Housing and Assistance for Low Income Seniors

Federal Programs for Low Income Seniors

US Government offers numbers of federal grant and loan programs that help providing low-income elderly persons with housing.

List of Federal Programs for Senior Citizens

HUD Housing Programs

Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly Program

Each fiscal year HUD allocates the total available amount of Section 202 funds for capital grants and project rental assistance to 52 local program offices. Grant applicants are evaluated by requirements that are expected to benefit the local area elderly residents like the capacity to provide housing to seniors including experience in providing housing to minorities, the quality of the proposed housing, and the proximity and accessibility of the site to transportation and services.  For example, in 2009, $455 million Section 202 grants were distributed to grant recipients to build or convert more than 3,000 housing units designated for low-income elderly households.

Section 221 (d)(3) Housing Program

Section 221(d)(3) program was enacted by US Congress in 1961 to help with funding public housing agencies and nonprofits develop housing units for low and moderate income households. Section 221(d)(3) is also called Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) program and is managed by Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The program does not offer funds for new developments but properties with active mortgages continue to operate providing housing to the elderly citizens.  A household with elderly may qualify for existing Section 221 housing with income of up to 95% of the local area median income.

Section 236 Program

Section 236 program was established by Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 to provide designated housing for low and moderate income elderly persons and persons with disabilities. Section 236 program created more than 400,000 affordable housing units. Under the program  elderly tenants pay basic rent or a rent that is up to 30% of their income, whichever is higher.

Public Housing for the Elderly

Public Housing is one of the first of the federal housing programs created by the US Government to assist low income families. Public Housing provides housing for households with incomes below 50% of the area median income and requires qualified tenants to pay 30% of their income toward rent. There are approximately 76,000 Public Housing units under the program that are designated exclusively for elderly residents.

Project Based Section 8 Housing Vouchers dedicated to Elderly

After Section 202 Program, Project Based Section 8 Housing provides the most rental housing units designated specifically to low income seniors. Eligibility requirements include income that is less than 50% of area median income and that income rule is subject to exceptions. The monthly rent of this program is the greater of 30% of adjusted income or 10% of gross income of the approved elderly tenants. Under Section 8 Project Based Program there are approximately 200,000 housing units dedicated to elderly households.

Supportive Services and Assisted Living Programs

In addition to the federal housing programs for elderly there are four Supportive Services and Assisted Living Programs for elderly residents who live in HUD subsidized housing units.  The programs are Congregate Housing, the Service Coordinator, the ROSS (Resident Opportunity and Self Sufficiency, and the Assisted Living Conversion. To qualify for those programs the elderly applicants are given consideration based on their ability to engage in activities of daily living (ADL). Common categories of activities included in the programs are, eating, dressing, bathing, grooming, and home management, which includes housework, shopping, and laundry.

Congregate Housing Services Program for Elderly Residents

The first federal program to provide services to senior residents in HUD housing facilities. The initial purpose of the congregate housing services, which included providing meals, housekeeping, personal care, and transportation, was to prevent the senior residents from moving to nursing homes. Eligible seniors must be frail (defined as deficient in at least 3 ADL activities, see above list) and they pay 10% of the total program costs, HUD funds 40% and the rest of the cost is covered by the Congregate Housing Services grant recipients. HUD continues to fund existing contracts for Congregate Housing Services.

Multi-Family Housing Service Coordinators Program

Each year HUD offers grants for Multi-Family Housing Services for the elderly and persons with disabilities, that are to be provided to such residents in HUD subsidized developments. Coordinator’s services include arrangement of meals, transportation, housekeeping, visits from nurses, dentists, and social activities. Owners of HUD subsidized developments where at least 25% of the residents in the development are frail elderly, at risk elderly, or disabled non-elderly are eligible to receive grants for Multi-Family Housing Service Coordinators Program.  Successful applicants are rewarded grants for 3 years and those grants are renewable.

Resident Opportunity and Self-Sufficiency (ROSS) Service Coordinators Program

ROSS Program provides grants for the arrangement of supportive services offered to elderly residents and residents with disabilities living in Public Housing developments. ROSS Program Service Coordinators may arrange senior supportive services like health and nutrition programs, transportation, housekeeping, and assistance with personal care.

Assistant Living Conversion

This is federal program created in Fiscal Year 2000.  Assistant Living Conversion Program provides grants for elderly residents in HUD subsidized facilities to modify their housing units and common areas to accommodate any need for additional assistance, thus allowing senior residents to remain in their housing of choice. HUD subsidized housing developed under Section 8 Project Based  Rental Assistance, Section 202 Program, Section 236 Program and Section 221(d)(3) Program eligible to apply for Assistant Living Conversion grants. Grants may be used to make elderly housing units more accessible by installing widening doors, grab bars, easy accessible appliances and counters, and adding emergency alert systems. Grants may be used to renovate kitchens, to provide appliances, furniture and equipment.

Eligibility Requirements

Elderly housing programs and services that are subsidized by the federal government have eligibility requirements for their end beneficiaries that include citizenship, age, income and other conditions which depend on the state and local regulation and the specific housing program. The effective eligibility age is 62 or older for housing designated exclusively for elderly people. The other eligibility age is 55, where at least one person in the household must be 55 or older for the household to be eligible for a senior housing where at least 80% of the residents are age 55+. Income requirement varies from 80% or less of area median to 50% or less of area median for the low income seniors. Each program has additional specific eligibility requirements that must be met. Please check specific eligibility requirements for particular housing program with local public housing agency that administers the program of interest.

How to Apply

To apply for elderly housing and supportive services subsidized by the federal government please contact local HUD office, the local Public Housing Agency or directly the management of the senior housing you are interested in.