Housing is the largest monthly expense for most American families. In fact, one in four renters spends more than half of their income on housing alone

With housing expenses increasing across American cities, it’s no wonder that low-income families struggle to secure affordable housing. Fortunately, low-income families don’t have to bear this burden alone. 

Government and nonprofit organizations have joined together to create housing assistance for low-income families. To find out the details about some of these housing affordability programs, keep reading.  

Low Income Family Housing Explained

The most important thing to know about low-income housing is that you must fall within certain income limits to qualify. 

Income Limits For Low Income Housing Programs

Income limits are established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It bases its income limits on an area’s median income (AMI). 

In larger cities, the AMI tends to be higher. For example, in San Francisco, the AMI is well over $100,000! In contrast, the AMI for Wichita is just $51,000. 

Based on AMI, the HUD has established three distinct income tiers:

  • Low Income – Households that earn below 80% of the AMI.
  • Very Low Income – Households that earn below 50% of the AMI.
  • Extremely Low Income – Households that earn below 30% of the AMI. 

The Goal of Low Income Housing Programs

HUD believes paying over 30% of income on housing presents an undue cost-burden on families. In turn, the goal of HUD’s housing programs is to reduce the percentage of income that a family pays towards their housing expenses.

Now that you know who’s eligible for low-income housing and why fair housing was developed, let’s review a few of the assistance programs out there:

#1 The Housing Choice Voucher Program

HUD has a housing voucher program created specifically for low-income families. These housing vouchers are funded by the government and local public housing authorities (PHAs). 

In this voucher program, eligible families can use their housing voucher to pay for a home of their choosing, whether that’s an apartment, townhome, or single-family home. They just need to make sure their landlord is okay with the arrangement. 

These vouchers will pay for the portion of their rent that exceeds 30% of their household income. Thus, as their income fluctuates, their vouchers’ value will, too. 

How to Qualify for Housing Choice Vouchers

To apply for the HUD housing choice voucher program, simply follow these steps:

  1. Make sure you meet all of the eligibility requirements
  2. Contact your local Public Housing Agency (or PHA) to submit your application.
  3. Provide your tax returns and pay stubs to verify your income eligibility.
  4. Secure your spot on the waiting list and wait for your rental voucher approval.
  5. Choose your desired rental home.

Once you’ve received rental housing voucher approval and chosen a home, your PHA will make sure the property is suitable. 

#2 The Low Income Housing Credit Program

Another program for low-income families is the Low Income Housing Credit Program (LIHCP). Rather than offering families vouchers, this program incentivizes housing developers to build affordable rental housing apartments.

These rentals offer low-income families an affordable place to call home. In exchange for keeping the rent low, the property developers and investors receive an attractive tax credit.

Unlike with HUD vouchers, the rental cost of these apartments is not impacted by a family’s income fluctuations. 

How to Qualify for LIHCP Housing

To qualify for LIHCP housing, you must meet certain income requirements. Typically, you must earn below 50% to 60% of the local AMI. 

If you meet this requirement, you can search for a LIHTC complex on Apartments.com. All you have to do is set your filter to show homes that are specifically marked as “Low Income” under the “Affordability” tab. 

#3 Nonprofit Funded Public Housing

Lastly, low-income families are eligible for many local public housing programs. These programs are usually funded and organized by local nonprofits.

If you’re looking for programs to help low-income families buy a house or secure affordable rent, public housing is a great option. That’s because public housing properties are not included in the housing market. As a result, they aren’t subject to the housing market’s price fluctuations.

In addition to affordable housing pricing, public housing gives low-income families some say in how their building is maintained and organized. In turn, they can cultivate a safe community for their families. 

VOASW: Low Income Housing Programs for Families

If you’d like to take advantage of a public housing program in San Diego, look no further than the Palomar Apartment complex

Run by Volunteers of America Southwest, this apartment complex allows low-income families to enjoy affordable, safe housing. Located in sunny San Diego, this public housing complex is conveniently located near:

  • Schools
  • Public transportation
  • Grocery stores and shops
  • Safe, gated playgrounds
  • BBQs and picnic areas
  • Walking paths

Palomar Apartments features spacious units and reserved parking. Most importantly, this community is very family-friendly. To find out if you’re eligible to move to our Palomar Apartments, reach out to a VOASW member today. 


Harvard. America’s Rental Housing 2020. 


HUD. Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet. 


HUD. Eligibility and Denial of Assistance.


HUD. PHA Contact Information.


HUD USER. Low-INcome Housing Tax Credits.