For many seniors, renting is a preferable option over homeownership. Much of the upkeep services, like home repairs or lawn care, are covered as part of your monthly rental payment. While you do give up some control, you can rely on a rental property to have a staff to assist you with some of the more strenuous chores like snow removal.
Much like owning a home, renting can be expensive, especially if you’re a senior on a fixed income. During our interview with Duane Drozdowski, CPM, the Senior Vice President of the Residential Division at Property Management, Inc. (PMI), the topic of affordable rental properties for seniors was an ever-present one. Rental properties are his company’s specialty, after all.
If you do choose to rent, subsidized rental assistance may be available to you, if you meet the correct criteria.
What is Subsidized Rental Assistance?
Subsidized rental assistance comes from several government programs that assist those in need afford a rental home. The two most common departments that run these programs are the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture – Rural Development (USDA-RD). These departments aid low- to very-low income persons, depending on the residential county’s income data. This data is available on HUD.gov or your state’s housing finance agency website.
How Do I Apply and What Will I Pay?
You’ll go through the subsidized rental assistance approval process when you apply to live in a community that is approved for subsidized housing. According to Duane, the process is no different than applying for a market-priced rental. You fill out the standard application and answer a few questions. The main difference is that you’ll also be asked more in-depth questions about your income and expenses (most rental companies will look into this anyway). It is then up to the property manager to approve your application. If you’re approved, your income will be the most important decider in terms of qualification. Ultimately, your monthly rent will be 30 percent of your gross income.
“It’s a program tailored to the individual,” Drozdowski said. “When they say you’ll need to pay 30 percent of your gross income, if [a landlord has] 50 apartments, there may be no two rents that are the same, because all 50 households, all 50 seniors living in that community have different income and expenses, so their rents could all be different. And it’s all based on 30 percent of their gross adjusted income.”
There may be no two rents that are the same, because all 50 households, all 50 seniors living in that community have different income and expenses. — Duane Drozdowski, CPM
The individual treatment is what makes subsidized housing so affordable for those who qualify. Your gross income takes your total yearly income and deducts specific expenses to find an affordable rental price for you. Living expenses like groceries, car payments, or clothes don’t usually apply as deductions. Qualifying deductions are usually medical, like copays or Medicare premiums. To get specifics on what you can deduct, however, you would need to speak to the property manager or a representative of the program, who has the latest list of deductions according to the department.
“Let’s say someone is living on their social security alone … if that individual earns $500 a month from social security, $6,000 is their gross yearly income. We would then deduct … say $1,000 a year in medical expenses. Their adjusted gross income would be $5,000 a year,” Drozdowski said. “Their rent would be based on 30 percent of that $5,000. So, their annual rent would be $1,500 a year, or a little over $100 a month. So, very affordable for someone on a limited income.”
What Happens if I Apply with Someone Else?
Not too much changes if you’re applying individually or with someone. The one difference is that their income will also be accounted for in the approval process. Counties will have specific income groups for single persons or pairs. You could qualify for rental assistance on your own, but if the other person makes too much, you may not qualify together.
Another difference is the monthly rent. From our example above, if both the applying candidates received $6,000/year, or $12,000 for the pair, with similar medical expenses, the adjusted gross income would be $10,000 a year. After plugging that in, the monthly rent would be $250/month.
It doesn’t matter what the relationship is between the two who are applying.
“That’s fair housing 101,” Drozdowski said. “It’s not our job to determine who’s appropriate to put, as long as they qualify, income-wise, and meet all the program requirements, any two persons can share a one bedroom.”
There is one situation where an apartment will house two people and only one income will be counted: When one resident is the caregiver of the other in a full-time capacity. It will be up to you and the property manager to provide evidence that they fit all the criteria of a live-in caretaker. This situation is fairly rare, however, since a resident that requires a live-in caregiver usually lives in a residential care facility.
At the end of the day, everyone, every human, deserves the simple dignity of a quality home, and in the case of affordable housing, a price they can afford. — Duane Drozdowski, CPM
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Subsidized housing assistance assures those in need that they will have a roof over their head that is safe and affordable. This is only a cursory coverage of all that is entailed in subsidized rental assistance. If you’re looking for an affordable place to call home, you can visit the HUD.gov or USDA.gov websites.
For the unique rental housing needs of seniors, PMI offers housing options tailored to the unique needs of senior living all over Pennsylvania. PMI has four properties that are rent-subsidized and designated for seniors — Three Springs Estates in Three Springs, PA; Somerset Manor in Central City, PA; Oak Grove Gardens in Avis, PA; and Brindle Terrace in Mercersburg, PA. They also offer rental properties throughout the state that you can explore at RentPMI.com. You can also purchase comfortable and affordable homes through their sister company, R & L Homes.