What is a Housing Grant?
Housing grants focus on providing funds to repair and retrofit houses for individuals who meet certain criteria. These grant programs are not the same as benefits given to individuals to cover housing costs such as rent or mortgage payments. Many of these grants go to public housing agencies as well as non-profit organizations that focus on providing assistance to those in need of safe, clean housing. Some grants provide funding to retrofit housing with energy saving technologies. Some grants help organizations who work with individuals to rehabilitate existing dwellings or build new ones at a price lower than the existing market price. Most of these grant programs have eligibility guidelines for anyone benefiting from the funds.
Some of the grant programs come through the Rural Development Department under the US Department of Agriculture. The Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grant are available to certain low-income homeowners to repair or modernize their home or to remove hazard to health or safety. The maximum award in this area is $7,500. These grants are to help low-income individuals with keeping a home in livable condition. The funds are not for use to expand or improve a home, just to keep it in habitable, safe condition. There are loans available for improvements through the Rural Development Department.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also has housing grants available in certain circumstances. For those service members who received severe and permanent injuries as part of their military service, the VA offers grants to modify homes to meet their needs on a daily basis. The Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grants offer funds towards this goal. This program comes through the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation Division. The idea is to make the veteran's living situation work as well as possible given the extent of the injuries the veteran suffered. Modifications can include, but are not limited to, modifying kitchens and bathrooms as needed, widening doorways, installing ramps, putting in intercom systems, and making modifications and improvements to lighting.
For those that need housing help, the best option may be to find a non-profit or government agency that administers the programs funded by the government grants. While the recipients do not receive the grants directly from the federal government, they do receive help through the grant system as a beneficiary of the work done by the non-profit or government agency through those grants. This provides the housing funds needed for the individual. Most government housing grants go to these organizations for just that purpose.
Who can apply? Eligibility Requirements
Some of the grant programs come through the Rural Development Department under the US Department of Agriculture. The Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grant are available to low-income homeowners to repair or modernize their home or to remove hazard to health or safety. These grants are for homeowners at age 62 or above. The income levels are generally at below 50 percent of the median income for their specific community. If the homeowner or his heirs sell the property within three years, the government may recoup the grant monies from the sale. Some applicants may receive a loan/grant combination.
Veterans who might qualify for the Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grants must meet certain criteria. The Specially Adapted Housing is for veterans who suffered the loss of use of lower extremities that requires the use of braces, crutches, or a wheelchair. Those that have permanent disability due to severe burns can also qualify. The Special Home Adaptation Grants are for those that suffered blindness, loss of use of both the hands. This grant is also available with permanent and total disability due to severe burns. Eligibility for these grants comes from the medical rating given by those in charge of the treatment of the individual veteran.
Housing grants that go to eligible non-profit organizations will have their own eligibility criteria for the funds. Most of these funds require the non-profit to screen applicants for income and other information. This helps to ensure the funds go those individuals the money is to help. Some programs limit the income levels for individuals while others have criteria such as age or veteran status to consider. To see if you are eligible for such a program, contact the non-profits directly.
How to apply for Housing Grants?
To apply for the Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grant, the individual must provide an application to the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Development department. The application asks for information on age, income, and the status of the home. The individual must prove they do not have the ability to obtain credit from other sources. They must also provide documentation that their income is lower than 50% of the median income in their community. They must also show the home needs to have repairs made to remove hazards to health or safety. The Rural Development office will review the application and provide a decision within six to eight weeks on average.
To apply for the Specially Adapted Housing or Special Home Adaptation Grants from the VA, the veteran needs to download VA form 26-4555 from the VA website and fill it out. After completing the form, it goes to the regional VA Loan Center for processing. The VA will then review the veteran's case and determine if that individual qualifies for either of the grant programs. Once the VA approves the grant application, the veteran must obtain a contractor to perform the modifications to the property. The contractor then receives funds from the grant.
For those interested in receiving help from the organizations using housing grant funds, the eligibility criteria will differ based on the program and the organization. One example of this is the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, or SHOP. This program is not available to individuals. Nonprofit organizations are eligible however. The non-profits must use the funds to acquire land or make infrastructure improvements to the land. The individual can benefit by participating in the homeownership opportunities offered by these non-profits.
For more information on these programs, please visit these websites:
Grant Application Guides and Resources
It is always free to apply for government grants. However the process may be very complex depending on the funding opportunity you are applying for. Below are some of the published guides that have been helpful to past recipients: