Here's a sample of what you can expect in senior living costs:

The median U.S. cost for a private room in a nursing home is $81,030 a year – In 2007, the median annual cost was $65,700 and the average yearly cost in an assisted living facility is $39,600.

Now let's look into the future.

If you are currently living in Virginia, for example, and need assisted living care the median amount you would pay is $41,775 a year, according to a Genworth Financial long-term care survey. In 10 years that amount would be $68,047. A private room in a Virginia nursing home would now cost $82,125 a year; in 10 years, the price tag goes up to $133,773.

Even if you never need senior living care, you may find yourself in a position where you have to make a lifestyle change. Asking yourself the important questions is a great place to start.

Retirement Living Considerations

It may be years after you retiree that you need to make a major living change. But it's better to plan now and initiate changes on your own rather than being forced by circumstances in the future.

Here are some questions to think about as you prepare for your retirement:

  • Where do I want to live when retired?
  • Where can I afford to live after I stop working?
  • Should I downsize and move into an apartment or condominium?
  • Do I want to live in a senior community with people my age?
  • Should I rent?
  • Do I still feel safe in my current neighborhood?
  • Do I want to be closer to family?
  • Does my health (or my spouse's) require special living arrangements such as assisted living or a nursing home?
  • Could I afford the cost of assisted care?
  • Can friends and family provide assistance with daily living if I need it?

If your current or future financial circumstances call for a drastic reduction in cost of living, HUD may have a program that can help.

Introduction to HUD Programs

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) creates affordable housing for citizens across the country by funding programs for rent assistance, home ownership, and assistive services for seniors and the disabled.

HUD helps more than 900,000 seniors with affordable housing through its programs. There are three types of affordable rent programs: public housing, multifamily subsidized housing, and voucher housing programs.

  • Public Housing is owned and run by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs).
  • Multifamily Subsidized Housing is privately owned housing that is subsidized by HUD and provides tenants with affordable housing.
  • Housing Vouchers provide rental assistance to individuals and families for housing in the private market.

*Several important things to keep in mind with HUD programs:

  • The waiting lists are often long (from two to five years), especially in metro areas.
  • For those in need of assisted care, HUD options are limited. HUD programs are designed primarily for independent seniors.
  • Because one Public Housing Agency (PHA) doesn't have the housing you're looking for, doesn't mean another one won't.

We'll look at HUD housing options, especially as they pertain to seniors. And we'll look at how to qualify, and how to search for HUD-sponsored housing in your area.

Senior Housing Vouchers

Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8)

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP) provides rent vouchers for housing in the private market to low income individuals, families, the elderly and the disabled. It is the largest assisted housing program administered by HUD.

These vouchers are linked to specific properties run by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). There are two kinds of vouchers: tenant-based and project-based. Tenant based vouchers (TBVs) move with the renter. Project based vouchers (PBVs) are assigned to particular units and buildings and are not transferable.

Who is Eligible?

There is no age requirement. Families or individuals who meet the extremely low-income requirements (30% of the area's median), and very low income (50% of area median) based on total gross income. In some cases, those with low income (80% of area median) are eligible.

Income such as pensions, retirement accounts, IRAs, insurance annuities, and assets such as real estate, cars, etc. ARE counted when assessing eligibility.


Depending on your location, housing options can include single-family homes, townhouses and even apartments. Individuals can pick anywhere they want to live as long as the owner agrees to rent using the program's guidelines.

Rent Amounts

Rental amount is calculated by using the greatest of:

  • 30% of monthly adjusted income
  • 10% of monthly income
  • The welfare rent in as-paid states
  • Or the PHA minimum rent ($25 or up to $50).

PHAs pay the property owner directly and the residents pay the difference to the property owner.

How Do I Apply?

Apply at your local PHA. They will collect information on family income (tax returns, bank statements, Social Security, etc.) assets, and family composition. Medical expenses, health insurance payments, prescriptions and future medical expenses are taken into consideration.

Once you apply, you are placed on a waiting list. Because of the demand, waiting lists are often several years long. Ask your application to be pre-qualified for income—that way you know ahead of time if you qualify. And ask about local preferences (e.g. you are involuntarily displaced, paying more than 50% rent, etc.).

You can find your local HUD PHA here

Homeownership Vouchers

This HUD program assists first time homebuyers who need help meeting their monthly mortgage payment and other expenses. These expenses include mortgage principal and interest,
mortgage insurance, real estate taxes, and homeowner's insurance among others.

Who is Eligible?

  • First-time homeowner
  • No family member has owned or had ownership interest in their residence for at least three years
  • No family member has any ownership interest in any residential property

Employment not required for elderly or disabled families seeking senior housing or individuals but must meet certain income requirements

  • Must complete the PHA's homeownership counseling
  • Any other PHA requirements

Finding Senior Housing

Assistance by the PHA is not a given in finding a home. The applicant must find an approved financing source to purchase the home. The home must pass an inspection by the PHA and an independent inspector before the family can purchase.

Payment Amount

The monthly tenant payment is generally 30% of the family's adjusted monthly income. The PHA will make the voucher payment to either the lender or the family. There is no time limit to receive assistance under this program for the elderly and disabled.

How Do I Apply?

Contact your local PHA for assistance. Not all PHAs offer this program.

You can find a list of participating PHAs here.

Programs for Current Homeowners who Need Help

If you own your home and need help with your mortgage, HUD and the Department of Treasury have a handful of programs to help. These include:

  • Lowering your payments
  • Lowering your interest rate
  • Help paying a second mortgage
  • Help with fallen home value
  • Leaving your home and avoiding foreclosure
  • Mortgage modification for those in the military

See for more details.

Multifamily Subsidized Housing Programs

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly

The rent-assisted housing in this program is designed specifically for seniors and the disabled to live as independently as possible but who may need some assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as dressing and bathing. Common features of these communities include housekeeping, transportation, referral services, and counseling.

The types of services and amenities will vary by senior housing community.

Established by HUD in 1959, the Section 202 program is the only program within HUD to provide housing exclusively to seniors. HUD provides loans to private, nonprofit organizations to finance the construction of supportive housing for very low-income seniors and provides rent subsidies.

Who is Eligible?
Those 62 and older with very low household income (50% of area median). The average resident age is 79. The average yearly income is $10,018.

Type of Housing for Seniors
Typically, one-bedroom apartments with kitchen and bath, plus special features such as grab bars, ramps, nonskid flooring, etc. Other features include housekeeping, transportation to health care, home-delivered meals.

Rent Amount

Rental amount is calculated by using the greatest of:

  • 30% of monthly adjusted income
  • 10% of monthly income
  • The welfare rent in as-paid states
  • Or the PHA minimum rent ($25 or up to $50).

How Do I Apply?

Contact the individual housing community you are interested in.

Wait lists are usually at least a year. Preferences for admission include those currently paying 50% of their income in rent; the involuntarily displaced; and those living in substandard housing.

Congregate Housing Services Program (CHSP)

This program, started in 1978, provides funds to Section 202 housing communities to “help frail and persons with disabilities avoid premature or unnecessary institutionalization.” This limited but valuable program provides funding to 51 public housing agencies and private assisted housing owners.

These communities provide residents at least one hot meal per day in a group setting, 7 days per week. Other non-medical services provided include housekeeping, personal assistance, transportation and social services.

Contact your local PHA to see if the program is available at area elderly housing locations.

Multifamily Rental Housing for Moderate-Income Families (Section 221 (d) (3))

This program funds “multifamily housing for moderate-income households, including projects designated for the elderly.” Some of the housing is designed specifically for the elderly and handicapped.

Who is eligible?

Anyone can occupy a home that is insured under this program and are “subject to normal tenant selection.” There are no income limits.

Type of Housing

These are multifamily housing units: apartments, condominiums, duplexes, etc.


Rent is based on a flat approved HUD amount, not on a tenant's percentage of income.

How Do I Apply?

Contact your local PHA. For a list by state, go here.

Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities Program (Section 811)

This purpose of this program is to enable those with disabilities to live as independently as possible in a housing environment that provides supportive services. Services may include personal assistance; meals; housekeeping; counseling; training in independent living skills; recreation and transportation.

HUD awards funds to private non-profit organizations to be used to finance the construction or rehabilitation of supportive housing for persons with disabilities. There are two types of funding programs: 1) projects funded by capital advances and 2) those funded by Project Rental Assistance.

Who is Eligible?

Those who are 18 and older who are physically, mentally, emotionally and/or developmentally disabled. Households must be very low-income (50% of median income) with at least one adult member with a disability.

The Project Rental Assistance Program residents must be extremely low-income (30% of median income) with at least one adult member with a disability

Median household income for residents is $9,204.


Group homes of eight or fewer units are single family structures that combine multiple bedrooms with a kitchen and shared living area. There is at least one bathroom for every four residents.

Condominium or cooperative units are independent living facilities that can be cooperatively owned by the residents.

Independent living complexes consist of 16 or fewer units where each dwelling contains a kitchen and bathroom. This housing may also contain congregate dining, laundry, and community areas.

Rent Amount

Rent is determined at 30% of adjusted monthly income.

How Do I Apply?

You can find out more on this program and the available properties by contacting your local HUD office. For a listing of regional HUD offices, visit this page.

Public Housing

Public housing is rental housing for low-income families, the elderly and those with disabilities. HUD administers funding to local PHAs that manage the housing. Over 1 million families live in public housing.

Who is Eligible?
Low-income families (80% of median) and individuals including the elderly and those with a disability. Income limits will vary based on area. Your local PHA can provide those limits.

Once you are accepted in public housing, you must live in the community where you are accepted.

Type of Housing

Public housing can include everything from single-family homes, to duplexes to high-rise apartments.

Rent Amount

Rent is referred to as Total Tenant Payment (TTP) and calculated using the greatest of:

  • 30% of monthly adjusted income
  • 10% of monthly income
  • The welfare rent in as-paid states
  • Or the PHA minimum rent ($25 or up to $50)

You may stay in the property as long as you comply with the lease.

How Do I Apply?

