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Understanding the Differences between Subsidized and Public Housing

Subsidized housing and public housing are two terms that are used a lot when discussing about affordable housing. Many people assume that the two terms can be used interchangeably and that there are no differences between the two programs. As a matter of fact, both programs have different features and it is important to understand the differences to understand the eligibility requirements and application process.

Subsidized housing and public housing are two different programs for providing rent assistance to low-income salaries. Both programs provide financial assistance to qualified individuals who are required to pay 30 percent of their income for rent. However, there are considerable differences in house-searching process and who serves the role of landlord.

Who is the landlord?

In public housing, the housing authority plays the role of landlord and owns the building. In certain circumstances, the housing authority may hire a private property manager or private company to manage the property, but it’s still owned by the housing authority.

In Section 8 housing program, the apartment where you live is owned by private owners or non-profit or for-profit organizations, which receive subsidy on renting their property to low-income families.

Who is eligible to apply?

Both programs have certain qualification criteria such as income limit, household size, and other qualifications. For public housing programs, the applicant’s household income can be no greater than 80 percent of the area median income, and for subsidized housing, it can be no greater than 50 to 80 percent of the area median income.

How to apply?

In order to apply for public housing, the applicant is required to submit an application to the housing authority of the city where they would like to live. For Section 8 housing program, an individual can apply to a centralized list or to any housing authority that runs a Section 8 voucher program.

How does the screening process work?

Generally speaking, the waiting lists for public housing programs are shorter than Section 8 housing programs. Under Section 8 Voucher Program, the landlord runs a background check to get previous landlords references, credit reports, and criminal history. On the other hand, in public housing, the housing authority is responsible for conducting the screening process. If an applicant successfully clears this step, they become eligible to receive rent assistance.

Where the house is located?

If an individual has applied for public housing, they must live in the community which they applied for. In case of Section 8 voucher program, an applicant can use the voucher anywhere in the state or outside of the state. However, in subsidized housing programs, the applicant is required to find an apartment by themselves, and if they are unable to find an apartment that has a reasonable rent, their voucher will expire and they have to reapply for rental assistance.

If you are looking for more information on affordable housing program, keep reading Housing Apartments’ resource section. To find an affordable living space in your locality, browse our comprehensive directory of affordable rental units.