Site-Based Housing

Site-based housing programs can also help you live in an apartment you can afford. Unlike voucher programs, with site-based housing you do not get to choose where you live — you have to live in a specific unit at a specific location that has been set aside for people with low income.

This page explains the two basic types of site-based housing:

  • Project-based housing programs are privately-owned apartments that are available only to people with low income.
  • Public housing programs are government-owned apartments.

With both project-based housing and public housing, if you move out of your specific unit, you might stop getting help with your rent.

Project-Based Housing

There are different ways to get project-based housing:

  • You may be able to apply for it directly at a privately-owned building that has set aside units for people with low income. For help finding the management for these units, speak with public housing authorities (PHAs).
  • Section 811 is a project-based housing program for people with disabilities. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority lists Section 811 projects.
  • Section 8 funds many project-based units that are managed by local PHAs. This section mainly explains how Section 8 project-based housing works, but the rules are usually similar for other project-based housing.

A local public housing authoring (PHA) is a good place to get help finding and applying for project-based housing. Learn more about the application process at PHAs.

How Section 8 Project-Based Housing Helps

With Section 8 project-based housing, the PHA works directly with a housing unit’s owner to make the housing available to people in the Section 8 program. When one of these privately-owned apartments is empty, the PHA offers it to someone on its waiting list.

Who Section 8 Project-Based Housing Helps

To get Section 8 project-based housing, you must:

  • Have low income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents

You may be more likely to qualify if you:

  • Have a disability
  • Have children
  • Are age 62 or older
  • Are a U.S. Armed Services veteran, widow, or widower
  • Are experiencing homelessness
  • Are in a shelter

When you apply, the people reviewing your application take into account:

  • Your history with federal housing programs
  • Your criminal background
  • Your credit history

Learn more about the application process, and waiting lists.

Special Purpose Vouchers for people with disabilities and others
Many housing authorities save some of their project-based apartments specifically for people with disabilities, veterans, and other people in certain situations. Some project-based housing may also have supportive services already in place for people getting these “Special Purpose Vouchers.”

What You Pay in Project-Based Housing

In project-based housing, you pay about 30% of your income as rent. Learn more about how your income and your earnings affect your rent.

Note: If you move out of your project-based apartment, you may lose the help you are getting with your rent.

Public Housing

Public housing is rental housing for people with low income that is owned and managed by a local government agency. With public housing, you usually pay 30% of your household income.

How Public Housing Helps

With public housing, when you are at the top of the waiting list and a unit becomes available that matches your needs, the PHA offers to rent you that specific unit.

There are many types of public housing, ranging from single-family houses to large apartment buildings. Waiting lists for public housing may be very long and the type of housing you want may not be available for a long time. You should apply to several different public housing programs to get on their waiting lists. That way, you have a better chance of getting a place.

Who Public Housing Helps

To qualify for public housing, you must:

  • Have low income
  • Be a U.S. citizen or be an eligible immigrant. Eligible immigrants include permanent legal residents, refugees, asylees, and lawful temporary residents

If your income is low enough for you to qualify, the local housing authority also checks:

  • Your references, to make sure you and your family are good tenants
  • Your credit history
  • Your history as a tenant
  • Your criminal background

If you have had problems with a housing authority in the past or owe money for rent or damages to a housing authority, you probably won’t be allowed to live in public housing.

When you fill out the application, be sure to mention your disability, because some units are reserved for people with disabilities.

Learn more about the application process and waiting lists.

If you have questions about public housing, you can also contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 1-800-955-2232.

Learn more