In today’s economy, finding housing is hard enough even when you’re flush with cash. When your financial situation is problematic, finding a place to live can feel darn near impossible. Before you panic and/or reconcile yourself to being homeless, make sure you try some of these tips and techniques to help you keep a roof over your head.
Finding Housing During a Financial Crisis
Put Your Pride Away
In spite of what you might have heard, there is nothing wrong with applying for the Section 8 program. In fact, the Section 8 program is often a lifesaver for people whose financial situations and housing needs are dire. In many states, Section 8 is a universal tool; landlords are not allowed to refuse it. You might not like the idea of getting government-funded assistance but if that’s what helps you get into safe housing while you work on getting your finances back on track, isn’t that worth more than your pride?
Note: Most of the Section 8 programs out there have long waiting lists, so do not wait until the last minute to apply for this assistance!
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If you don’t qualify for, or can’t afford to wait for Section 8 assistance to become available, take some time to meet with local low-income and housing-assistance non-profit organizations. Programs like REACH, Catholic Women’s Charities, the Salvation Army, Mercy Housing, etc. all exist to help people who need help finding housing quickly get into safe places to live. If you’re not sure which programs are in your area, contact your local HUD office and ask them for a list.
If you don’t qualify for your local non-profit housing assistance programs, don’t panic! Many landlords and housing companies out there offer income-based rentals to people whose incomes might not qualify them for “typical” rentals. There are two types of low-income housing.
The first is a little hard to find, but if you’re in an emergent situation hunting them down is worth the effort. The rental rates for these housing units are based upon the resident’s income. Often the rental rate is capped at 30% of what you are already earning.
The second is easier to find and the qualification process is relatively simple–all you need is a current pay stub, last year’s tax records, or something similar. These are housing units that rent for less than the market rate in a local area. To qualify for these rentals, you have to prove that your annual income falls below their income limits (typically 30%-90% of the area median income).
When your financial situation is less than stellar, or if your rental history isn’t great, your best option for affordable and livable housing is going to be a private rental. These are exactly what they seem to be: the owner of a property rents it out himself or herself instead of using a property management company to handle the rental screenings and payments. Renting from a private owner/landlord is ideal because they tend to be more flexible in their tenant selection. You might also be able to negotiate the rent down in exchange for property upkeep, landscaping, etc.
The best way to find private landlords and property owners is to search for your new home on open portals like Craigslist or even in local renters’ groups on Facebook.
Improve Your Reputation
As you are working to find housing that you can afford on your current income/savings, it’s a good idea to take tangible and measurable steps to improve the way you look on your rental application.
For example, find a local Rent Well class and complete it. Rent Well classes work with local landlords and property managers to help people who have been evicted or who can’t meet basic rental requirements prove that they are working to be more financially responsible and stable.
You could also look for a side gig to help you bring in some extra money. And, of course, you’ll want to try to reduce whatever debt you might have.
Remember: It might be a challenge, but there are options available and there are people who want to help you choose which of those options is best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Hopefully, the tips we’ve shared here will help you with your search.