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Affordable Housing FAQ's

What does affordable housing mean?

What does subsidized housing mean?

What are LIHTC?

How do I know if my income qualifies me for an affordable apartment?

What is Area Median Income (AMI)?

What is Section 8?

What is a housing authority?

What is the Fair Housing Act

Who is Protected?

What Types of Housing are Covered?

What is Prohibited?

What is Fair Lending?

What does affordable housing mean?

In the United States, the term affordable housing is used to describe housing, rental or owner-occupied, that is affordable no matter what one's income is. The U.S. government regards housing costs at or below 30% of one's income to be affordable.

What does subsidized housing mean?

Though it is incorrectly used to describe housing that is assisted by the government, subsidized housing is used when describing housing that has rental assistance. That is, housing where all or a portion of the occupants monthly housing cost is paid for directly by the government. An example of this is Section 8 housing vouchers, where a renter only pays the portion of the rent that is determined to be affordable to them based on their income.

What are LIHTC?

Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) is a Federal housing assistance program that provides tax incentives to owners of affordable housing. The program does not provide direct assistance to renters and is strictly used to finance the construction (not the operation) of rental properties. Usually, LIHTC properties have units available for families earning 60% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI). The rental properties are usually of very high quality and are often mistaken for luxury apartment communities. LIHTC is America's most successful affordable housing program having created millions of affordable rental units since its inception in the late 1980's.

How do I know if my income qualifies me for an affordable apartment?

There are literally dozens of different housing programs that you might qualify for. Generally, if you earn less than 60% of the median income for your area, you can qualify for LIHTC apartments, which makes up the largest chunk of rental apartments available. To qualify for rental subsidies, where you only pay 30% of your income for rent, you'll need to earn less than 50% of the median income. Many of the programs go out of their way to target even lower income people, even as low as 30% of the median income, so make sure you ask the property manager what they have available.

What is Area Median Income (AMI)?

All government housing programs qualify recipients based on their income. Since each market area has varying living costs and income levels, the government determines an Area Median Income (AMI) for each housing market. For example, the area median income for San Francisco in 2014 is $88,500 while the median income in Dallas is $67,900.

What is Section 8?

Unfortunately, Section 8 has turned into a bad word though it's a good program that helps good people. Section 8 is a HUD program that helps renters pay their rent by paying for any rent costs that exceed 30% of the renter's income. If a renter earns $2,000 per month in San Francisco but their rent costs $1,150 per month, Section 8 helps by paying $550 of that rent since 30% of the renter's income is $600. This rental subsidy is very scarce and there are waiting lists across the country for the program.

What is a housing authority?

Housing authorities have been around for many years and were the country's first concerted effort to provide affordable housing to lower-income Americans. A housing authority is usually locally based and serves a whole city or county. Some housing authorities are statewide and assist housing across the entire state. Housing authorities received funding from HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to operate Section 8 voucher programs and low rent housing called public housing.

What is the Fair Housing Act?

The Fair Housing Act protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. Additional protections apply to federally-assisted housing

Who is Protected?

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:

  • Race

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • Familial Status

  • Disability

What Type of Housing is Protected?

The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In very limited circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, and housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

What is Prohibited?

In the Sale and Rental of Housing:

It is illegal discrimination to take any of the following actions because of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing

  • Refuse to negotiate for housing

  • Otherwise, make housing unavailable

  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling

  • Provide a person different housing services or facilities

  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale or rental

  • Make, print or publish any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation or discrimination

  • Impose different sales prices or rental charges for the sale or rental of a dwelling

  • Use different qualification criteria or applications, or sale or rental standards or procedures, such as income standards, application requirements, application fees, credit analyses, sale or rental approval procedures or other requirements

  • Evict a tenant or a tenant’s guest

  • Harass a person

  • Fail or delay the performance of maintenance or repairs

  • Limit privileges, services or facilities of a dwelling

  • Discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling

  • Assign a person to a particular building or neighborhood or section of a building or neighborhood

  • For-profit, persuade or try to persuade, homeowners to sell their homes by suggesting that people of a particular protected characteristic are about to move into the neighborhood (blockbusting)

  • Refuse to provide or discriminate in the terms or conditions of homeowners insurance because of the race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin of the owner and/or occupants of a dwelling

  • Deny access to or membership in any multiple listing service or real estate brokers’ organization

What is Fair Lending?

Discrimination in mortgage lending is prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act and HUD's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity actively enforces those provisions of the law. The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful to engage in the following practices based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap (disability):

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan or refinance a mortgage loan;

  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans;

  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees;

  • Discriminate in appraising property;

  • Refuse to purchase a loan or set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan; and

  • Discriminate in providing other financial assistance for purchasing, constructing, improving, repairing, or maintaining a dwelling or other financial assistance secured by residential real estate.

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