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Income Restricted Apartments: How to Find Them [2024]

January 12, 2024
This post covers what income restricted housing is and how to find income restricted apartments. Learn if you're eligible and how much they cost.

It’s no surprise that the demand for affordable rental housing is so high with the country’s consistent increase in rent prices. If you’ve tried looking for low-income housing, you’ve likely found it to be challenging.

If you are looking for income-restricted apartment options, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to help you, which is why we’ve put together this in-depth guide to income-restricted apartments, including how to find them.

Guide to Income Restricted Housing

What Are Income Restricted Apartments?

Income restricted apartments are typically developments preserved for low-income individuals or families through imposed limitations on the maximum amount of income tenants can earn. They are often privately owned, though they may receive state, local, or federal subsidies.

Most commonly, you will find apartment communities that are fully designated as income-restricted apartments. In some cases, however, you will find communities with a blend of both market-rent and income-restricted apartments within it.

What Are Income-Restricted Apartments

The History Behind Income Restricted Apartments

The Great Depression stirred up a lot of financial unrest, and with it came a significant housing crisis. The concern was so considerable that the federal government became heavily involved in providing affordable housing during the financial hardship.

The federal efforts would become known as the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency, which eventually developed into the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development department.

In 1937, the Affordable Housing Act was passed, creating multiple measures to help develop new and affordable rental housing, all while subsidizing costs associated with operating income-restricted apartments.

What Is Section 8 Housing?

In the same year as the Affordable Housing Act, Section 8 housing was created under the Section 8 Housing Act of 1937. This section is still run by the federal government today and explicitly details the housing choice voucher program, which allows tenants to receive federal vouchers for housing in any development that participates in the program.

While Section 8 housing vouchers are still available, the Act has also evolved into Section 42 housing, which was a part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. In this iteration, the IRS code provides incentives to investors building affordable housing in the form of tax credits.

What’s the Difference Between Income Restricted and Income-Based Housing?

Although the names are very similar, income-restricted and income-based housing are two completely different things. While the remainder of the market value of rent is subsidized by the government in both types of housing situations, the tenant’s portion is determined using different figures.

  • Income-Restricted Housing: The rent prices for income-restricted apartments are determined by the median income for the local area. The rent price is then capped at a certain percentage of this figure. The percentage can vary by state and apartment size.

  • Income-Based Housing: In income-based apartments, the rent prices are based on the adjusted gross income of the tenant. The rent is capped at 30% of this figure, regardless of the median income in the area.

Income-Restricted Housing vs Income-Based Housing

Who’s Eligible for Income Restricted Housing?

Typically, income-restricted apartments are reserved for families who fall within the “Very Low” income threshold, which is determined by the HUD. Families within the “Extremely Low” income threshold will receive preference between the two.

The HUD calculates the median income levels for each metropolitan area within the U.S. annually. After that figure is determined, the HUD details the maximum incomes and establishes qualifying categories as either “Low,” “Very Low,” or “Extremely Low” in each metropolitan area.

Unsurprisingly, this calcuation means that the eligibility for income-restricted housing varies drastically across the country. Since median income levels are so different from one city to the next, the requirements for income-restricted housing in those cities changes with it.

Don’t be discouraged if your household is in the “Low” threshold, as there might be options available in your area. Learn more by checking out the HUD Public Housing Agency (PHA) Contact Information website.

How Much Does Income Restricted Housing Cost?

The average rent prices for income-restricted apartments vary drastically depending on location and unit size. There are different methods used to calculate the maximum rent caps as determined by local officials. If you’re looking to find out how much income-restricted housing will cost in your area, it is best recommended to contact your local housing authority. You can access the contact information for local authorities here.

How to Find Income Restricted Housing

Now that you know more about what income-restricted housing entails, it’s time to take a look at how to find it in your area.

Learn the Income Guidelines for Your Area

First, you’ll want to do your homework to find out more about income-restricted housing eligibility requirements that are specific to your area. You can learn more by visiting the HUD website.

Contact Your PHA

Once you have checked the guidelines and believe you qualify, you’ll want to reach out to your local public housing authority. Speaking with your PHA will help you determine approximate rent costs, apartment sizes and see what’s currently available in your area.

Fill Out An Application

If you are looking for a government-owned apartment, you can apply directly through the PHA. For privately owned properties, you will be able to apply directly through the landlord.

Remember, everyone who will be living in the apartment for which you are applying may need to pass a criminal background check during this process. Some offenses may disqualify you from income-restricted housing, though this varies based on location. Private owners are known to have more strict standards than government-owned apartments.

How to Save on Your Next Apartment (2)

Provide Your Documentation

During your application process, you’ll need to provide all of your required documentation, including verified income for everyone in the household. Any adult will need to include a government-issued ID, and you’ll have to submit birth certificates for any children.

Make sure you are truthful in your documentation! Don't hide any of your assets, for instance. Check out this video from Affordable Housing Waiting Room explaining how fraudulent claims in your application can cause you problems even years later:

Join the Waitlist

Unfortunately, the affordable housing market tends to be incredibly competitive. More than likely, you’ll need to be ready to sit on a waitlist. If you can be flexible with the size of your apartment, it might help you get into income-restricted housing sooner than later.

Find Your Next Apartment

When you use Apartment List, you can take our quiz to help you get matched with a place in your location and price range. We do feature a variety of listings, including income restricted, senior housing, military discounted housing, and more. Use our internal messaging system to reach out to the landlord for further details about rental options and assistance.

FAQs about Income Restricted Apartments

What Are the Benefits of Living in an Income Restricted Apartment?

The main benefit of income restricted housing is that it allows you to live comfortably within your means so that you can afford other expenses such as utilities and groceries. The peace of mind you experience from being able to afford your bills is priceless.

What Are My Rights as a Tenant Living in Income Restricted Housing?

Your tenants rights within income restricted housing are the same as they are in other rentals. These rights are largely determined by state and local ordinances, though there are some essential rights that are essentially universal: Your landlord is required to make major repairs in a timely manner. Landlords cannot enter the premise without notice. Landlords must give a minimum amount of notice before eviction as stipulated by local law. You have a right to safe living conditions. You often have a right to quiet enjoyment of the property. Research your local laws to learn more about what your landlord is expected to do to care for the property.

How Can I Become Ineligible for Income Restricted Housing?

Eligibility for income restricted housing is generally based on local regulations. However, a few common reasons why you might be removed from a housing voucher program include

  • Failing to pay rent on time
  • Failing to pay utilities
  • Criminal activity
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Missing recertification appointments or inspections
  • Eviction
  • Providing false information to the Housing Authority

What Happens if My Income Goes Up While Living in an Income Restricted Apartment?

If your income increases above the threshhold of eligibility while living in an income restricted apartment, you will not be immediately evicted. Families are generally allowed to occupy their housing for a further six months after their income was reassessed. You will also be given a hearing and the PHA will be required to give you 30 days to move out after the termination of your contract. If your income is reduced again during this time period, you can request a new hearing and assessment from your PHA.

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Dr. Katherine Blake
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Read More
Emily Kho
Emily is a professionally trained writer who covers a wide range of topics associated with the rental market and real estate industry. With over a decade of professional writing experience, Emily comes from a strong background in the field backed with a Bachelor of Science from the world-renowned William F. Read More

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