Help me understand housing subsidies in Pennsylvania.
June 17, 2015 6:09 PM   Subscribe

My family and I are moving to Pennsylvania for work. My 67 year old mother, who currently lives with us, will be moving as well. My mother was on disability (for Muscular Dystrophy), and is now on a meager (~$1100/mo) Social Security Check. I'm certain that she's eligible for some kind of subsidies, but I can't figure out what subsidies, where they can be used, and who to ask. Help!

We're moving to Montgomery county, just north of Philadelphia, on July 22nd. This job opportunity fell into our laps in April, so this whole move has been extremely fast paced. My younger brother was supposed to be locating her an apartment, and working with her to figure out the available subsidies, but he essentially dropped the ball, so I need to figure this all out, fast. I want to have the apartment rented for her to move in more or less when we move in to the new house.

Relevant facts and questions
*I'm currently willing and able to pay for an apartment, and I expect to do so for some time (a year or two) while she waits on a list. I'd like to have the subsidy take some or all of the burden of me and my family.
*I don't understand what kind of subsidies she'd be eligible for, or who to ask. My brother claims to have called some housing counseling and not gotten call backs. I've found a variety of organizations to call, but I'm in the position that I need to make some housing decisions *now*, and then apply for the subsidies
*I don't understand where what subsidies can be used. I don't want her to be stuck in a slum an hour away from me. Some kinds of vouchers (like Housing Choice Vouchers), are portable, but there's some verbage about "finding a suitable housing unit of the family's choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program."
*I'm really trying to avoid moving her into an apartment, and then finding out that no subsidy will work there, and having to move her.

Any advice, insights, experience, contacts, anecdotes, or encouragement would be deeply appreciated
posted by JonahBlack to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Possible resource: does your new job offer an Employee Assistance Program, and if so, would they let you contact them in advance of your start date? They should be able to put you in touch with specific resources pretty quickly.
posted by modernhypatia at 6:26 PM on June 17, 2015

I grew up in Philly, and the two resources that come to my mind are the PA Department of Aging, and the Montgomery County Office of Aging and Adult Services (MCAAS). I think the MontCo office may be a local office for the PA agency. I don't really have much more insight than that other to say my mom got reduced price prescription through the PACE program and the paperwork involved did not seem to be that burdensome to her.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:43 PM on June 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

If by subsidies, you mean Section 8, last I heard the waiting list was years.

Do not count on getting subsidies that will kick in a few months. And it's possible that while a landlord may take Section 8 now by the time she gets a voucher, they may not any longer.

You'll want to contact the local Dept of Welfare (now called Human Servics). You'll probably have to go in person with your mother to do intake interview. The housing subsidy, cash assistance, food stamps (SNAP benefits) would all he handled through. Looks like you can apply online... There's a link on the left hand side. There will still be an in-person interview tho. I don't know if you have to already reside here to apply tho.

Definitely call the Agency on Aging linked above.

Does your mother need an home health aide or anything like that?

I'm gonna ask some other people who may have more information about this sort of thing.
posted by sio42 at 1:58 AM on June 18, 2015

my mom used to work in the DHS (Welfare) office but not in Philly. she says to check out the Housing Authority. Here is their page on Seniors-Only Developments.

Also check out the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. They have subsidized housing for seniors.
posted by sio42 at 4:43 AM on June 18, 2015

Thanks everyone! I'll try making these calls this morning!

As to why she can't live with us: We've done that with an in-law apartment for the last 8 years. It's not really working out anymore. We all need a little more space/separation.
posted by JonahBlack at 5:55 AM on June 18, 2015

A friend of mine who works with aging populations said that in PA, there are rent rebates, so that should be a term you use in your calls.

And another factor to consider when calling is to ask about residency. Your mother may need to stay with you for a little while in order to get residency established to start receiving benefits or be eligible for certain programs.

I know you don't want to move her and then mover her again, so something to keep in mind.

Good luck! That's all the info I could get.
posted by sio42 at 6:23 AM on June 18, 2015

I called the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. They were very helpful, and directed me to their counterparts in Montgomery County. When I called MCAAS, they voicemail message indicated that I may have to wait 2 days for a call back.

