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Programs put affordable senior housing within reach

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Dear Savvy Senior: Are there any resources to help seniors find and pay for senior apartments? My aunt, who’s 75 years old, needs to find a new place to live but has very little money. What can you tell me? — Searching Sarah

Dear Sarah: Finding affordable senior-housing options can be difficult depending on where your aunt lives. Senior apartments for some retirees are a good option, and you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of government programs that can help out financially. Here are some tips that can help you and your aunt find a low-income senior apartment that fits her budget and living preferences.

Start with HUD

There are several different government programs available today that can help individuals who qualify to locate and pay for housing, including:

>> Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8): This program allows you to find the housing you want. The government provides the amount allowed by your voucher to the landlord each month.

>> Privately owned subsidized housing: HUD helps some apartment owners offer reduced rents to low-income tenants.

>> Public housing: These communities are generally apartment buildings or complexes that are overseen by a city or county public housing agency, and are available to low-income families, seniors and those with disabilities.

>> Low-income housing tax credit: This program provides housing to low-income families and includes rents that don’t exceed a fixed amount.

>> Section 202 Supportive Housing for the Elderly: This initiative helps seniors and the disabled. It offers housing for individuals who are able to live mostly on their own but need assistance with certain daily tasks like cleaning and cooking.

For more information about these programs and to locate apartments in your aunt’s area that might offer them, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance page at topics/rental_assistance.

You can also search for low-income housing at senior-living sites like and

If you or your aunt don’t have internet access or have troubling maneuvering the internet, you can also locate nearby affordable housing options by calling your local housing authority — call 800-955-2232 to get your local number. If your aunt lives in a location that spans multiple counties, check with the housing authority in each one to compare.

How to choose

If you or your aunt find several apartment choices that fall within her budget, she should consider what’s important to her. She might want housing that’s close to family, religious organizations, senior centers or places she visits regularly, like grocery stores, parks or gyms.

Or, if she has a disabling condition, it may be especially critical for her to find a living space that has easy access to important serv­ices like senior transportation and health care centers.

In your housing search, you might also come across some red flags that indicate a retirement community wouldn’t be a good fit for your aunt. Keep an eye out for extra fees that may be applied to everyday items or perks you normally wouldn’t think about, like laundry service, parking or pets.

You should also make sure the apartment is in good condition and then scout out the neighborhood. Ask yourself if the community is clean and well maintained and whether there is any debris or messy landscaping. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, follow up with questions before your aunt signs a rental contract.

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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