Section 202 Housing - Low Income Senior Living

Section 202, a housing subsidy program for the elderly, was originally rolled out in 1959 by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program and some of it is still alive and kicking today. Subsidized rental vouchers are awarded to low-income seniors based on their income levels and need to help pay for their rent.


What Is Section 202?

In its recent past Section 202 acted as a means for capital advancement toward the construction and/or rehabilitation of housing for the elderly. It is unfortunate that as a result of cutbacks in 2012 Congress stopped appropriating funding for capital advancements for Section 202. However, section 202 still provides rental assistance, which is paid to the senior applicant in the form of vouchers. That voucher pays the property owner the difference between what they should be getting for fair rent within the market, also known as Fair Market Rent (FMR), and what they are actually getting from rent from their elderly residents, many of whom are on a fixed income. It was because of section 202 that developers had more incentive to build accommodations for senior residents, during the new administration it is likely that Section 202 will have a new chance to emerge in an effort to provide for a rising demand in low-income senior housing. But because the funding for the development was halted in 2012 Section 202 housing developments are relatively scarce, waiting lists for these units are not uncommom.

How Does That Help Seniors?

Since HUD is helping to pick up the tab, average monthly rental costs are typically much lower for seniors who qualify for housing vouchers who choose to live in housing that are participants of Section 202. Typically the monthly rent charged to the senior is based on that senior's income and the FMR (Fair Market Rent) for the area. You can see what the FMR for your area is here . Before considering a move you need to know that there are eligibility qualifiers for both property owners as well as senior residents.

Qualifying Seniors

In order to qualify for section 202 the individual must be at least 62 years of age and have a very low income. Very Low Income rates vary from state to state and county to county, HUD keeps a list of those established income limits here.

To be considered very low income, eligible participants must make 50% or less of the median income of their county. In many cases counties are combined into areas to determine what the medium income is. Bibb County, AL; Blount County, AL; Jefferson County, AL; St. Clair County, AL; and Shelby County, AL are all considered to be the Birmingham-Hoover, AL HUD Metro FMR (Fair Market Rent) Area so the median income for any of these counties is the same.  

Keep in mind that there are special rules for number of household and who is actually allowed to stay in the unit with the senior in order for the senior to be considered eligible. It is important to speak with your local HUD representative in order to find out rules about eligibility and eligible household members. In some cases it is easier to house two eligible seniors together in the same household than to move in an adult child with a senior and still retain the senior's income eligibility. Special cases where the child is providing physical care for the parent are often excepted and allowed but a new rental agreement may be required since a senior resident must declare who the residents are and what each resident's income is at the time the rental application is submitted. Anytime there is a modification to the tenancy of any resident a new rental agreement will need to be submitted.

Qualifying Properties

Section 202 establishes criteria that the properties themselves must meet in order to be eligible. Eligible properties must include within them supportive care for the elderly and frail such as help with cleaning, cooking, transportation, etc. Many Section 202 communities employ a Resident Service Coordinator (RSC) who acts as a liaison on behalf of the elderly resident to help with daily tasks, assist with connecting them to needed medical care, and help find assistance with Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) like shopping, mobility, and financial management. Under certain conditions the RSC's salary is funded, in part or in full, by HUD themselves.

Helping Seniors to Stay Independent

There is a push to provide for more HUD assistance with both personal services and medical needs for section 202 housing. Much pressure is put on an RSC of a large community and many of the demands are greater than the services the RSC can provide for, especially concerning medical needs. There have been studies by both Harvard and Portland State University outlining the need for more senior services within elderly communities as well as a new classification of the RSC service provider in order to manage the health and well being of our increasing age population. The addition of a new classification of an RSC service provider may have a cost to tax payers at the front end but is expected to reduce the costs of Medicare participation by a very significant amount.

 If a senior is considered to be very low income but is still interested in maintaining a life independent of a skilled nursing facility then section 202 would definitely be a channel worth exploring.


For a comprehensive list of all available Section 202 housing go here.

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