As you join millions of other older adults searching for affordable senior housing, finding the right community may feel like a challenge—especially with the population of Americans ages 65 and older projected to nearly double by 2060 and comprise 23 percent of the total U.S. population.
Luckily, there are many affordable housing options available for low-income older adults, through both the government and the private market, and “affordable” doesn’t have to mean sacrificing quality or a great lifestyle. By making the move to an affordable senior housing community, you can build new friendships, enjoy the activities you love every day and stay in a community you’ve come to call home.
Here are six types of affordable senior housing options available to low-income older adults on a fixed budget.
Although the first senior co-op opened in Minnesota in 1978, more senior living co-ops are popping up and offering reduced and middle-market rental rates. Today, there are 125 senior co-ops in the United States serving more than 10,500 residents, according to Dennis Wilson, the Senior Cooperative Foundation board chairman.
These communities are ideal for older adults who are completely independent and need no added assistance. Additionally, in order to keep costs low and offer affordable options for older adults, such communities require seniors to pitch in with operational tasks, whether answering phones, helping clean community spaces or assisting with other essential tasks.
Public housing communities are typically large complexes or high-rise buildings that are operated by a city or county public housing agency, and about 31 percent of public housing tenants are seniors.
Public housing helps seniors remain in the home community they know and love while avoiding or delaying a move into nursing homes or other institutions that are much more costly for the government and seniors themselves. In order to qualify for public housing, older adults must have a low income and be able to spend about 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.
Virtual Retirement Communities
Although not a community per se, the virtual village option allows seniors who are living independently to stay in their current home while receiving very low-cost access to local senior living services, such as:
- Internal and external home repairs.
- Educational and fitness classes.
- Social outings.
Virtual village memberships can cost as little as $100 per year or more than $500 per year. Although Medicare and Medicaid will not cover these fees, in some areas, local organizations may cover your fees.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
Formerly known as Section 8 housing, the housing choice voucher program (HCVP) is managed by more than 3,300 state, regional and local public housing agencies (PHAs) with funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The HCVP serves very low-income people, helping more than 5 million people nationwide with affordable housing, and more than 600,000 of those are seniors. This type of affordable senior housing is typically for seniors who are not disabled and can live independently without assistance. Here is how the HCVP works:
- Step 1: A senior applies for and, if approved, is issued a rental voucher.
- Step 2: The senior chooses an apartment suitable to their needs on the private rental market.
- Step 3: The local PHA inspects the unit before leasing to ensure it meets HUD housing quality standards (HQS).
- Step 4: Once the apartment passes an HQS inspection, the PHA enters a contract with the community’s owner, who then leases the apartment to the senior.
- Step 5: Going forward, the PHA will pay a portion of the senior’s rent on behalf of the senior, and the senior will pay the rest of the agreed-upon amount of the rent.
The income of someone seeking HCVP can be no more than 50 percent of the area’s median income, and you can find specific income limits for your area on the HUD website.
One important thing to know about HCVP housing is that waiting lists can be long, so check with multiple PHAs, because if one has a wait list or doesn’t have what you need, another might.
Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly
Established by HUD in 1959, the Section 202 program provides the only rent-assisted housing just for seniors and the disabled. Section 202 offers affordable senior housing for those who are able to live as independently as possible but who may need some extra assistance with the activities of daily living, such as bathing or getting dressed.
This program is available for adults ages 62 and older with a very low household income, typically below 50 percent of the area’s median income. Amenities and services can vary from community to community, but they often include transportation and counseling services, meals and housekeeping, as well as apartments with special features such as grab bars and ramps.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)
Although the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) is not targeted specifically at senior living communities, this federally funded program’s goal is to ensure that there is enough low-income housing to meet demand. According to HUD, which created the LIHTC, more than 107,000 units were placed in service annually between 1995 and 2017.
With the LIHTC, building owners choose how many units in their community will be set aside for low-income residents. Then, owners accept the rent amount specified by HUD in order to participate in the program and be eligible for federal tax credits.
If you qualify with HUD, you can apply for an LIHTC affordable senior housing community directly. Just visit your city, county or state affordable housing website, search for communities that feature the LIHTC program and apply with the community itself.
Find Affordable Senior Housing Near You
At HumanGood, we offer a variety of senior living communities in six U.S. states, including some affordable, rent-controlled options designed for qualifying low-income seniors ages 62 and older. Learn more about our affordable senior housing and living options by searching our Low Income and Affordable Housing Community Directory.