Keeping Your Housing
updated April 21, 2017

Your housing expenses include your monthly rent or mortgage payments, electricity, gas, and heating bills, insurance, home maintenance (repair and upkeep), and anything else directly related to the place where you live. Combined, these housing costs are the largest expenses most people have.

If you are worried that you can’t pay for your housing and that you will have to move out of your place, carefully evaluate your situation to see if you can find ways you can afford to stay where you are. To understand your situation, you must know exactly how much income you have and how much you spend on housing.

How Renters and Homeowners Can Improve Their Financial Situation

Whether you rent or own your home has a big impact on what strategies you can take to improve your situation. However, some things that can help both renters and homeowners who don’t want to move:

  • You can boost your income by looking for work
  • You can try to lower expenses, such as health insurance, food, cable, cell phone, and utilities.

First, we’ll look at these two strategies and later, we’ll look at more ideas for renters and more ideas for homeowners.

Finding Work

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

Cutting Your Expenses

If you cut your overall expenses, you’ll have more money left over to make your rent or mortgage payments. Here are some tips and resources to help you spend less on some common expenses:

Combined, you can save hundreds of dollars per month by taking these steps. You might save enough to be able to keep living in your current housing.

Short-term help

Some programs may help you pay for your housing for a few months if you have emergency expenses. One example is the Crisis Housing Fund (CHF). CHF may help pay for rent, mortgage, or utility expenses if you have a mental illness and need to use your income to pay for inpatient psychiatric treatment for a few months or less.

More Ideas for Renters

There are more steps that renters and homeowners can take when they can’t afford their housing. Renters should:

  • Apply for benefits programs. Many different public programs help people pay rent. Only some will let you stay in the place where you live now. The best-known program that might help you pay rent for your current apartment is the Section 8 housing choice voucher (HCV) program.
  • Claim the Renter’s Property Tax Refund. This state tax refund is for people who rent a place and have annual household income below $58,880. With the Renter’s Property Tax Refund, you can get up to $2,060 back on your state taxes.
  • Talk to the landlord. If you can’t pay your rent on time one month, try talking to your landlord. You may be able to get a one-month extension on paying your rent. Don’t go for more than one month without paying your rent, though, because your problems could just get bigger.
  • Learn about managing your money for rent. The University of Minnesota offers a free Renter 101 online course that focuses on how to make sure you have enough to pay your rent, talk effectively with your landlord, understand lease agreements, and stay aware of other important financial issues for tenants. Minnesota State University in Mankato has a good list of personal budget tools that can also help.
Look into short-term rental help if you are facing eviction

If you are about to lose your apartment:

These might help you for a month or two, until you can start getting help from other longer-term housing benefits.

More Ideas for Homeowners

If you own your home and are having trouble paying for your homeownership expenses, like your mortgage and home maintenance, you should look into:

  • Short-term foreclosure help, so that you can get help with meeting your upcoming mortgage payments as soon as possible.
  • Long-term refinancing, so that you will have a more affordable mortgage for the years to come.
  • The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which helps you pay for home improvements that can lower your utility and maintenance expenses over the long-term.

To get started with short-term foreclosure aid or long-term refinancing, check out these organizations: