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Finding Affordable Housing

Published: September 27, 2012

Most refugee agencies know to call their local housing authorities to find out about the availability of Section 8 vouchers (now called “Housing Choice Vouchers”) and rental units in public housing projects. (Find the phone number of your local public housing authority (“PHA”) at HUD PHA Contact Information.)

But did you know there are many other providers of subsidized housing? A variety of federal programs give financial incentives to housing developers (both non-profit and for-profit) who agree to serve low-income populations.

NON-PROFIT HOUSING DEVELOPERS

Characteristics:

  • build and operate housing targeted to lower income people
  • often provide services on-site
  • are interested in tenants who come with case management support
  • often have more affordable rents
  • typically run well-maintained complexes

How to find them:

  • Contact the Community Development agency in your city (which may be called the Housing Department, the Community Development Department, the Planning Department or some combination of those words). This agency can give you a list of affordable housing projects they have funded. Also ask them for the names of the non-profit organizations which manage “affordable” housing in your area.
  • If you can't find the phone number for that agency in the phone book, look for it under “city agencies” on your city’s web site.
  • Contact the HUD office for your area. There are HUD offices in eighty locations across the country. Phone numbers and website addresses can be found at www.hud.gov/local. Call that office and ask who the local non-profit housing developers are.
  • Look at the Web sites of some of the larger national organizations listed below. These groups may own and operate housing, may provide financing for other non-profit organizations that develop housing or may be an umbrella organization for housing non-profits.

Mercy Housing, Inc.

Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp./ NeighborWorks - In the right column, select your state from the drop down menu in the “Neighborworks Lookup” box and you’ll get a list of affordable properties they support in your area.

Enterprise Foundation

Local Initiatives Support Corp.

National Low Income Housing Coalition

What to do once you have identified the non-profit housing providers in your community:

  • Call their offices and find out where their properties are located, how they lease properties (centrally or at each complex) and how much their rents are.
  • Better yet, make an appointment and go visit! This will give you a chance to tell them about the refugee program. Let them know about the support services you provide to new arrivals and try to convince them that your clients would be good tenants. Take along a copy of our free brochure: A Landlord's Guide to Renting to Refugees (scroll down to see publication).

PROJECT-BASED SECTION 8 PROPERTIES

Characteristics:

  • Privately-owned and managed, but tenants must meet low-income requirements.
  • Do NOT require that your client have a Section 8 voucher

How to Find Them:

Go to HUD Project-Based Section 8

LOW-INCOME HOUSING TAX CREDIT PROJECT

  • privately developed projects in which developer was given tax credits in exchange for setting aside units for low- and moderate-income renters
  • typically are very nice complexes
  • rents are generally affordable for families with less than 50% of the Area Median Income

How to Find Them:

  • These projects are funded through quasi-governmental State agencies known as State Housing Finance Authorities. Find yours at State Finance Authorities. Often state housing finance authority websites list properties they have financed.

STATE AND LOCAL AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROGRAMS

Some states and larger cities have created affordable housing programs that either subsidize rents or give developers incentives to set aside units for low-income families. Your state's Housing and Community Development department (whatever it may be called, or wherever it may be located within state government) or your local housing department can get you information on those programs if they exist.

Go to www.hud.gov and choose your state from the drop down menu in the box at the top right called “Information by State” Then click “Renting” in the left column. Scroll down to “Other Resources.”

FINDING UNITS THROUGH YOUR "NATURAL CONSTITUENCIES"

  • Members of churches may own or manage apartment buildings in your community. Try writing up a short paragraph asking for help finding housing for refugees. Then call the ministers or church secretaries and ask them to put it in their Sunday bulletin or monthly newsletter. Or make a presentation to one of their social service committees.
  • Civic clubs -- Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, etc. – may be able to help. Volunteer to give a speech at one of their meetings about the refugee program and include a request for assistance finding housing, paying for security deposits, etc.

To read more strategies others have used to find affordable housing, download a copy of “At Home with Refugee Housing” or contact us to order a hard copy today.