There is an increasing need for affordable housing throughout Wake County. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 12 million renters and homeowners spend more than 50 percent of their household income on housing costs.
Considering that it has long been recommended to spend 30 percent or less of household income on housing, this leaves millions of American households struggling to afford everyday necessities including food, clothing, and medical care. This especially holds true during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused drastic changes to personal finances.
The Raleigh Housing Authority (RHA) is the largest provider of affordable housing in Raleigh. RHA offers public housing and Section 8 vouchers to approximately 5,700 families in the area. The agency utilizes subsidy from the federal government, allowing it to provide rental rates based on household income. Many households may qualify for assistance but be unaware of RHA programs and their eligibility criteria. Additionally, stigmas and misconceptions surrounding subsidized housing often deter individuals from participating in housing programs as residents or as landlords.
Terms like “public housing” and “Section 8 housing” evoke images of institutional barrack-style communities. However, RHA’s design and management of new developments blend its properties into surrounding communities so that they are not distinguishable as subsidized housing. In the voucher program, homes are rented from private landlords, and RHA assists with rental subsidy. Voucher households are fully integrated into a variety of areas, completely independent from RHA managed properties.
Another common misconception is that people living in subsidized housing don’t work. This simply is not true. The majority of adult residents capable of working do so, many working multiple jobs to increase their household income. Our residents work as teachers, paramedics, bus drivers, courthouse officials, and in other occupations invaluable to the fabric of our society. RHA provides housing to a variety of different income levels, which provides a way for families to have housing stability and a means to help break the cycle of poverty.
RHA even offers an incentive public housing program that specifically aims to help individuals and families who work full time or are elderly and/or disabled. Those eligible for incentive housing based on employment have been working full time for two years prior to admission and must continue working full time for the duration of their assistance. Incentive housing encourages working families to transition into market-rate housing up to and including homeownership.
One RHA resident says participation in an incentive housing program allows her to increase her financial self-sufficiency by working and going to school for a bachelor’s degree. This resident has been able to increase her credit score and save money and is in the process of purchasing a home for herself and her two children.
“The number-one thing low-to-moderate-income people stress over is, how will they pay rent and will they have enough,” she says. “I am grateful for the program and what it has allowed for me to do for myself. It wasn’t always easy, but I found a way to make it work.”
Another misconception with subsidized housing is that residents do not go through a screening process prior to receiving assistance. RHA has a rigorous screening process that considers criminal backgrounds, rental history, sex-offender status, and more. Applying for housing does not guarantee assistance will be awarded.
While RHA is laser-focused on its mission—safe, decent, affordable housing—the agency helps connect residents with opportunities that will better equip them to improve their lives. Program policies and regulations may require residents to meet service requirements including homeownership classes, financial literacy classes, or community service hours. Furthermore, RHA partners with agencies and resident organizations to bring additional opportunities to its residents including food banks, YMCAs, mental health organizations, churches, and more.
RHA encourages Wake County residents to explore ways they can help bolster affordable housing within their community. Individuals with rental homes can sign up as private landlords with Section 8 housing. Neighbors, friends, and family can assist others by offering access to things like phones, the internet, or help with appointments. Additionally, you can see if they need help understanding the process, following their lease agreement, communicating with their landlord, or paying their rent on time.
To learn more about RHA programs, visit rhaonline.com or call the main office at 919-831-8300.
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