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Housing Assistance For Single Parents

Millions of American single parents are struggling to stretch a single income over the whole range of family expenses. Housing is usually the single greatest cost they face, and reducing the housing budget can make the difference between sinking and swimming. Here's how to do it.



Single parenthood places unique stress on your time and budget. There's a fundamental clash between basic responsibilities. Your children need your time and your presence in their lives, but the financial demands remain relentless, and many of us need to work long hours to meet those responsibilities. Balancing those contradictory demands is never easy and can seem close to impossible, especially for single parent families caught in the gap between soaring housing costs and stagnant incomes. American households in the lowest third of wage earners, a bracket that includes many single parents, spend nearly 50% of their income on housing on average. [1] That doesn't leave much space for food, childcare, transportation, healthcare, and the other necessities of life. For many single parents, reducing the cost of housing is the first step toward economic stability.

There are government and private programs that can help to relieve the stress of meeting housing costs. Many people aren't aware that this help is out there, and you may qualify for assistance that you don't even know exists!

Let's take a look at some of the programs that can help single parents beat the high cost of housing. Links to programs and resources mentioned here are at the end of this article.

Immediate Shelter
Homelessness can strike with little warning or time to prepare. Eviction, escaping an abusive relationship, losing a job or other life emergencies can have you on the street and in deep trouble before you know it. If you are homeless or threatened with homelessness, immediate shelter is a top priority. Emergency shelters provide immediate temporary housing for women with children. If you are a single mother looking for emergency housing assistance, use the link below to see a list of homeless and family shelters across the US. All you have to do is select your state and closest city. You will get a list of shelters in and around your city, their contact information, and a brief description of the type of assistance they offer beyond temporary shelter. For example, many offer counseling, support groups, transitional housing, and even food and clothing. If you need this type of emergency housing assistance, visit womenshelters.org to receive help.

The Salvation Army also offers emergency shelter and many services beyond the scope of shelter. They offer beds, food, and hygienic products. You can learn more about the Salvation Army at salvationarmyusa.org. There's a link to their location search page at the end of this article.

Rental Assistance
Millions of Americans can't afford to keep their families in safe, secure housing, or find that paying for suitable housing leaves them unable to pay for other basic needs. If you're in this position, you may qualify for the rental assistance programs offered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In most cases, HUD bases your eligibility for these programs on your income and family size. If your income is 80% of the median income for your county, HUD considers you to be "low income." If your income is at 50% of the median or below, HUD will classify you as "very low income," and you'll have a high probability of approval for assistance if you meet other criteria. You can check your income against the median for your county using the HUD Income Limits Documentation System. There's a link at the end of this article.

HUD offers three major options for rental assistance.

Privately owned subsidized housing is a program that channels federal subsidies directly to landlords, who then offer reduced rents to low-income tenants. You can search for these apartments in your area on the HUD low-rent apartment search page (there's a link below) and apply directly to the property manager. If there are no available units in your preferred neighborhood, try widening your search to adjacent areas. Be sure to check back regularly. The list is updated daily and changes frequently.

Housing Choice Vouchers allow tenants to seek privately owned apartments, with HUD paying enough of the rent to reduce the tenant's payment to the recommended 30% of income. You'll have to apply at your local Public Housing Authority (PHA), which you can find using the search link at the end of this article. Waiting lists are often long, and if you receive a voucher you'll have to hustle to find a suitable unit in the time allotted to you, but it's worth applying anyway. Housing Choice vouchers have helped millions of American families, and yours can be one of them.

Public Housing has developed a bad reputation because of the failure of a few high-profile projects, but thousands of public housing projects offer safe, affordable housing and in many areas, residents report high levels of satisfaction with their homes. The good news rarely makes it to the headlines, but it is there, and public housing can be a life-saving option for low-income people who are struggling to pay rent. You'll find full details on locally available options at your local PHA, which is also where you need to apply.

Homeownership might seem like an impossible dream for a single parent struggling to pay rent, but things aren't always what they seem. Government programs can help you buy a home even if you don't qualify for a conventional mortgage or you can't afford a large down payment. Not everyone will qualify, but if you've been able to maintain a decent credit score and show good financial habits, you may be able to find the help that you need to become a homeowner!

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans have been helping low-income Americans buy homes since 1934. These loans are provided by local lenders but insured by the FHA, which allows the lenders to take on less risk and offer low down payments, low closing costs, and relatively easy credit terms. Down payments can be as low as 3.5% of the purchase price. Your credit report will be examined to assess your risk level, and you will be responsible for obtaining a property appraisal, and legal counsel for closing Applicants must verify their residence for two years: employers and contact information for the past two years with W2 documentation, gross monthly salary and two years of IRS filings. For more information, check the link to HUD's FHA loan page at the end of this article.

If you live in a rural area, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Single Family Housing Programs, which give low and very low-income families a chance to buy an affordable home. The grants and loans offered are based on income. Low-interest fixed-rate loans are given to qualified persons directly from USDA Rural Development Financing, while private lenders provide fixed-rate terms backed by government mortgage insurance. Whichever the case may be, there is no down-payment required. For income guidelines and property eligibility, visit the USDA housing program link at the end of this article.

US Government Home Sales allow the purchase of homes directly from the US government. These are typically homes that were bought with HUD or USDA insured loans and subsequently repossessed after the buyer was unable or unwilling to make the payments. The process involved in these purchases is complicated, and many of them end up sold to institutional buyers, but the program is worth a look. Start with the US Government Home Sales link at the end of this article. HUD and USDA both have homes listed within this site. Just pick your state and select a city. Look through the list of available property addresses. If you are interested in more information about a specific listing, follow the link to contact the local listing agent.