Rents are so high in some of the nation’s biggest cities that families earning well over the median national income are considered poor enough to need federal help to afford housing.
In San Francisco, a family of four with an income as high as $105,000 per year would qualify for Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers. In New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, DC, a family of four making more than $70,000 could qualify. That’s no guarantee, though, that families will get the help.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development released their 2017 income limits last Friday, which determine eligibility for various kinds of government housing programs, from Section 8 housing choice vouchers to public housing for the poor, elderly, and people with disabilities
Limits are calculated according to percentages of median incomes by family size and location based on the census’s American Community Survey. The limits fall into three categories: low (80 percent of the median income), very low (50 percent), and extremely low (30 percent of the median income or the federal poverty line, whichever is greater).
In some cities, as you’ll find using our tool, the income limits are pretty high.
Areas with higher median incomes can skew income eligibility limits. In San Francisco, where skyrocketing rents have been blamed on tech industry demand for a limited supply of housing, the low-income limit for a family of four is $105,350.
“At least 40 percent of all new admissions in public housing have to be extremely low-income,’” Dan Emmanuel, a research analyst at the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said. “In the voucher program, 75 percent of people who get vouchers have to be extremely low.”
Still, that means 60 percent of public housing admissions and 25 percent of housing vouchers can go to families that qualify as low- or very low-income, rather than extremely low. So a four-person family making $105,000 in an expensive area like San Francisco is just as eligible for government housing assistance as a similar family making $38,000.