Five Different Types of Affordable Housing Buildings

Art: Robin Mead

If you don’t have a voucher, or can’t get a voucher, or all the waiting lists have been closed for ten million years, don’t lose hope.

You may be able to apply directly to low-income housing buildings that can be just as good (and sometimes even better) than a voucher. And the rent can be every bit as cheap!

Contrary to popular opinion, our readers report that some of these buildings are actually quite nice, clean, and safe. You may have to look a bit to find the nicer ones.

If you want to skip ahead and go right to finding lists of the most affordable buildings, take a look here: How to Super Cheap Housing WITHOUT a Housing Voucher

If you want to learn more about what’s out there:


Ignore the word “project.” This is not the projects! That’s just the word they use. These may also be called project-based vouchers, or project-based rental assistance, or RAD buildings, Section 8 buildings, or another type of similar HUD funding.

These are buildings that are owned by private landlords. However, some or all of the apartments get special funding from HUD.

In these apartments, rent is set at 30% of your income. This means if you are very low-income, rent can be super cheap. You do not need a voucher. If you have $0 income you can still live there.

If you have no income, there is usually a minimum rent of $50, however it is possible to request to have this waived due to hardship.

Rent example: A two bedroom apartment. Your income is $1,000 per month. Your rent including utilities would be roughly $300. If utilities are not included, your rent might be roughly $150/month.

What are they like? You may have been told that all Section 8 buildings are horrible. Not always true! Some are quite lovely. Our readers report that the ones designated “elderly” and/or “disabled” are often nicer. Here’s a few examples: Can Affordable Housing Be Nice? (See for yourself)

Where to find: On the HUD map, orange circles are buildings where some or all of the apartments have project-based section 8. Many are also listed on Affordable Housing Online Directory

Here’s a tip: Many of these buildings don’t use the words “HUD Section 8 Project-Based,” so it is very confusing. You just have to call every place and ask how much the rent is and then say “Do you have any apartments that charge 30% of income?”


These are buildings owned by private landlords. The person who building owners and developers gets extra funding in exchange for following special rules. These buildings can come in different shapes and sizes. They can be apartment buildings, rows of townhouses, clusters of cottages or converted historic buildings, schools and hotels.

These properties can have different types of apartments:

HUD project based section 8 apartments – These are the kind of apartments described above. Your rent will be 30% of your income.

Other apartments – These apartments don’t get the extra special HUD funding. However, the rent is still somewhat cheaper than what you would usually pay in your area. Most buildings have narrow income requirements. You can’t be too rich but you also can’t be too poor. Rent example: A one bedroom apartment. To live there, your household income must be between $15,000 and $25,000. In your area, rent is usually around $1,000, but in this apartment your rent is $700-$800. This is just an example. It varies a lot by area.

Mixed! – These are buildings that have some regular apartments and some project-based apartments. Even though the rent is different… the apartments look exactly the same! Rent example: Suzy lives in a one bedroom apartment in a low income tax credit building. She pays $700 per month rent. Then she comes to the top of the waiting list on a project-based apartment. She does not have a voucher. She moves next door to an exactly identical apartment and her rent becomes $300.

Learn A Bunch More: See a little slide show and learn a bunch more! The Low Down on Low Income Housing Tax Credit Buildings

Where to find: On the HUD map, these properties are in purple. Some of the orange ones are also low income tax credit. Many are also listed on Affordable Housing Online DirectoryIf you are up for a challenge, here’s where you can access the LIHTC Database


These buildings are owned by the government. They are owned and operated by housing authorities. Rent is typically set at 30% of income. Public Housing is usually very cheap, but it is not always very nice.

Where to find: Contact all Housing Authorities in your area. Make sure to contact all three as they may offer different things: City, county, state. You may also be able to apply online or find more information on their websites.


These are owned by private landlords and only in rural areas. If you look above at the description of low income tax credit buildings, you will find that many USDA properties are very similar in structure and rent.

What are they like? Check out this USDA Housing Slide Show

Where to find: Map of USDA apartments. Also many appear on HUD map in dark green.


These are buildings that offer additional services such as meals and housekeeping. If the building is HUD-funded then rent will be the same as other HUD housing (30% of income). There may be an additional cost for services, or these services may be funded through Medicaid waivers.

Where to find: Not available in all areas. Check with your local housing authority. Check with area agencies on aging (call here even if you are young). If Medicaid pays for assisted living in your state, check your state’s medicaid website for listing of assisted living communities. You can also learn more on this page: Three Ways to Get Home Aides in HUD Housing


There are other kinds of low income buildings in some areas, including state and city funded buildings, supportive housing, volunteers of america housing, and programs run by nonprofits.

Where to find: Contact all housing counseling agencies and nonprofit housing agencies in your state. Also, check with housing coordinators at public mental health agencies. Also, check your city, state, and county housing authority websites to see if they have lists of housing resources and organizations. Also, contact homeless programs. You can also look here: A Long, Long, Long List of Places You Can Call to Find Affordable Housing


Instead of applying for buildings, you can apply for a voucher. You can use them in any building! Sort of! (The landlord has to agree to accept your voucher). Section 8 Guide for the Disabled and Plucky


You can apply anywhere in the country! If you do not like the options in your area, you may find better options elsewhere. Many buildings will allow you to apply long distance.If they require that you come in person, and your disabilities make the travel too difficult, you can ask for a disability accommodation to apply long distance. If just asking doesn’t work, try an official request: How to Request Disability Accommodations in HUD Housing


You may be surprised to discover that you qualify for many buildings that are called “senior” or “elderly” buildings. For example:

  • Many senior buildings will accept younger people if they are disabled.
  • Not everyone in the family has to be disabled. Just one adult ages 18-62.
  • They won’t tell you this unless you ask. Always ask!
  • Also: some places start “senior” at age 55


You may also be surprised to discover that you qualify for buildings that are “multi-family.” Multi-family is a HUD term that usually just means “everyone.” You do not need to have children or a family.


Three Magic Questions When Calling Affordable Housing Buildings

Script for Calling Affordable Housing Buildings

Sample Email for Writing Affordable Housing Buildings


🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌷 Page Updated: 1/1/20. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working.

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10 thoughts on “Five Different Types of Affordable Housing Buildings”

  1. I just posted this in my group…..

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  2. Hi,
    I am disabled in a condo w/ my caregiver husband. The rent is high and am looking elsewhere. Can my domicile become
    HUD housing? And what do i need to make that happen? And can it happen?


    1. Sadly, it’s very rare to be able to stay in place.

      You would need to get on a voucher list for your area, then get the voucher, then your current landlord would need to accept the voucher.

      You’ll have a lot more options if you explore some of the options on the page above. Hope it goes well for you.


  3. Thank you for doing this. It gives me hope. Do you know which states do a better job with 30% housing in safe neighborhoods? I’m in Colorado Springs, and the wait lists are very long. The rural homes appeal to me most, but I’d need to find a full time aide to live with me there, which would be tough. I’m thinking for the future. This can’t happen for a couple years. Seems like it’s time to start planning.


    1. Hi Heather,

      Excellent questions. I honestly don’t know which ones are in safer neighborhoods.

      I can say that some of our readers found some of the elderly or disabled properties to be in safe, family neighborhoods that in no way seem like low income housing at all.

      The live in aide part is tricky, however, since live in aides get free rent, maybe you could convince someone to make the move with you? If you qualify for a medicaid waiver, they could also get a salary.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. p.s. some cities have crime data maps online where you can look up data for each block. Not sure how to research that in rural areas, but there must be a way….


  4. Hi,
    I’ve been reading your posts. I really appreciate you are helping others for putting all of this information out there. I live in Puerto Rico. I am disabled with 0 income. Due to my medical conditions, I should not live here due to the weather. Can I get a voucher here and use it in th Continental US? Thanks


    1. Hi Henrietta,

      You can get a voucher in puerto rico and then port it to another area…. but it can be very difficult to find a landlord to take your voucher long distance.

      Another option is to apply for a low income building in the area you want to move to. Some will let you apply long distance. you do not need a voucher to do this.

      Info on porting a voucher. Hope this helps 🍒

      vouchers in puerto rico

      Liked by 1 person

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