By Lisa Howard
Finding affordable housing can be tricky, especially in the wake of a global pandemic that has negatively impacted many people’s jobs. Fortunately, if you’re looking to rent or buy a home but need to keep a close eye on your wallet, various organizations in the city, county, state and federal levels may be able to help you find a home that suits your budget.
THE COMMUNITY HOUSING NETWORK, BASED IN TROY, is a nonprofit organization providing housing and housing resources for people who are homeless or facing homelessness, people with disabilities or low income, and other vulnerable residents of southeast Michigan. They offer a long list of services, including a Housing Resource Center, homebuyer and home ownership educational seminars, financial empowerment webinars, and foreclosure prevention counseling. In addition, their Home Ownership Program helps low and moderate-income households purchase a quality, affordable home. Call the CHN housing hotline at (248)269-1335 or visit them online at https://communityhousingnetwork.org.
• Advantage Oakland covers all of Oakland County and is based in Pontiac. Their Housing Counseling & Homeless Services division offers home repairs, subsidized housing and rental assistance to low- to moderate-income households, and they also can assist homeowners who are having trouble paying their mortgage or property tax stay in their home. New home buyers can learn everything involved in buying a home, and everyone can receive advice and coaching on financial matters. Call (248)858-5402 to meet with an advisor or visit them online here.
The Advantage Oakland Home Improvement Program provides interest-free loans of up to $18,000 to qualified homeowners to make needed home repairs, including installing barrier-free access and energy-saving upgrades. There are no monthly payments and the total loan is due and payable only when you no longer live in your home. This program can be tremendously helpful if you’re a homeowner who is struggling to make necessary repairs to be able to stay in your home. Call (248)858-5401 to speak with an advisor or visit them online at https://www.oakgov.com/advantageoakland/communities/Pages/Home-Improvement-Program-and-Contractor-Opportunities-.aspx
• With offices in Lansing and Detroit, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority oversees and administers a variety of rental housing programs, including Housing Choice Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers and Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH). MSHDA is a Public Housing Agency; other PHAs are operated by individual cities. The Ferndale Housing Commission (http://ferndalehousing.com/) is the PHA for the city of Ferndale.
• Other MSHDA options include programs administered at individual developments that may have received federal or state funding. Visit the Affordable Rental Housing Directory (ARHD) for individual development contact information. ARHD provides a search tool of all of the MSHDA, HUD, Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and Rural Development financed developments in Michigan. Some local Public Housing Agencies have included their rental housing information in this search, too. The Michigan Housing Locator provides a search tool for both subsidized and market rental housing in Michigan.
Affordable Rental Housing Directory: https://housing.state.mi.us/
Michigan Housing Locator: http://www.michiganhousinglocator.com/Portals/mshda/
To contact the MSHDA, call (517) 335-9885 or (313) 4563540 or visit them online at www.michigan.gov/mshda.
• On a federal level, the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) helps low-income families, elderly people, and individuals with disabilities find affordable housing. Your local public housing agency (PHA) decides if you are eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher based on:
• Your annual gross income.
• Whether you qualify as a family, a senior, or a person with a disability.
• U.S. citizenship or eligible immigration status.
• Your family’s size.
In general, your family’s income may not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county or metropolitan area. Since the demand for public housing is often larger than the amount of housing available to HUD and the local PHA, long waiting periods are common. A PHA may close its waiting list when there are more families on the list than can be assisted in the near future.
The three main types of affordable rental housing supported by HUD are:
• Privately owned, subsidized housing in which landlords are paid by the government to offer reduced rents to low-income tenants. Recipients search for the apartment and apply directly at the rental management office.
• Public housing, which provides affordable rental houses or apartments for low-income families, people who are elderly, and people with disabilities. To apply, contact a PHA in Michigan.
• The Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8) involves renters finding a rental property themselves and then using the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. To apply, contact a PHA in Michigan.
• Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH) provides assistance to homeless Veterans by combining Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Shallow Subsidy initiative provides low-income Veterans a fixed rental subsidy for up to two years. The Subsidy is available to veterans who are enrolled in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program and live in communities characterized by high rates of homelessness and low availability of affordable housing. To encourage long-term self-sufficiency through employment, renters receive the subsidy for up two years regardless of any increases in their household income.
HUD also offers homes to qualified buyers. The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) — which is part of HUD — insures the loan, so your lender can offer you a better deal. To find out more about HUD homes for sale in Michigan and HUD’s homebuying programs, visit www.hud.gov/states/michigan.
• If you’re looking for a place solo, you might also want to rent a room instead of an entire apartment, or maybe see if a buddy (or two) wants to rent an apartment or a house together. Talking to a financial coach/counselor could also help — they might be able to help you rework your overall budget and wind up with a bit more wiggle room when it comes to paying rent. Keep looking, keep asking for help, and have faith that you will find your home sweet home!