Section 8 Alternatives

by John Willis
Housing programs can help single mothers pay delinquent rent or purchase a home.

Housing programs can help single mothers pay delinquent rent or purchase a home.

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 created the Section 8 federal housing subsidy program. Section 8 participants pay about one-third of their personal income in rent; federal subsidies through local housing authorities pay the difference between the Fair Market Rent (FMR) and the amount paid by Section 8 renters. According to the "American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms," FMRs are "U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rent estimates used to determine the eligibility of rental housing units for housing assistance payments. The estimates are designed to be high enough to ensure an adequate supply of rental units, but low enough to serve as many families as possible." The purpose of Section 8 housing is to ensure affordable housing for low-income Americans. There are many alternative means to providing affordable housing: subsidies from other federal resources, state or municipal resources, private resources or some combination.

Other Federal Resources

Federal agencies, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), have housing resources. The federal budget also has discretionary funds to meet needs that are not specifically addressed by its many bureaus. HU) has housing resources providing alternatives to Section 8. One such resource is the ability to lend money to municipalities at favorable interest rates for the provision of affordable housing. HUD and other federal bureaus may also provide grants to subsidize the creation or renovation of affordable housing in a specific area.

State Housing Subsidies

As federal funding for Section 8 housing decreases, resources closer to home, so to speak, may need to be tapped. The New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal is a state organization providing funds to nonprofits throughout New York with community-specific housing needs. Other states may have similar housing subsidy programs.

City Housing Agencies

Cities, large or small, have great incentive to take up the slack in federal voucher programs, if Section 8 housing is reduced or the local need for low-cost housing increases. In New York, for example, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development began funding thousands of federal vouchers that would have gone unpaid and resulted in struggling families being left without affordable shelter.

Community Housing Programs

Community organizations with nonprofit status are funded by a variety of sources, from local businesses, individuals, grants and other government entities. State governments often publish lists of community resources and have regional offices that help organize an disseminate resources. Local businesses and active community members are vital sources of help, because adequate housing needs are essential to a healthy local economy and culture.

About the Author

John Willis founded a publishing company in 1993, co-writing and publishing guidebooks in Portland, OR. His articles have appeared in national publications, including the "Wall Street Journal." With expertise in marketing, publishing, advertising and public relations, John has founded four writing-related ventures. He studied economics, art and writing at Portland State University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

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