At the very end of the last millennium, I found a cute little house to rent. Since my disability income was not enough to pay the rent, my parents paid most of my rent for me. For five years. One day, though, they couldn’t help me anymore, so for a few months I had to beg and borrow rent money from friends.
Then, like a movie miracle, my Section 8 HUD voucher was approved. My landlord had always been against accepting Section 8 tenants, but he really wanted to keep me, so he went through the process and my house was accepted for Section 8 status.
Although my voucher was for the county, it was easily transferred to the city. For the next twelve years all was good and my wonderful landlord did not raise my rent. I was living in a lovely little home in the first place I’d ever felt like I truly belonged.
But, unfortunately, the story takes a turn, and not for the better . . . at least not yet.
One day, in 2016, my landlord told me – very apologetically – that he needed to sell the house and gave me a ninety-day notice. He offered to let me buy the home if I could make it work. Did you know that HUD has a program to help voucher holders buy houses? If you qualify for Section 8 and at the same time qualify for a home mortgage . . . Wait, what? I was told it is very rare for anyone on Section 8 to also qualify for a mortgage, but that it does happen. Who knew? But alas, it did not work for me . . .
So a very, very discouraging housing search began. I could not find a rental in my hometown that was both appropriate for my needs and within my voucher price range. Not even close. And all the affordable housing units had two-to-three-year waitlists. I spread out my search to include a city where my oldest son and family lives, and then to a town where two of my sisters and my mom lived. I could not make it work.
Meanwhile, my daughter kept trying to assist me with all kinds of Craigslist postings and an invitation to look for housing near her and her family – in a different state. “I will help you, Mom,” she said.
Those of you who are chronically ill will understand that moving while sick is difficult. Moving while on government programs makes it even more tricky. There is really no way to know what kind of help you will get when you move to a different county or especially to a different state. I’m sick and broke, and now I’m also old (or getting old), and this has been more than overwhelming. My goal in finding my new home was to be able to retain as much independence as I could without going into more debt.
Well, I haven’t been able to make that happen. More or less a year later, I have a new home. It is a rental unit attached to my daughter’s house. Section 8 does not allow you to rent from family unless it is a “reasonable accommodation” due to “medical necessity.”
When I left California I learned that other states do not have the same kind of services that California offers. I lost my In Home Supportive Services which provided me with a home aide in my home. I lost more of my ability to live on my own, and it became necessary to live close to help which meant close to my daughter. But the rents near where my daughter lives are out of reach for my voucher. Thus the reasonable accommodation came into play.
It gets more confounding, though. I moved next to my daughter because I need help, but my new home makes me need help even more. My new house is a thousand feet up and many miles from the nearest town which makes it challenging for me to go anywhere on my own. In fact, I may be snowed in at times during the winter; at the very least, I will need to buy new tires before then. There is an uneven stone pathway leading up to my front door. The sound-proofing between the two homes is not the best, and I am blessed with two of my grandkids (yes, I know, blessed) living next door. And then there are the stairs – the tight spiral staircase – that I can’t avoid using because the small living room and kitchen are downstairs and the bedroom and bathroom are upstairs.
Wait, there’s more. By moving to a new state, I also lost eye-care and dental coverage. My rent has now gone up more than $200 from what I was paying before. I need new glasses. I need out-of-pocket medical care. I run out of money for food before each month is up and my SNAP allowance has been minuscule. My debt has increased at a frightening rate, and the interest on my credit cards has become quite scary.
I am still grieving the loss of my home, my town, my state, and the future I had dreamed of there. I mourn the further loss of my independence, and I hate the fact that I now need to depend on my daughter for care. Lest my sorry tale seems too sad to bear, though, let me just say this: I am now living (at least for a year) in a charming little home in a really beautiful area next to my very helpful daughter and near two of my grandchildren who I can’t wait to get to know better.
My daughter made sure that everything was as nice as it could be for me, and the unit is in very good condition (which I’m so grateful for after my previous six-month rental where the handyman became my new BFF). My daughter brings me yummy food. I have lovely views out my windows. I can see the stars at night. And Sasha, the next-door dog, loves me; she really loves me.
But I just need to ask: Who the heck is in charge here? What were you thinking with the stairs, already? And the remote location? And the . . . Oh, never mind. I. Have. A. Home.
So, what have I learned? I’ll leave the spiritual lessons and the heart-warming-happy-ending story until later when I have something more positive to report. But for now, I will share with you everything I learned about Section 8 that I wish I had known beforehand.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Section 8 (including how to get on the waiting list when the waiting lists are closed!)