Many seniors live life on a fixed income, especially those that are retired. While you can fund your retirement, it may not be enough for one of the biggest bills for most — housing. Whether you rent or own, affording your home can be a significant chunk of your monthly expenses, leaving little else for daily essentials. Millions of seniors face this problem each day, leaving many wondering, “Is there something to help me afford this?”

To find out, we met with Duane Drozdowski CPM, the Senior Vice President of the Residential Division at Property Management, Inc. (PMI), to discuss just that. Duane’s division covers several affordable rental options. He has also worked with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, where he managed housing programs to assist seniors.

During our talk, Duane guided us through the several ways that a senior can find assistance with housing, from government programs to rental assistance and non-profit, private organizations. Your options are out there, if you know where to look. Thankfully, Duane was more than happy to get us started.

What Organizations Can Help Make Housing Affordable?

Help from Your Neck of the Woods

Luckily, whether you rent or own, there are options for help. If you’re a homeowner, your first step should be checking with your housing and/or redevelopment authority. You may have a few options depending on where you live. Most counties have housing and/or redevelopment authorities and larger metropolitan cities often have their own as well. These departments are sometimes combined into a single entity. These organizations offer many programs that can aid homeowners.

Duane also mentioned another statewide organization that you shouldn’t overlook — your state’s Housing Finance Agency (HFA).

Most states have their own HFA, so it’s worth contacting yours to learn how they can help you. Another local option worth considering is your county’s office of aging. In fact, the office of aging can assist seniors with more than just programs to help them afford their house.

“These services branch out to even life skills assistance and in-home care, beyond the physical home affordability issues that they may be trying to get help with,” Drozdowski said.

These services branch out to even life skills assistance and in-home care, beyond the physical home affordability issues that they may be trying to get help with. — Duane Drozdowski, CPM

Assistance Throughout the Nation

When it comes to affordable housing programs, two places you shouldn’t skip are the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development.

“HUD is probably the biggest provider of affordable housing programs, for not only rental housing, but for home ownership initiatives, too,” Drozdowski said.

In the case of HUD, your first stop should be to the State Information page. Here, you can navigate to your state’s site, which will offer all the HUD resources available in your state. Specifically, under the Local Resources list, you’ll find Homebuying Programs. This page has a list of organizations, departments, and programs that can help you either find affordable housing or to make your current housing more affordable. HUD also has a Homeownership Voucher program to assist with the expense of first time owners in need. Outside of programs, HUD also provides counseling and tips for homeowners in risk of foreclosure.

If you live in the countryside, the USDA Rural Development offers many programs to help homeowners. For qualifying persons looking to buy a home, the USDA offers Single Family Housing Direct Home Loans. These loans provide payment assistance to low- and very-low income for homes in eligible areas. For current homeowners already living in eligible areas, the USDA has a series of loans and grants. Loans may be used to modernize, repair, or improve their homes.

The loans have a low interest rate (fixed at 1 percent) and can be repaid over 20 years at a maximum of $20,000. Grants are only available to seniors over the age of 62 and can be used to remove hazards within the home. There is a lifetime limit on grants at $7,500. If the home is sold less than three years after the grant is given, it must be repaid. Significantly, loans and grants can be combined for a full $27,500 of aid. The USDA Rural Development offers many other programs to help hopeful homeowners that are worth checking out, such as a guaranteed loan program.

Private, Non-Profit Organizations

Your options don’t end with federal or state programs, either. There are many private organizations that are set up to help seniors or the less privileged find affordable housing.

“Depending on the level of need, there are all kinds of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations out there that do provide some function of housing assistance or programming, or private charitable organizations that are government affiliated,” Drozdowski said. “Certainly organizations like Habitat for Humanity.”

Depending on the level of need, there are all kinds of 501(c)(3) charitable organizations out there that do provide some function of housing assistance or programming. — Duane Drozdowski, CPM

Habitat for Humanity calls on volunteers and donors to assist in building homes for the truly needy. Other notable organizations that can help seniors find affordable housing are the YMCA and YWCA. Duane was quick to point out one group in particular for Pennsylvania’s seniors. LeadingAge PA, formerly the Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging (PANPHA), is a trade organization that represents many of the not-for-profit associations offering services to Pennsylvania’s seniors.

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Whether you’re owning or renting, housing is an essential need that every person should have access to. With all the expenses facing seniors on fixed incomes, safe, affordable housing can be difficult to come by. Thankfully, there are many programs out there to assist America’s seniors find the homes they deserve.

Ownership is only one side of the coin when it comes to housing. To learn more about programs that can help seniors afford rental properties, stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Duane Drozdowski on subsidized rental programs.