Contact your local public housing agency to apply. You will need to provide proof of income such as tax returns, bank statements, Social Security award letters, etc. Preferences are usually given to the elderly and disabled.

Key Definitions, Eligibility And Additional Resources

Activities of Daily Living (ADLs): Activities necessary for one to maintain independence. These typically include eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, and transferring.

Fair Market Rents (FMRs) are gross rent (rent plus utilities) estimates used to determine payment amounts for the Housing Choice Voucher program. These rent estimates are used as a guide for determining initial rental payments based on unit size.

Public Housing Agencies (PHAs): Over 2,600 state, regional, and local HUD-funded agencies that serve the housing needs of its low-income and very low-income residents.

Adjusted Income: Annual income – deductions = adjusted income. Deductions include dependents; status as elderly or disable family; unreimbursed expenses for childcare, medical expenses (elderly and disabled only); and disability assistance.

  • Extremely Low Income: income does not exceed 30% of an area's median family income.
  • Very Low-Income: their incomes do not exceed 50% of an area's median family income.
  • Low Income: their incomes do not exceed 80% of an area's median family income.
  • Moderate Income: incomes that are no more than 115% of an area's median family income.

Note: Income limits are adjusted for family size and for areas with unusually high or low family income housing-cost-to-income relationships.

Determining Income and Eligibility

When applying for any of HUD's housing programs, you will be asked to provide proof of income and assets to determine eligibility. Qualifying income and assets are combined when determining income eligibility.

Income and assets include all amounts that are derived in a 12-month period to which any member of the family has access to.

Income Sources

HUD counts the following main sources when considering income for its programs:

  • Full amount of income (before deductions) from salaries, wages, tips
  • Business net income
  • Interest, dividends, and other net income of any kind from real or personal property
  • The full amount of periodic amounts received from Social Security, annuities, insurance policies, retirement funds, pensions, disability or death benefits
  • Unemployment, worker's comp, and disability
  • Alimony and child support
  • Armed forces income
  • Welfare assistance

For a detailed listing of income sources, go here.

Assets and Income from Assets*

  • Stocks, bonds, Treasury bills, certificates of deposit,
  • Individual retirement and Keogh accounts
  • Retirement and pension funds
  • Cash held in savings and checking accounts, safe deposit boxes, homes, etc.
  • Cash value of whole life insurance policies available to the individual before death
  • Equity in rental property
  • Personal property held as an investment

*If the total value of assets is less than $5,000, then that number is used in the calculation. If the total value of assets is worth $5,000 or more, the amount of the assets is determined by using the greater of:

  1. The actual income from the assets
  2. A percentage of the value of net family assets based on the passbook savings rate. Each HUD field office determines their own passbook savings rate based on average savings account rates. Most PHAs use 2%.

Example 1: You have assets totaling $20,000 and annual income totaling $40,000.

$20,000 x 2% = $400

$400 assets + $40,000 annual income = $40,400 total income

Example 2: Upon retirement, you receive a lump-sum payment of $10,000 from your pension plan. You then receive periodic pension payments of $500 a month. The $10,000 is treated as an asset as are the monthly $500 pension payments.

$10,000 + $500 x 12 (months) = $16,000

Income Deductions

  • An elderly household is entitled to an automatic $400 household deduction.
  • Medical deductions including services of a physician, health care professional, hospital or health care facility; medical insurance premiums; prescription and non-prescription medicines; dental expenses; eye glasses and examinations; periodic payments of medical bills; et al.
  • Disability assistance expenses
  • Dependent deductions
  • Child care deductions

HUD Income Limits: An Example

HUD has established Median Family Income (MFI) limits for metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas across the U.S. These MFIs are used to calculate eligibility in the various HUD programs.

Here's an example of an income limit calculation for the Washington DC Metro Area that includes nearby counties in Maryland and Virginia.

Area's Median Income= $107,500

2012 Income Limit Category 1 Person 2 Person 3 Person 4 Person
Very Low (50%) $37,650 $43,000 $48,400 $53,750
Extremely Low (30%) $22,600 $25,800 $29,050 $32,250
Low (80%) $49,200 $56,200 $63,250 $70,250


You'll notice that the percentages don't always equal the income limit amounts. For example, 80% of $107,500 is $86,000, not $70,250.

In their calculations, HUD compares an area's 4-person family incomes to that of the US median family income. They also look at the Fair Market Rent (FMR) costs for the area.

To find income limits in your area, go here.

Getting Started

To get an idea of the HUD insured and HUD subsidized multifamily properties that serve the elderly and/or persons with disabilities you can go here.

This list does not provide waiting list info, availability, eligibility and tenant selection. But it will provide a listing of properties by state and by HUD program (Section 202, Section 811, etc.) that finances/subsidizes each property. This will give you an idea of the type of services offered and potential eligibility.

You can also go to HUD's Rental Assistance page for links to the various programs here.

HUD Counseling

If you're not sure where to start in your search, try calling a HUD-sponsored housing counseling agency in your area. These counselors provide advice on buying a home, renting, credit issues, foreclosures and other housing related issues. You can also call our helpline and we can point you in the right direction.

For a list of HUD approved counselors by state you can find them here.


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