How Poor Do You Have to Be?

So the obvious question: How do I qualify for Affordable Housing? How much can I make?

As you might expect with a government run program, the answers vary widely and are often contradictory, especially between individual programs. Furthermore, the rules can be difficult to understand, and management companies may interpret them differently on top of adding their own special restrictions. Which basically means, if you feel poor, there’s probably a program and an apartment out there with your name on it. You just have to find it.

But let’s get a little more specific. One of the most common ways an Affordable Housing program determines eligibility is by setting an income limit at some percentage of the neighborhood’s median income. 40% and 50% are fairly standard, but I know some buildings where it’s up to 80%. So let’s say the median income for the neighborhood you’re interested in is $55,000. (You can find median income info here.) If the income percentage is 50%, your W-2 can show up to $22,750. If it’s 80%, you can rake in up to $44,000 per year. Obviously, the higher the income limits on a building, the higher the rent will be.

For a decent starting point for more information, go to But don’t be discouraged by the relatively low number of apartments listed and the general crappiness of the locations. I really encourage you to aim high and conduct your own investigations. As I mentioned in last week’s post, nearly all new rental buildings have at least some affordable apartments. So when you walk by yet another new construction, take note of the phone # and find out how to get on a list for an application. Get on enough of the right lists for your income level, fill out enough applications, and you’re probably gonna land a sweet apartment.


  1. Hypothetically speaking:

    What would happen if someone secured an affordable housing unit based off of verifiable income from the previous year’s W-2, only to get a new job which pays more than the maximum income to qualify for the unit? Would they be forced to move out?

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