Pennsylvania is a great state to live in, but for some residents it can also be a very expensive state. There are many workers in Pennsylvania that struggle with the cost of rent, or homelessness. The state of Pennsylvania has several different programs which help lower income residents that are struggling to find an affordable home. Each of the programs functions in a slightly different way. Some of the programs directly help with the cost of rent, while other programs help residents locate more affordable housing within the state.
The requirements will ultimately vary from program to program, but there are two consistent factors throughout the programs. The first is the size of the household, and the second is the total income of the household. Both of these are important for determining eligibility requirements for housing assistance programs, since they show the financial situation of a household. Listed below are several federal and statewide programs, but residents should also look for smaller, local programs in their immediate area.
Housing Choice Vouchers in Pennsylvania
Without a doubt, the housing choice vouchers program, more commonly known as Section 8 housing, is one of the best resources for Pennsylvania residents that are struggling to find an affordable place to live. Section 8 housing is a federally run program, but each state manages their own Section 8 housing through public housing agencies. Landlords apply directly to the public housing agencies to have their property included in the program.
After receiving an application, a public housing agent will go and investigate the property, determining whether or not it meets all the necessary safety standards as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the property passes the inspection, it will be included in the program.
Applicants that want to live in Section 8 housing must apply through the public housing agencies, just like landlords. If they meet the financial eligibility requirements, they are accepted into the program and given housing choice vouchers. Participants in the program only pay 30 percent of the rent for their home. The rest of the cost for rent is covered by the voucher. Participants have the freedom to choose whichever Section 8 home they wish.
Unfortunately, Section 8 housing is only available in so many areas at any given time. If there are no Section 8 homes available, qualified applicants are put onto a waiting list. The waiting list does have a priority listing. Homeless applicants and applicants with children are put at the top of the list. Disabled applicants also rank very high on the list. How long applicants remain on the waiting list is hard to predict, and can vary from one location to the next within the state.
Homeless Assistance Programs in Pennsylvania (HAP)
Case management services are available to Pennsylvania residents who were recently homeless, or who came close to being homeless. A case management agent works directly alongside participants, helping them understand how they ended up in such a dire situation, and offering advice for how to avoid becoming houseless in the future. The program primarily focuses on budgeting, general job preparation and home management. If necessary, case management workers may also provide referrals to drug and alcohol programs.
Rental Assistance in Pennsylvania
Rental assistance is also issued through the HAP program, and is available for any Pennsylvania residents that are in danger of being evicted from their house or apartment. Rental assistance can provide help in two primary areas. The first is helping with any payments for things like mortgage, rent or utilities. Whether or not a participant receives financial assistance is determined on a case by case basis, with how much the participant owes being one of the largest determining factors. In some situations, the program will negotiate with the landlord on behalf of the participant to try and work out some sort of deal, such as arranging a payment plan. If financial assistance is not an option, the program will work with the participant to find an apartment or home that is within his or her price range.
Another aspect of rental assistance comes from subsidized apartments. These apartments are designed with lower income renters in mind. If the renter meets the financial requirements, they are able to stay in subsidized apartments, which have much lower rent when compared to traditional apartments for rent in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Bridge Housing
Bridge housing is another program that is aimed at helping the homeless. The program helps to transition homeless participants into permanent housing. Once a suitable location is found, the participant is allowed to stay in the home for up to 18 months. Participants will have to pay a small co-pay, which is determined by what kind of income the participant has. Participants will continue to receive assistance from case management services while they are living in the home.
Emergency Shelters in Pennsylvania
Emergency shelters are available in Pennsylvania for anyone that does not have a permanent address. Emergency shelters provide these residents with a place to stay for a short period. In addition, emergency shelters work directly with other housing assistance programs, most notably with bridge housing.
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence (PCADV)
Some individuals are forced onto the streets because they do not feel safe in their home. PCADV is a non-profit group which works with domestic violence services all across the state. PCADV helps victims of domestic violence find shelters where they can stay, and speak with agents who will help them find more permanent housing.