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Low-Income Housing in Southern California

by Josephine Hogan

Looking for low-income housing in Los Angeles can be a daunting task. Especially when nothing seems affordable in California. According to CNBC, in 2019 California ranked as the second most expensive state to live in. The average house price is over a million dollars and finding a place to live in your income can be hard to do.

There is a lot of research that has to go into finding housing in general. When you have to tack on the additional hardship of low-income housing it can feel overwhelming and like it’s an impossible task to find something. Luckily there are options for those of us who can’t afford the average home costs.

State-Funded Housing

If you’re looking for housing, but can’t financially afford it, then you should know one of your options is applying for state-funded housing. The California state government provides a program called Section 8 Housing Programs throughout the state.

The California Section 8 Program or Housing Choice Voucher Program is run under the California Public Housing Authority. In this process, funds from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are distributed to the landlord or property owner directly on behalf of the applicant.

The program was established to provide a safe place for low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.

Before you apply, check to make sure you qualify for low-income housing assistance in your city. And if you would like more in-depth information about HUD and how to apply for state-funded low-come housing, head on over to their website.

How to Qualify for State-Funded Low-Income Housing

In order for you to get assistance from the state government for housing, you must be a legal citizen of the United States or the equivalent and you must meet the income eligibility requirements set up by the state of California. If you are caring for younger children, are caring for the elderly, are pregnant, or disabled, you’ll often get preferential consideration. Your local housing authority has the right to deny any applicant whose habits and practices may have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.

To be considered for Section 8 Housing in California, your household income must be 80% of the median income in your area. The state of California has designated three categories of income level: low-income, very low-income, and extremely low-income. To be qualified as low-income, you are earning less than 80% of the area median. For very low-income, you’re making less than 50% of the area median and for extremely low-income you’re earning less than 30% of the area median. Though we must note, most of the housing vouchers are given to those in the extremely low-income bracket.

For a more detailed chart about what low-income brackets in Los Angeles County look like, go to the HUD website.

landscape of road near city buildings

Section 8 Housing vs. Public Housing

Both programs are state-funded housing for low-income residents. The difference lies in who owns the building tenants are living in. With Section 8 Housing, private landlords and property owners own and manage the buildings. While in Public Housing the state owns the building where you’ll be living.

Housing Availabilities                                       

The Public Housing Authority does keep a database of properties they consider eligible. However, when you apply for Section 8 Housing you don’t have to choose from their list. If your landlord is willing to take the voucher and the property is in good condition, the place may be eligible.

If you are looking for Public Housing, not under Section 8, you can find a list of available places on the HUD website or on your local housing authority websites.

Waiting Lists

As a state-run program, one of the largest problems with both Section 8 and Public Housing is the limited funding. If there isn’t any funding for your area, you’ll be added to a waiting list until funds become available. When there are funds, the waiting lists will be opened to fund as many places as possible. Depending on location, you may be put into a lottery system to determine who will receive funding. To find out if your area is currently open, head over to your local housing authority.  

Cost of Housing

Your rent is based on your family’s anticipated gross annual income. There are a few things that can be deducted from your annual income. To see what those are, go to the HUD website’s Public Housing Program page. Based on your application, your Housing Authority representative will determine what deductions are allowable. You’ll be expected to pay 30% of your monthly adjusted income or at a minimum of $25.

Being Placed in Public Housing

With most Housing Authorities, residents cannot request a particular development. With the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, after verification of eligibility and vacancies of correct conditions, applicants are given three offers. Each of those offers come from a different site location. These options are generated at random based on what is available. If the applicants refuse all offers given to them, they are removed from the waitlist. They can reapply if they wish.

This may be different for other housing authorities, be sure to look up your individual housing authority to find out how it’ll work for you.

While each area has its own website to find more information about Public Housing and Section 8 Housing, this website is specifically for Los Angeles County. If you go to the HUD Housing Authorities page you can find a list to all the Housing Authorities throughout the state.

Places Working with HUD

Here are a few apartment complexes that are participating in subsidized housing:

  1. Huntington Hacienda II located near downtown Los Angeles
  2. Angelus Plaza designated for low-income senior living
  3. Villa Serena Apartments participates in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit

Places Not Working with HUD

While these apartments aren’t classified as low-income housing because they aren’t working with HUD. These are some lower-rent options if you don’t qualify for state assistance or if you need to get into something faster than the waitlist will supply.

  1. Bristol Apartments for a studio apartment in downtown LA
  2. Crenshaw Terrace Apartments for apartments in the $1500+ range
  3. LA Urban for apartments starting at $1200
Los Angeles, Downtown, Center, Skyscrapers, Autobahn

As you search for the best apartments, be sure to check out our post on the three most affordable places to live in California.

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