Important: We updated this article in June 2022 with current data and links. Getting approved for disability benefits can provide a much-needed reprieve after health issues force you to stop working. But that income isn’t always enough to live on — especially in high-cost areas. Many who apply for disability benefits struggle to pay rent, gas and prescription costs. While prices vary by location, more affordable housing options exist than you might think. Plus, we have insider tips to make you even more successful on your affordable housing hunt! Here are six ways to find and get into affordable housing faster — no matter where you live today.
6 Ways to Find Affordable Housing Options Online
1. Check out your state or local government’s rental assistance programs.
HUD’s website features a directory of links to rental assistance programs sorted by state. Click on your state’s name, then scroll down to “I want to… Get Rental Help” on the next loading page. From there, you should see a wealth of affordable housing options and rental assistance programs. Affordable housing search options should include a link to search for subsidized apartments, rental homes, etc. You can also sign up for help paying your utility bills!
Success Tip: If you find a place you’re interested in, call during business hours. Even if you leave a message, don’t wait for them to call you back. Keep calling until you speak to an actual person! Apartments like these get flooded with calls and requests. Stay persistent with checking in, because a squeaky wheel usually gets the grease.
2. If you live near a major metro area, try using the HUD map affordable housing search tool instead.
The HUD map search feature may work better than search option #1 above if you’re near a big city. The site uses your location to find affordable housing listings near you. You can search the map for specific neighborhoods or areas you’re interested in, if you prefer. Plus, they have a special resource locator that helps narrow down your search.
Success Tip: Click the “elderly” or “special needs” affordable housing options listed in this search tool’s results. This will give you more affordable housing options that fit your particular needs. When calling places that rent to seniors, specifically ask if they accept disabled applicants under 65. If they say yes, ask if they take people currently on SSI or SSDI.
3. Contact the public housing authority in your area.
Your local housing authority has information on places that accept low-income, elderly or disabled tenants. (Find your nearest local housing authority online here.) They’ll help you sign up for local affordable housing programs, including ways to get federal government-subsidized rent vouchers. PHA’s affordable housing units are decent, safe and sanitary places to live. Plus, they’re in the private market, so you might end up living in a better neighborhood than you expected.
Success Tip: Call every place that says “elderly” or “seniors,” because they might take you. Do this even if your disability claim isn’t approved yet! Ask if you can submit a note from your doctor or SSD lawyer to confirm that you’re disabled. Remember that when it comes to affordable housing, the best options fill up fast. Be assertive and keep calling until you reach a live person, not a recording or voice mailbox.
4. Search for multi-family affordable housing properties through the FDA’s website.
Try typing your ZIP code into the FDA’s multi-family discount housing properties online search tool. Check all nearby affordable housing places, because you may find somewhere with cheaper rent than you pay now. (Especially if you found your current place through a non-government website.)
Success Tip: Even if every place you call has a waiting list, get on as many as you can! Chances are good that some affordable housing options will open up sooner than you think.
5. Apply for local Section 8 housing vouchers and search affordable housing listings in your area.
Section 8 housing vouchers are similar to the PHA’s voucher program. They offer Section 8 rental options in addition to public housing programs. So, you may have more variety with affordable housing options under the Section 8 program. However, not all housing authorities offer properties that accept both voucher types. Check open wait lists for private housing options and communities that accept Section 8 vouchers for every state here.
Success Tip: Ask how to get on the waiting list when applying for Section 8 housing vouchers. Don’t ask whether there are any cheap apartments/homes available. Assume they’re all full when you call, and you’ll get much further with the person you’re speaking to on the phone.
6. Search Volunteers of America’s affordable rental properties for openings near you.
Search affordable housing properties listed on Volunteers of America’s website. These affordable housing options typically fall into two categories: “seniors” and “persons with disabilities.” VoA is one of America’s largest nonprofit affordable housing providers, but they also pride themselves on quality. They support at-risk populations, including those who are homeless, veterans, and people living with disabilities.
Success Tip: If a property says “seniors” but not “persons with disabilities,” call and ask anyway. Many senior-friendly housing options have accessibility features built into them, too. This includes wheelchair ramps and wider bathroom doors for people with mobility issues. Especially if you’re newly disabled, finding affordable housing can be a challenge. You need something that fits your current limitations that you can afford on monthly benefits. These resources may help you or a loved one find the right place to call home that fits your budget.
You May Qualify for Legal Assistance
Rural claimants may struggle to find nearby affordable housing options, even online. If the above options won’t help you, we strongly recommend talking to a Social Security attorney about your case. These lawyers work on contingency and can give free, confidential advice based on your specific circumstances. In fact, disability applicants with legal assistance are 3x more likely to get benefits approved right away. Those who get help through our website typically receive $12,000 in lump-sum backpay as well as monthly benefits.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free disability benefits evaluation now.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.
Mandy Voisin is a freelance writer, blogger, and author of Girls of the Ocean and Star of Deliverance. As an accomplished content marketing consultant, mom of four and doctor's wife, Mandy has written hundreds of articles about dangerous drugs and medical devices, medical issues that impact disabled Americans, veterans' healthcare and workers' compensation issues since 2016.