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Learn About Housing & Urban Development (HUD)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a federal entity that oversees housing policies and programs across the country. The goal of this department is to help families to secure safe, clean and affordable housing in their communities. This means establishing a number of housing initiatives, and providing funding to each state to run these programs. In addition, this department is responsible for enforcing fair housing laws.

Those who qualify for one of the HUD housing programs can receive financial support in many forms, including housing vouchers, grants and even mortgage insurance. One of the biggest housing assistance options is the Section 8 housing voucher program, which helps low-income families lower their rental costs. However, first-time home buyers, public servants and many others can also benefit from initiatives like these. Learn more about the benefits of this department below.

What is HUD?

In 1965, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Act established HUD as an agency within the Cabinet of the Executive branch. It was created in an effort to fight against poverty, by developing programs and policies to help all citizens gain access to affordable housing.

The first major initiative enforced by this department was the 1968 Civil Rights Act, also recognized as the Fair Housing Act. This law made housing discrimination illegal, whether based on religion, race, sex or origin.

Since then, HUD housing initiatives have expanded to provide financial and educational assistance to renters, homeowners and vulnerable populations. It works closely with the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and other entities to make the process of securing a home more accessible to all.

Who qualifies for HUD housing programs?

Many of the housing assistance programs offered by this department are aimed towards low-income families. As a result, income often plays a large part in determining eligibility for this assistance.

However, first-time home buyers and other community members can qualify for certain programs as well. Even community organizers can apply for assistance to improve local housing options.

Programs are also in place to help the most disadvantaged populations, including those experiencing or facing homelessness. These applicants may even receive priority for certain programs, like Section 8.

What housing assistance programs are available?

A number of programs are available under this department related to housing and community development. While these are national programs with federal funding, it is often the individual states that are responsible for providing assistance to applicants.

As such, program availability and requirements may vary from one area to another. Overall, applicants can apply for assistance with finding, renting, buying and establishing affordable housing with the help of the HUD programs outlined below.

HUD Section 8

The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is considered the largest HUD housing assistance program offered in the country. Through it, public housing agencies (PHAs) in each state receive federal funding to help applicants secure affordable rentals.

Low-income families who qualify for a housing voucher can use the funds to pay most of their rent costs each month. In addition, expansion of the program at some PHAs allows beneficiaries to use their vouchers towards their mortgage payments instead.

Fund amounts depend on household size and gross annual income. Income is an important factor in determining eligibility, as this program is aimed at applicants with less than 30 percent of the area’s median household income.

If you plan to submit a HUD application for Section 8, note that you may be placed on a waiting list due to high demand for this program. To receive your voucher, you must maintain your eligibility while on the waiting list.

Public Housing Assistance Program

PHAs are also authorized to offer public housing options to qualified applicants. Public housing refers to units owned and managed by local PHAs that offer affordable rent costs.

Those who may qualify to live in a PHA-owned low income housing development include low-income families and individuals, as well as seniors and applicants with disabilities. As such, units range from small apartments to single family homes, as available.

Like with HUD Section 8, eligibility for public housing is based on annual gross income. You must also have a positive rental history, and meet any specific requirements outlined by your particular PHA.

In addition, public housing applicants may also be placed on a waiting list if units are not immediately available. Applicants are often encouraged to apply to several PHAs in order to increase their chances of obtaining assistance.

Low Income Housing Grants

In addition to support for individual families, this department also offers financial assistance to communities as a whole. More than 20 grant programs provide funding to help with housing initiatives across the country, such as:

  • Community development.
  • Fair housing.
  • Housing rehabilitation for veterans.
  • Safety and energy efficiency.

Depending on their needs, communities can apply for these free housing grants to improve housing, as well as to increase local job opportunities and economic development. While some apply to particular situations, many of these grants help establish low-income housing options for residents.

For example, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) helps communities to improve living conditions for residents. Funds can be used to improve or build housing and public facilities, including local sewer systems.

Another example of the low income housing grants offered is the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. Funds from this grant are used to help communities increase the availability of affordable homeownership opportunities.

FHA Loans and HUD Homes

For those who want to become homeowners, this department also supports several programs and initiatives to help with homeownership. Qualified applicants can receive FHA-backed loans for buying, repairing or improving their homes with lower down payment and credit requirements.

HUD housing counseling services are also available to help first-time home buyers prepare for their purchases. Current homeowners can learn how to manage their mortgage payments and avoid foreclosure as well.

FHA homes that do go into foreclosure become HUD homes. These properties are then offered for purchase at less than the market value, and therefore offer another affordable option for home buyers.