How to Find Housing that is Both Cheap & Good

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Artwork: Rosie Fusco

There are a lot of housing opportunities out there for people who are low-income or living on disability. Some of them are not easy to find.

You may have to be creative and open-minded and willing to think outside the box. You may have to wait some time, travel some distance, be patient or be persistent.

You do not need to be on disability for most of the options on this page. Even the housing designated for people with disabilities may be able to accept you with a doctor’s letter.

Many housing programs for seniors will also allow younger people with disabilities, if you call and ask.

Most good housing programs have waiting lists (usually somewhere between 1 and 10 years). If you are willing to relocate, you may find something with a shorter waiting list, or even no waiting list at all. If you need to stay in your local area, you can get on waiting lists now to give yourself more options for the future.

Keep at it. There is a good home out there for you.

Cheap & Good #1

Section 8 Housing Vouchers – Many people find that this is the cheapest and best housing program. You do not need to live in a specific building. In some cases, you can be on a housing voucher and live wherever you want. Waiting lists are long, so if get on one now, it will help you in the future. How to Find Open Waiting Lists the Easy Way

Cheap & Good #2

Section 8 apartments for people who are elderly or disabled (you don’t need to be both elderly and disabled, just one or the other). Many of our readers report success finding housing this way is nice, safe, comfortable and super affordable. Of course, they are not all nice, but many are. Waiting lists may be shorter than other Section 8 programs. If you see a place marked for “seniors only”, call and ask if they will accept a younger person with disabilities. Sometimes they will! How to Find Yourself a Nice, Affordable HUD Apartment (for People with Disabilities)

Cheap & Good #3

More Section 8 and HUD opportunities. Section 8 also offers multi-family buildings and the HUD map includes many other housing opportunities. Learn more about Section 8 in this Section 8 Guide for the Plucky and Disabled.

Cheap & Good #3

Low Income Tax Credit housing offers a variety of housing options. They are not as cheap as Section 8, but they are cheaper than something on the open market. Some are dedicated to seniors or people with disabilities and some are open to all. Some of these apartments are inexpensive and some are so pricey that we wonder what they think “low income” means. The quality of apartments varies, and some (but not all) are quite nice. The Low Down on Low Income Housing Tax Credit Buildings

Cheap & ??? #4

Public housing is also supposed to be cheap. No promises on the good part. Once again, look for housing projects dedicated to elderly or disabled. These are often the nicer ones. Housing that is not for elderly or disabled may be called “multi-family housing” and may or may not be nice. Please visit and research carefully.

Cheap & Good #5

USDA Rural Development has apartments available for people who are low-income and wish to live in rural areas. Readers report that some are nice, safe, clean, and affordable.

Cheap & Good #6

Volunteers of America offers affordable housing apartments in various locations. We’ve heard from one reader who reported that the housing there is clean, safe, and well-maintained. If anyone else has experience with VOA housing, please comment below.

Cheap & Good #7

ArtSpace has 30 buildings for artists across the country. These centers offer low-rent living spaces and studios for low-income artists. Rents vary by location.

Cheap & Good #8

Mercy housing is a nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing in more than twenty states.

Cheap & Good #9

Contact your county housing authority (not every county has one). Or look on their website. Inquire if they offer reduced rent housing for people who are low income. Be sure to inquire if there are any wait lists you can apply for, or when they anticipates the wait lists will open up so you can apply.

Cheap & Good #10

Ditto for your state housing authority. They may offer different programs than the county does.

Ditto for your city housing authority, or whatever city is nearest to you.

Ditto for every other housing authority in your state. Some housing programs are so good and so nice and so cheap it is worth moving for.

Cheap & Good #11

Many communities have nonprofit programs that help low-income families buy or rent houses. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone and ask what is available.

Cheap & Good #12

You do not have to be living on the streets to be considered homeless. Many programs will consider that you meet the definition if you do not have a fixed living space, or you are sleeping somewhere not normally used for sleeping, or you are in some kind of treatment facility or other facility and you are going to be released, or if you are under threat of eviction. Contact homeless resources centers in your area, plus statewide programs. They may have various housing options available. Also: whenever you speak to any program on this list, be sure to tell them you are homeless or in danger of homelessness and ask if they have. priority for homelessness or know any programs that do. Be sure to ask if any of them know of programs for housing vouchers so you can get on the waiting lists.

Cheap & Good #13

If you have a mental health diagnosis and history of homelessness, many Supportive Housing programs are great! Try contacting homeless resource programs in your area.  Also, try Googling the name of your state or city and the words “Supportive Housing” or “Supported Housing.”

Cheap & Variable #15

Quality will vary. If you are unable to care for yourself and out of options and need somewhere to live, Medicaid has some options. You do not need to be on Medicaid right now to apply, and you may be able to get in even if you have too much money for Medicaid.

In some states Medicaid will pay for Adult Care Homes – These may be small private homes where 2-5 people live and food and care is provided for people with disabilities. Here is an example of Adult Family Care Homes in Florida.

In some states, Medicaid will pay for Assisted Living. Assisted living are often small apartments that provide some help for people who cannot care for themselves but do not need 24-hour nursing home care. You do not need to be on Medicaid now to qualify.

For people with developmental disabilities, please look into Medicaid waiver programs in your state. The waiting lists are long, but they can provide housing plus many other support services.

If you need 24-hour care, Medicaid provides nursing home care in every state. You do not need to be on Medicaid right now. Some private homes set aside a certain number of “Medicaid beds” and these will often be nicer.

If you are in a Medicaid-funded residence, the program may keep all or nearly-all of your disability check. If you want to avoid this, you can research Medicaid Planning.

Cheap & Good #16

If you can’t care for yourself and wish to avoid going to a nursing home, look into Medicaid programs that can provide care in your home: How to Get a Caregiver

Cheap & Good #17

If you are currently in a nursing home or assisted living, and wish to be back in the community, many states have Medicaid waiver programs that will help you with the transition. These programs can provide a home aide to help care for you in your home. In some cases, they will also pay your first months rent and deposit. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

Cheap & Good #18

Actually, cheap and GREAT. If you are community minded, there are many groovy, interesting, creative communities out there of every size, shape and flavor – including eco-villages, communes, land trusts, cooperative houses, collective farms, spiritual communities, and many more. Learn more about Intentional Communities.

Cheap & Good #19

Most people on disability don’t live alone. Unless you are in a really good housing program, it’s usually just not realistic. I’ve had good success living with housemates and have met some wonderful this way. I find it takes some time and care to find the right people who are really a good match. How to Find Wonderful Housemates & Caregivers

Cheap & Good # 20

Catholic Worker communities are committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. You do not need to be Catholic to participate.

Short Term

Peer run respite centers can provide shelter and mental health support for short periods. Usually a week or two. These programs are run by people who have experienced mental health crisis themselves.

How to Have a Successful Housing Search

There are a bunch of things you can do to make your housing search go even better. Check out: Housing Tips For Spoonies

Dandelion made more than 200 phone calls when looking for good housing. She found a great, super cheap, clean, safe, disability-accessible place in just four months. If you haven’t made at least 100 phone calls, you haven’t even started looking! Dandelion Gets Nice, Affordable Housing QUICKLY

How did it go? Please comment below and let us know if you found any affordable housing opportunities that were particularly nice (or particularly bad).

Updated January 2019. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons:

 

10 thoughts on “How to Find Housing that is Both Cheap & Good”

  1. After four years, two appeals and the craziest hearing that involved the ALJ calling in the Sheriff to remove my lawyer leaving me to represent myself I was finally found fully favorable with a bench decision. I’m writing to say your knowledge and post are a blessing. I don’t have the capacity that I used to, researching the ins and outs of SSA takes all the energy I have. My comprehension is challenging, I read, then re-read, I didn’t used to be this way. However you’ve managed to wonderfully sort through all rules and real life issues of SSDI/SSI and put it here article after article, tip after tip, link after link. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope you read this and are reminded that your time, energy, experience and passion are greatly appreciated.

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  2. I am glad I read all of your information about HUD and I have to say that I am on that 5 year list and homeless and my husband and I have to be out of where we are by May 1,2018. We are both disabled and I am becoming overwhelmed. I lost both of my son’s 5 years ago and 17 years my first son at 22, my youngest was 23 5 yrs. ago and within 5 months I lost my mother which I took care of till the end. We owned a mobile home for 14 years and fell behind onh our rent due to our car blowing up and getting another one, We raised the 3 months rent and were 70.00 short and the very next day they were evicting us with 2 constables. Last September I could not walk and needed a major operation that week so I could wallk again, sp urs were compressed on my cervicle spine and I was evicted along with my husband and walker to go to a hotel with our 2 cats. At first they were going to let us sell it and once we had a buyer the inspection failed over minor repairs they would not let us repair and sold our home within a week and sent us a 3 thousand dollar bill. I just could not believe what was happening but it did and now we lost everything we had. Anyways I am so happy I found this sight and can only pray we get an apt.
    Debbie

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    1. Very much hoping you find something debbie. Please also check the homeless resource centers listed on the hud map. Some of these have special programs for people who are homeless or at risk.

