Broke Ass Financial Coaching: How to Get Affordable Housing

Updated: Jan 12, 2010 09:13
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While being young, broke and beautiful is all well and good, some people’s finances are more jacked than others.  That’s why we’ve invited Betsy Crouch (aka Coach $izzle) to come onboard and dole out some much needed advice.  She is a professional financial coach after all.  If you’ve got a question you’d like answered please email her  Maybe your question will be the next one answered.

“How do I find out if I qualify for low income housing?” – K from Detroit

I love Detroit!  Thank you for your question. So this is obviously a pertinent question for millions of people.  Housing expense is our largest expense.  There are many different types of public and private affordable housing programs and options.  For this article I will focus more on resources and ideas for renters versus owners.  There are many resources provided through the links in this article to find more information about affordable home ownership if you would like to know more about that.

Now, it doesn’t take an economist to discover that housing is barely affordable for people with “fill in the blank” situations (certain jobs, students, broke asses, etc.), especially those who live in cities with extremely high costs of living.

Did you know that “very low” income for one person living in San Francisco is $39,600?

Did you know that “a family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States,” according to the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development?

I am not suggesting that somewhere sometime you heard this or knew this but WHAT?! If you are not outraged about this one then you aren’t paying attention.

Think about that for a minute. That means that an adult who works full time, cannot afford an apartment where their children could have their own room.  Shouldn’t the minimum wage, minimally provide someone with the funds to pay for a reasonable HOME?! I say yes. Are we drifting into a political conversation?  Whoa!  All I will say is educate yourself and VOTE!  Alright, now I’ll steer us down the loving and compassionate short term problem solving route…  Here we go…

Let’s start by talking about what The Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines as “affordable” housing: “The generally accepted definition of affordability is for a household to pay no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing. Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.”

I know you feel too well acquainted with your cost burdens, yuck.  Look into these programs.  They are designed to help.

When it comes to rental assistance what types of programs are offered by HUD and what do these terms really mean?

1. Privately owned subsidized housing – You rent a “regular” privately owned apartment and the private owner receives money from the government to offer you a lower rent, i.e. the government helps you pay the rent.

2. Public Housing – a.k.a “Projects”Click here to find your local public housing agency.

3. Housing Choice Voucher Program ( Section 8 ) – Use a voucher to pay for an apartment you find on your own.

Who is eligible for these programs? Low income families and individuals based on:

1. Annual Gross Income
2. If you qualify as an elderly person, a person with a disability or as a family
3. US Citizenship / Immigration status
4. They check your references to see if you would be “good tenants,” better turn down your stereo.
5. Also they may deny those “whose habits and practices may be expected to have a detrimental effect on other tenants or on the project’s environment.”  Uh oh.
6. Income limits:  San Francisco, these limits are much higher than NYC, New York, Detroit, or search other areas.

Links to resources by geographical area:


New York:


Finally, an article on the web is not the most ideal place for this information for the many people who do not have access.  Please share this information with anyone you know who could use support.  Print out phone numbers and addresses for them.

Wishing you an affordable and safe housing situation!


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Betsy Crouch - Coach $izzle

Betsy Crouch - Coach $izzle

Betsy hates to brag, but she grew up in Michigan. An unhappy materialist/rabid consumer turned minimalist, Betsy feels right at home in the warm socially responsible arms of San Francisco. With an Economics degree, a basic financial certification, and a range of personal experience, she has developed a unique financial coaching philosophy. She wants you to feel a sense of serenity with your finances and she shares what she has learned from coaching almost 200 people one on one. Betsy wants you to embrace your "sizzle," and for you to become a more confident and empowered Broke Ass.