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  • Eileen Zilch

The ABCs of Affordable Housing: What to Know Before Renting or Buying in 2024

Whether you’re a landlord, tenant, homeowner, or someone who dreams of one day owning property, there are dozens of words and phrases tied up in accessing and maintaining affordable housing.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the essentials of affordable housing, demystify key terms, shed light on government programs, and highlight available resources to empower individuals and families in securing affordable places to live.

A is for Affordable

What exactly makes housing affordable?

According to the United States Department of Housing and Development (HUD), “affordable housing” is housing that doesn't cost more than 30% of a household's gross income.

This formula ensures that individuals and families have enough income left to meet other basic needs like food, healthcare, transportation, and education. Understanding this fundamental concept is the first step towards finding a home or rental property that fits your budget.

B is for Benefits

Many government programs aim to make housing more affordable for low-income individuals and their families. One notable initiative is the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), this program provides rental assistance to eligible households, empowering them to choose their housing in the private market.

Additionally, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists eligible households in covering their energy costs, making sure they can maintain a comfortable living environment without compromising on other important lifestyle necessities.

C is for Community

Building a sense of community is crucial in the quest for affordable housing. In fact, studies now show that even the most fundamental of human relationships—take marriage, for example—play a critical role in determining whether or not an individual is predisposed to fall below the national threshold for poverty.

Relationships are so much more than simply having a person you can turn to for conversation; they are key indicators of mental stability, physical health, and emotional resilience. Local nonprofit organizations like Community Catalysts play a vital role in connecting individuals with these important relational resources and support.

Bethel Suites, Community Catalysts’ transitional housing program based in Howell, MI, offers motel and apartment style efficiency units for individuals in need of temporary housing. Along with its affordable weekly rates, Bethel Suites also provides its guests with access to public transportation, complimentary job counseling, and free weekly community meals to encourage socialization and relationship-building.

D is for Down Payment Assistance

For many, the biggest hurdle to homeownership is the initial down payment.

But, know you have options! Various programs offer down payment assistance, reducing the financial burden on aspiring homeowners.

Explore options like the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, or look into state-specific programs that provide financial aid to make your first home a reality.

E is for Education

Knowledge is power! Equip yourself with information about the housing and rental market, your rights as a tenant, and available assistance programs.

After all: the more you know, the better you can navigate the rental and housing landscape.

F is for Fair Housing

Understanding your rights under the Fair Housing Act is essential. This legislation prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability.

If you believe you've experienced discrimination, know there are resources available to support you. Familiarize yourself with the Fair Housing Act to ensure you’re protected in your housing search, and don’t hesitate to reach out to local authorities if you believe your rights are being infringed.

G is for Government Programs

Several government programs are designed to make housing more accessible. Beyond Section 8, options like the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program exist, which encourages private investment in affordable housing.

One downside to government programs is the amount of red tape potential homeowners, residents, and community members need to wade through in order to acquire the necessary permissions or funding to make affordable housing a reality.

Organizations like Community Catalysts were specifically created to fill the gap between government programs and the current reality of neighbors and families struggling to find dignified, affordable housing in their local community.

In conclusion, the ABCs of affordable housing are your guide to a more secure and sustainable living situation—but it doesn’t end here!

With knowledge, determination, and the support of organizations like Community Catalysts, finding and maintaining affordable housing becomes an achievable goal.

Learn more about the MISSION of Community Catalysts or explore our transitional housing project, Bethel Suites, HERE.

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