Finding Home
updated April 4, 2024

A key thing to plan for is how you’ll pay for your housing. Housing expenses include the monthly rent or mortgage payments, electricity, gas, and heating bills, insurance, home maintenance, and anything else directly related to the place where you live.

First, figure out how much you have in income, so that you know what you can afford to pay on your housing expenses. Then, you can compare what you can afford with the amount that different housing options cost.

If you don’t have enough income to pay for any acceptable housing, you need to look into housing benefits that may be able to help you.

What Can You Afford?

First, figure out how much total income you have. To figure out your total income (also called your "gross income"), add up all of your earned income from work before taxes are deducted, including any tips, and all of your unearned income you get from investments, interest from bank accounts, and benefits programs, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or MFIP.

Note: If you get SSI and live in a long-term care facility, your monthly SSI benefits could go up quite a bit if you move into another type of housing in the community, meaning you would have more money to spend on housing. Learn more about moving out of a facility.

Do a budget where you figure out all your expenses

It’s important to know how you spend your money. If you make a list of everything you spend your money on in a normal month, you can begin to get a sense of how much money you need for housing and how much you need for other things. You may also notice how you can save money.

Minnesota State University in Mankato offers personal budget tools that can help you with this. Learn more about how to save on nonhousing expenses in HB101’s Keeping Your Housing article.

What Programs May Help You Pay for Your Preferred Housing?

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If your income is not enough to pay for your preferred housing, you need to see if you can find:

  • Cheaper options that you like and that you can afford
  • Benefits programs that can help you pay for the housing you want, and
  • Programs that will help you pay for the services you need.

There are many programs that can help you find an affordable place. These programs work in different ways and whether you qualify for them depends on your situation.

Types of Programs

These are some common types of programs:

  • Voucher programs help people pay for rent in any privately owned apartment that meets certain standards and where the landlord accepts payment from the voucher program. If you get help from a voucher program, you will usually pay about 30% of your income as rent and the program will pay the rest.
  • Project-based programs help people live in specific privately owned apartments that are set aside only for people with low income. If you get an apartment from a project-based program, you do not get to choose which apartment you will live in. With many project-based programs, you will pay about 30% of your income as rent, and the program will pay the rest.
  • Public housing helps people live in specific publicly owned apartments. As with project-based programs, you do not get to choose which apartment you will live in, and you will initially pay about 30% of your income as rent (this can change if your income goes up).
  • Cash benefits help people who cannot afford to pay for their housing with money each month.

Learn more about programs that may help you in HB101’s Programs section.

Programs and other ways to pay for rent and housing

Programs That Help Pay for Services

Services that can help you live with a disability more comfortably can be very expensive. Fortunately, there are programs that can help pay for these services, which may mean that housing options that seem really expensive are actually a realistic option.

For example, if you qualify for Medical Assistance (MA) and live at home, the personal care assistance (PCA) program may help you by paying for an assistant who can help you with bathing, dressing, and taking medications.

Other programs may only help people who live in certain settings. To learn more about programs that can help pay for your services, see HB101’s Services section.

Get a free evaluation of what services and programs might help you

Contact your local county or tribal human services office and ask to be reviewed for long-term care services. This review is called a MnCHOICES assessment.

Anybody who thinks they might need long-term services can ask for this, even if they don’t qualify for any benefits. Within 20 business days, the county must send an assessor over to review your situation and see which long-term care programs or services might help you.

During this review, the assessor will help you compare the options of living in a facility or in the community with the help of MA-Waiver programs, Medical Assistance (MA), or personal care assistance (PCA) services.

If you might be eligible for any of these programs, the assessor will help you get started with the application. Even if you are not eligible for public benefits, this review can help you understand what services, accommodations, and resources exist.

Have a Cheaper Backup Plan

When you look at housing, you’ll find that you can’t afford a lot of the places you like. That’s why you have to look for more than one option that’s good enough so that if you can’t pay for the housing you like the most, you can choose the other and live there until you find a way to pay for your favorite option. For example, a shared living situation, like having roommates, may let you live in a housing setting you want while reducing your expenses.

Finding work to help you pay for your preferred housing option

Boosting your income is a great way to make housing more affordable, but finding work is not easy. Here are a few resources that can help: