What is a Housing Benefit?

Tess C. Taylor

A housing benefit is a government voucher that pays for the cost of living in a dwelling, a temporary residence, shelter, or a rented house or apartment. Housing benefits are usually reserved for individuals, children, or families who have low incomes or qualify for public welfare or disability programs. Housing benefits may pay for all or a part of the cost of rent when regular income is at or below government established poverty levels due to lack of job opportunities, disability, or other difficult socioeconomic conditions.

A housing benefit program may be available to single parent households.
A housing benefit program may be available to single parent households.

In some regions, a housing benefit program may allow individuals and families to live in rent-subsidized buildings reserved for low- or fixed-income people. Rent allowances can vary from region to region, but are most often available for the unemployed, underemployed, disabled, pregnant, and families headed by a single parent. Individuals and families who have limited financial means can often qualify for rent support provided by the government.

Rent allowances can ease the financial strain on single-parent households.
Rent allowances can ease the financial strain on single-parent households.

In addition to housing benefits for poor people, there are also housing assistance programs available to orphans, foster children, the disabled, and elderly people. Older people and disabled individuals often move into rent- controlled apartment buildings or facilities to live without the stress of having to care for a home. Youths without a home or an ability to make an income will be placed in temporary shelters and homes with caregivers who can obtain a housing benefit to cover their expenses.

Housing supplements are generally limited for certain time periods and may not be available to all people, due to strain on many public assistance programs. Typically, filing housing benefit claim is a lengthy process that requires forms, documentation, and a case review before funds can be made available. In some cases, it may take months to obtain housing allowances to pay for room and board, and during this time, the poor must seek help from other sources.

Recipients of a housing benefit must generally be working toward self sufficiency in order to keep getting support. This can be achieved through a number of educational and work training programs available to disadvantaged groups through government, religious, and private agencies. During the time that housing benefits are granted, recipients are expected to better their circumstances and get off welfare in a reasonable amount of time so that others in economic crisis can benefit.

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