      Thank you for sharing your story. 💙💚💛

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  3. This is really great info, thank you so much!

    I do have to expand on housing tip #14 though. (This info is for the US only; it differs in other countries and even your local laws in the US may vary slightly from federal law so you go with what offers more protection).
    Yes, service dogs and emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act and therefore if you are in a housing situation where it applies, you can ask for reasonable accommodations and generally that allows you to have the SD or ESA without paying any sort of pet deposit, regardless of the pet-friendly status of your residence (because they aren’t considered pets).
    This is not just a loophole to keep your animals though! If you want to pursue this, you need to know what they are, what the laws are, and how to do it right.
    – ESAs can be basically any animal. They must be “prescribed” by your doctor as something that supports you with your illness/disability. They do not have to have special training, they are only there to offer love, support, and a reason to wake up in the morning. They have protection for housing and flying in planes, but that’s all, no public access to places that are not otherwise pet-friendly (unless you personally receive special permission or your local laws allow for it).
    – Service animals are dogs or sometimes miniature horses (unless local laws allow for other animals, but then their protection is only valid in that location). They MUST be specially, individually trained to perform a task or work that directly mitigates their handler’s disability. In public they must be well trained enough to be under their handler’s control, not disruptive, not aggressive, housebroken, etc. They are protected for housing, flying, and can accompany their handler almost anywhere that the general public can go (exceptions being food prep areas, sterile areas, places of worship, etc).
    I suggest looking at https://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/ for more information. Again, yes, ESAs and SDs are absolutely wonderful and can completely turn around a disabled person’s life for the better. It is fantastic that we have these laws in place to allow them to exist. But please, learn the laws and your rights and do it correctly. It harms the entire community when people abuse the system.

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    1. Stina,

      Thank you for this wonderful comment and all of this great information. Would you have any interest in writing a guest post about your experience having a service animal? It could include everything you wrote above, plus anything you would like to add about your own experience and any tips you have for others (Can be anonymous)

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      1. Hi! I am so sorry for my late response! If you’re still interested, yes, I’d be happy to contribute to a post about service dogs. I don’t have my SD yet (early next year, fingers crossed) so while I’ve made a point to learn as much as possible, I don’t have first-person experience. But I can reach out to some current handlers I know who have been through the process of program dogs, requesting accommodations, etc and see if they would collaborate.

        If you’d like to email me (hellostinab [at] gmail) with any guidelines/thoughts/questions I’ll do my best to get on it in a more timely manor!

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      2. Dear Sleepy Girl.
        I am sorry if this is in the wrong place, I wanted to ask you a question and I looked and looked but I couldn’t figure out where to go. When I finally saw a reply button I jumped on it. I have been on SSDI (thanks I learned it was that because I’ve read a ton of your posts) for a few years. Just got my 2nd short form review & I do not want to screw it up like my 1st one(a few years back) & get the long one. I am bipolar with many other issues so writing in the margins & wanting to give more info then needed is in my DNA(I think). Honestly it takes me 6 stories to get through 1 story, as you probably can tell since I haven’t even asked my question yet. I saw the example form filled out & I am determined to just check boxes & get it in the mail. Last Christmas season I worked the peak season(6 weeks total, 2 were training) at Lands’ End, I called beforehand to make sure I wasn’t breaking any rules. I did not earn above the limit & am not working now, it was only a temp thing to earn some money so I could buy my son a fancy phone for Christmas. It’s sad when all his friends have rich parents & he sees them all with everything I could not give…see I ramble it’s a curse. My question is do I have to include this & if I do will the computer kick it to a human? I earned maybe 700-1000 in the 6 weeks. My issue is when I screwed up the short form a few years ago & got the long one it sent me into a very long bout of serious anxiety I do not want to repeat. Thanks for everything I have learned just from reading all your posts. To me you are a brilliant girl & you’ve taught me so much in a few hours. Thanks in advance for your time & consideration.

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        1. Thank you so much for what you wrote.

          I think it would be best to include any work you did.

          I’m sorry that I don’t know the answer to whether this will trigger a long form (they don’t release the secret formula their computer uses!).

          I can tell you that I have met other people who were working under the limit, and did NOT get a long form, so I hope that is the case for you as well.

          I know the process is stressful, but if you are still having severe symptoms and under regular care most people have no problems. The fact that you worked a small amount for six weeks should not be very significant.

          Hope it goes well for you ❤

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  4. This is amazing!! I am gonna send myself this link so that I can pore over every aspect. I have so much to learn. You may have just saved my life. I mean it.

    Like

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