updated November 28, 2017

Housing is the largest expense most people have in their lives. That’s what makes finding a place you can call “home” so difficult: you have to figure out what you really need and what limits there are on getting everything you want.

Housing Benefits 101 will help you figure out your housing needs and what limits you may face. The goal of your plan should be to make sure you can get what you need in a home you’ll like.

Figure Out What You Need

The first thing for you to look at is the things you absolutely must have in any housing. Here are some examples:

  • If you have children who live with you, you must have enough space for all of you.
  • If you don’t drive, you need to live near public transportation.
  • If you have a job, you must find a place that is close enough for you to get to work on time every day.
  • If you use a wheelchair, you must have a place that is fully accessible for your wheelchair, including elevators, clear passageways, bathrooms, and so on.

The key is to know which things are essential so that you can figure out the minimum requirements of the home you want to find. The next page of this article focuses on disability and health needs, to make sure you know what your needs are and what housing options can meet them.

Finding a new home vs keeping your old home

You might think you need to find a new home because you can’t keep your old home. For example, if you can’t afford your mortgage or rent or think you can’t get the services you need at your old place. However, you might be able to get help so that you can stay in your current home. Read how in HB101’s Keeping Your Housing article.

Figure Out the Limits on What You Can Get

Think about things that might limit the type of home you can get. For example, some places:

  • Are too expensive
  • Are not available in the area you live in
  • May not be physically accessible for you, like if you use a wheelchair and the entrance to the building has steps
  • May not have certain services you might need, like if you need to have somebody on-site 24 hours per day, or
  • Cannot be paid for by the public program that helps you. For example, if you get Group Residential Housing (GRH) benefits, they’ll only pay for you if you live in approved locations.

These are just a few examples of some reasons that might limit your housing options. Later, this article explores these limits in detail.

Decide What Options You Like

Once you’ve thought about your needs and the limitations on what you can actually get, you need to start figuring out what you like. Your preferences matter, because in the end, you are the person who will have to live in your home. Don’t just choose a place because somebody else tells you it’s your best option — you need to figure out which of your options you like the most and then see if you can make it happen.

This article has a page that discusses some choices you may be able to make when comparing different options, such as whether you:

  • Prefer to live in a particular housing setting, such as in your own apartment, in a townhome, or in a condominium
  • Want to live in a group home
  • Want to live in your own house or rental in the community
  • Have a certain neighborhood or town you like more
  • Want to live with roommates, with family, or on your own

Figure Out How to Pay for the Housing You Want

One of the things that limits your housing options is how much money you can afford to spend on your housing. You need to understand:

  • How much the housing you want costs
  • How much any services you need cost, and
  • How much you can afford to pay.

If you can’t afford to pay for the housing and services you need, you might qualify for a program that helps pay for rent or services. Here are some reasons why people might qualify for a program:

  • They have low income.
  • They need certain services, like help with bathing or cooking.
  • They are in specific situations, like being a disabled veteran of war or being HIV-positive.

These programs work in different ways and whether you qualify for them depends on your situation. This article will explain how to budget for your housing and the first steps in finding housing benefits that can help you.

Buying a home can be cheaper than you think

As you think about the housing you want, remember that buying a home can actually be cheaper than renting. Learn about owning a home.

Make Housing Happen

Once you’ve got a plan for finding a home that takes into account your needs, limits, desires, and any benefits you may qualify for, it’s time to actually find that home.

The final page of this article and the ultimate goal of this website are dedicated to this task. We can link you to people and resources who can help connect you with the right place.