The PCA rep suggested that she'd be limited to specific housing developments. I haven't looked at this, but that suggest the projects, which I'm not keen on.

Rent Rebates sound like what I'm looking for, but if I'm reading this right, then the total yearly rebate is only $650 for incomes <1>
To reiterate, I'm willing and able to pay for an apartment for her indefinitely, but if she's eligible for subsidies, then I'd much prefer to utilize them and direct the additional funds to better her quality of life.
posted by JonahBlack at 6:48 AM on June 18, 2015

I don't think all the developments are projects in the sense of "bad place to live".

I really think that this is gonna have to be a situation where she stays with you while you can visit the places she might live.

My friend also said that her grandma made slightly less in social security than your mom and her grandma was ineligible for many programs. (This is in PA.)

And yes, it says $650/yr for renters. So like one month rent.
posted by sio42 at 7:37 AM on June 18, 2015

This place is from the list on the PCA site.
Brentwood & Brantwood II Apartments

These historic apartment buildings overlook Fairmount Park and feature units ranging in size from one to three bedrooms. All units have spacious floorplans with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and oversized windows.

Residents can enjoy a community room, on-site laundry facilities, on-site laundry facilities, on-site management, on-site maintenance with 24-hour call service, and close proximity to public transportation, shopping, and dining.

Type of facility: Elderly, disabled and families
Total number of units: 43
Elderly units: 33
Disabled Units: 4
Age Eligibility: 62+
Income Eligibility: 30% of median income
Rent: 30% of income
Waiting List: Yes, please inquire how long

Brantwood II
Within a short distance from the Philadelphia Zoo, Philadelphia Art Museum, Mann Music Center and Please Touch Museum, The Brantwood II is situated on the cusp of University City, moments from shopping, dining and entertainment.
I'm not sure if it's a bad area or not but it's a nice historic building. Maybe you could use your question next week to ask poeple to look at that list and let you know what is a "good" vs "not good" area for your mom to live in by herself - perhaps knowing if there are grocery and pharmacy options nearby etc.
posted by sio42 at 7:44 AM on June 18, 2015

She would likely only be eligible for low-income housing - which is often known as 'projects'. Housing vouchers to rent anywhere are generally given to people in the greatest need - so homeless, largely. Also, they have a maximum amount they'll compensate, which is generally low. You might not like the quality of the place you could get for her for their voucher.
posted by corb at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2015

The Housing Choice Voucher program, commonly know as Section 8, is administered through the Montgomery County Housing Authority. Their website says they are not currently accepting applications for the HCVS8 program right now, but you might want to keep an eye out for future waitlist openings. HCVS8 works by paying a portion of the tenant's rent, and there are indeed restrictions regarding unit size, maximum rent, etc, that are probably not terribly relevant right now, since the Housing Authority is not accepting applications. (If anyone wants details about how Section 8 works, MeMail me-- I work for a Housing Authority)

It does look like the Montgomery HA has some Public Housing units, both general housing and housing for elderly and disabled. I strongly recommend that you reconsider your lack of keen-ness for Public Housing (often called "the projects") and look into these as a possible option. Some Public Housing was (and is) in poor condition and badly run, but some properties are well-managed and in good condition-- and Public Housing units are subject to regulations that limit rent increases for tenants in ways that Section 8 and other subsidy programs do not.

I'm not personally familiar with the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, but they appear to be accepting applications for their affordable housing program and it looks like your mom is within income limits. They also list a number of properties that are probably below-market rentals with regulations that restrict rent levels. I would look through these listings and see if there are any properties you are interested in checking out further. You will likely have to contact the property manager directly to find out about waitlists and such-- you should do that as soon as you realistically can, as the waitlists at some affordable properties can be very long. As a bonus, if your mom does move into a regulated affordable unit and then manages to receive Section 8 at some future point, it's pretty common for regulated affordable units to fit nicely within Section 8 guidelines-- so she wouldn't need to move to get that additional subsidy.
posted by Kpele at 11:47 AM on June 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

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