Emergency Rental Assistance

Are you interested in learning how to get low income housing fast? Many areas offer government assistance programs for those who have experienced home crises or recent homelessness.

An emergency rental assistance or an Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) is a program that assists families and individuals in regaining stability. These grants vary per area, and are more prevalent within metropolitan cities and urban counties. ESG was created to support homelessness prevention, while providing emergency shelter for those in need. While each state operates independently, rental assistance usually states the individual is to pay no more than 30 percent of his or her adjusted income. Eligibility on income limits is determined at state and county levels. 

If you do not meet eligibility requirements for ESG or another emergency rental assistance program, you may want to consider finding referrals through community outreach programs, the Department of Veterans Affairs or other local nonprofits to find additional avenues. Continue reading to learn more about your local emergency rental assistance program and how to apply.

How to Get Emergency Rental Assistance

“I need help paying my rent today, so what do I do?” is a common and stressful question asked by needy tenants. Sometimes, financial duress or other unseen life events occur that can cause major home losses or impending homelessness. Local governments have assistance programs to help those who are experiencing this. This would include individuals who:

  • Are literally homeless.
  • Are facing imminent risk of being homeless.
  • Are currently living in government housing.
  • Are paying more than 50 percent of their gross income toward rental fees.
  • Have children, elderly or disabled household members.
  • Are currently elderly or disabled individuals.
  • Have been involuntarily displaced.

All of these are determined by the Public Housing Agency (PHA) in your local community. Each jurisdiction is responsible for setting income limit guidelines and screening each applicant. In most cases, public housing does require a wait list period; however, emergency rental assistance should be available immediately. This means you could be bumped up to the no-waitlist applicant pool. 

Depending on your location, there could be several types of programs available to you. In general, they would fall into one of three categories. These include the: 

  • Transitional housing program: This offers families a stable home for up to 24 months. It also provides government support services to aid in the transition toward living independently. These services include emergency rental assistance, utility bills, security deposit and more.
  • Permanent housing program: This is for families and individuals that are in need of long-term housing.
  • Permanent supportive housing program: Anyone who is disabled and homeless can receive support services to assist in a permanent transition program

In most locations, three, main types of affordable rental housing are supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These include: 

  • Privately owned subsidized properties: HUD does not physically own rental properties, rather, the Department offers grants to landlords willing to subsidized rent for tenants with low incomes. Most landlords ensure availability of apartments for emergency rental assistance programs. 
  • Public housing: These are affordable rental homes and apartments for families with low incomes, seniors and tenants with disabilities.
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP): In some cases, you can find affordable rental properties through this program. However, these voucher programs have a longer application process toward getting approved. You will want to alert your local PHA that you are in need of emergency rental assistance prior to applying for this program.

No matter what programs are available in your area, emergency rental assistance or not, you must contact your PHA, directly. The PHA can walk you through the process and give insight to detailed policies for acceptance. You should have certain information readily available, such as personal contact information, the size of the household, any current disability (if applicable), the reason for displacement and any other required income-proving documentation. You should also have other household information, like:

  • The full names of all household members.
  • The birthdates of all family members included in the emergency rental assistance application.
  • The Social Security Number for all household members. 
  • The income amounts for all members who are eligible for work.

Other Resources for Rental Assistance

Low Income Apartments No Waiting List Required

There are cheap apartments for rent available through your local government agencies, and sometimes, outside of those. If you are experiencing an emergency situation, and need rental assistance fast, it is best to contact your PHA representative immediately. These government programs are required to keep low-cost rental properties available for those at immediate risk of losing their homes.

In order to be eligible for emergency rental assistance, you must meet the required median income limit. This is determined by every local government agency. The PHA even takes into account the size of your family. In some cases, other requirements might be needed by the property owner, in order to approve the application. Other requirements include being a family, senior citizen or a person with a disability. Since these are federally funded, you must prove U.S. citizenship. or that you are an eligible noncitizen.

It is also recommended to do a quick Internet search to locate low income housing for other emergency rental assistance through community outreach programs. If you search “cheap apartments near me” or “cheap apartments for rent near me,” several locations should populate. When researching these low-income rental locations, inquire about other grants or programs that landlords may know about.

You may also get in touch with the Department of Housing and Urban Development in your area, either online or by phone. The HUD will be able to send you to a local housing agency to start the process.

If you are not facing an emergency rental assistance crisis, and just need minor assistance paying rent due to low funds, contact your state housing finance agency or local PHA. They do offer certain programs just to assist with rental and utility payments.

If none of these avenues work, contact your local community outreach programs to get additional referral information. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has a separate HUD program for homeless veterans. In addition, there are free services for seniors and disabled individuals that offer low-income care locations. Depending on the amount of assistance you require determines the type of location you can be awarded. 

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