Where can you turn if you are later in life and on a seemingly lower, fixed income and faced with ever increasing housing costs? The Federal government’s Section 202 program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is designed to provide a rental subsidy for qualified people over the age of 62. There are literally thousands of apartments throughout the many towns of Erie and Niagara counties although ever increasing demand has resulted in significant waiting lists in many of the most desirable locations – some beyond a year in certain cases. It is quite prudent to be thinking ahead if you think this might be for you.

The Housing Act of 1959 established a methodology whereby non-profit organizations could apply to HUD for an “interest free capital advance” for construction of apartments serving the elderly. If the organization serves the senior population in this capacity at the specific site for 40 years, the loan does not need to be repaid. There have been several additions and modifications over the years to the basic format with additional funding streams for other needy populations such as the developmentally disabled, but the basic statute remains intact as written.

Qualifying income levels for participation in these programs is tied to the county’s median annual income. This measurement standard is the distinct data point created at which half of the population in a specified geographic area earns more and half earns less. For purposes of this program the qualifying amounts are based on both this income standard as well as family size. The income limit has evolved over the years and since 1981 this threshold has been set at 50% of a county’s median income. The actual numbers in Erie County: a single person must earn less than $23,150 annually in order to qualify; for couples, the amount is $26,450.

How much does one pay if accepted into senior subsidized housing? The total rental payment is limited to no more than 30% of an individual’s monthly adjusted gross income – both earned and unearned. For an online directory of all independent senior apartments sorted by town, visit www.erie.gov. You will find senior services by clicking the department tab and then go to independent senior housing. The apartments with the asteriks are subsidized. You can also call an outreach coordinator at your local community center for assistance or call Erie County Senior Services direct at 716-858-8526. All of these folks are extremely helpful and will gemoving the answers you need to make a good decision.