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5 Creative Ideas for Affordable Low-Income Housing

While the unemployment rate has gradually been creeping downwards, many families still struggle with the challenge of providing one of life’s necessities – affordable housing. You work hard for your money, and with today’s high cost of living it isn’t easy to get past financial woes. Statistical analysis shows that over the past few years, housing prices have outstripped income growth by 76% – this means that your money isn’t going as far as it used to, even if you’re making more of it.

There are public housing programs available, for example through HUD (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development), however the waiting lists for these units are often years long, if you can get on a waiting list at all. In the meantime, what are you supposed to do? Solving the problem of putting a roof over your family’s head might require a little creativity, but there are unique alternatives to consider that cost less than traditional options like buying a home or renting an apartment.

  1. Efficiency Apartment – this option combines most of your living space into one area, and is particularly suitable for single or couples. There is typically a full or partial kitchen, a living/sleeping area, and a bathroom. They usually run between 300 and 600 square feet, and the cost savings over a traditional apartment can be up to 30%. These are available in extended stay hotels, or in a regular apartment building. Be sure to check on whether utilities are included.
  2. Modular or Manufactured Home – this option can allow you a little breathing room in the budget, particularly if your family includes children and you need the extra space. A manufactured, or mobile, home is about half the cost per square foot of a traditional stick-built home, and even with lot rent will come in under the rate of a typical mortgage. If you own a small piece of land, your costs will be even lower. Consider renting rather than buying, as these homes do depreciate rather than appreciate like a stick-built house.
  3. Cooperative Living – do you know an individual, couple, or family who shares your life philosophy? It’s not easy to live with someone else but if you have similar goals in common and can work together, this affordable housing option can allow you both to afford a bigger place that can house everyone. Aside from the financial aspect of being able to split the bills, other benefits include shared cooking duties and the ability to swap childcare. If you’re considering this arrangement it’s a good idea to do a “trial run” first if at all possible.
  4. Outside (or Inside!) the Box – if you’re the type who likes to live on the fringe and get super creative in everything you do, you can jump on the innovative housing ideas bandwagon. Everything from shipping containers to train cars is being used as converted home space. Even an old school bus can be turned into a cozy living environment that contains all the essentials. Now that’s affordable housing!
  5. Job-Related Housing – look for a job as an apartment complex maintenance person, or even a motel or storage unit manager. These places often offer free or significantly reduced rent in exchange for job services.

These ideas may not be your dream homes, but they can help you get a financial foothold during tough times while you either wait on a low-income housing list or save up for a place to call your own. Tough times aren’t easy, but by being flexible, you may just be able to turn it into an opportunity for an interesting and affordable living situation.