Finding affordable housing in NYC and the surrounding areas can be challenging, and even more so for non-citizens. This page shares information about housing resources and referrals as well as where to get support if your housing is in jeopardy or feel you are being discriminated against because of your immigration status. We neither endorse nor recommend any particular type of housing resource and this is not a comprehensive list of what may be available for you. For more information on general housing options, please visit: Connect Center Housing Resources
Federal housing programs are either restricted or unrestricted. Restricted means that at least one person in your household must be either a citizen or an eligible noncitizen. Unrestricted means that anyone can apply regardless of their immigration status. Restricted programs can have different documentation requirements, and the immigrant composition of a household can affect how much housing subsidy it receives in some of these restricted programs.
Step 1: Determine that you qualify as an eligible noncitizen.
As long as at least one member of the household is a citizen or eligible noncitizen, the entire household may apply to restricted programs. The eligible person may not have to be the head of the household, depending on the housing program.
Eligible noncitizens include the following:
- Lawful permanent residents
- Any noncitizen living in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence. Also known as a “Green Card holder.”
- Registry immigrants
- Persons admitted for permanent residence by the U.S. Attorney General and eligible for citizenship.
- Refugees or asylees
- Foreign nationals in the U.S. who are unable or unwilling to return to their countries of origin because of fear of persecution.
- Conditional entrants
- Foreign nationals granted permanent resident status on a conditional basis ho must petition to remove the conditions of their immigration status within two years from initial approval. Examples include a spouse of a U.S. citizen or foreign investor.
- Inadmissible foreign nationals are allowed to leave an immigration inspection facility although not formally admitted to the U.S. are usually granted for humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
- Withholding grantees
- A Withholding from Removal granted by a judge to a foreign national slated to be returned to his or her country of origin. Granted on the basis of the likelihood of persecution upon return.
- Persons granted 1986 amnesty status
- Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act persons who resided illegally in the U.S. prior to 1982 meet certain conditions.
- Victims of trafficking, or relatives of such a victim
- Legalized status obtained by meeting requirements of the 2000 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.
- Residents of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, or Guam
Public Housing, Project-Based Section 8, and the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher programs allow families that are considered ‘mixed families’ to be eligible for assistance. Mixed households are those that include members who are not citizens and do not have the appropriate immigration status, to be eligible for assistance. However, HUD also adjusts the amount of rent the tenant pays based on the number of people in the household who are eligible immigrants. These HUD programs do not require that the head of the household be a citizen or eligible immigrant. These programs also adjust the amount of rent the tenant pays based on the number of people in the household who are eligible immigrants. This is called prorated assistance or prorated rent.
Option 1: Find HUD programs that do not require citizenship documentation.
- HUD 221(d)(3), 221(d)(4) and 231 programs.These programs support the financing of affordable housing communities serving moderate-income households, the elderly, and the disabled. For background information about the 221(d)(3) and 221(d)(4) programs visit the HUD program page here and for more information about the 231 program visit the HUD program page here.
- 811 Housing for Disabled. This program supports housing for disabled people. It provides both interest-free capital advances and operating subsidies to nonprofit developers and project rental assistance to state housing agencies. For information on how to apply, use the search bar at the top of any of Affordable Housing Online’s pages to search for your city, county, or state. Look at the communities shown with the “Section 811” program tag in the gray box, and click the property name to learn more. You may call the toll-free phone number provided on the page or submit the online information request form. If these methods of contact are not available on the community’s page, visit the property for more information.
- Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA). This program supports housing for people living with HIV and AIDS. The support can include rental assistance, chemical dependency treatment, mental health services, job training and placement help, and assistance with daily living. For more information about HOPWA visit the HUD program page here.
- McKinney Homeless Programs. These are programs administered by HUD that serve the shelter needs of homeless individuals and families. They primarily support shelter development and operating costs. The programs include Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG), Supportive Housing Program, Supplemental Assistance to Facilities to Assist the Homeless, and the Single Family Property Disposition Initiative. One program that supports the rehabilitation and operation of single-room occupancy (SRO) units for homeless people, the Section 8 Moderate Rehab for SRO program, has the same immigration status restrictions as HUD Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance described below. A good description of the McKinney Homeless Programs is provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness here.
- Shelter Plus Care.A HUD program supporting the development and operation of housing to help people and families transition out of homelessness. These properties include services to help move people to more stable housing situations. Visit HUD’s program page for Shelter Plus Care information here.
- HOME Rental Assistance.HOME is a block grant program, with HUD overseeing funds that are sent to state and city housing agencies to support a wide range of affordable housing needs. One use of these funds is for rental assistance. HOME rental assistance is always used in properties primarily developed with other sources. Some of these funding sources may have eligibility restrictions related to immigration status. You should check with the housing office or manager about other funding associated with the property that may have these kinds of restrictions. For more information, visit HUD’s HOME Rental Assistance page here.
Option 2: Find other programs that do not require citizenship documentation.
- Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties.LIHTC provides tax credits to investors that invest capital in properties that serve low-income households. These properties in many cases include other federal funding sources with immigrant status restrictions, at least for specified apartments in the property. You should check with the housing office or manager about other funding associated with the property that may have these kinds of restrictions. For more information about how the LIHTC program works, see Affordable Housing Online’s LIHTC Guide.
- USDA Section 515 Rural Rental Housing. Section 515 is a program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides low-interest loans to developers building properties providing apartments to low-income households in rural areas. Although proof of immigration status is not required to apply for a Section 515 apartment, these properties often have other federal subsidies, such as Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance or Section 8 Project-Based Assistance, that have immigrant status restrictions. You should check with the housing office or manager about other funding associated with the property that may have these kinds of restrictions. For information on how to apply, use the search bar at the top of any of Affordable Housing Online’s pages to search for your city, county, or state. Look at the communities shown with the “Section 515” program tag in the gray box, and click the property name to learn more. You may call the toll-free phone number provided on the page or submit the online information request form. If these methods of contact are not available on the community’s page, visit the property for more information.
- In addition, many states have rental programs that serve all people, including undocumented immigrants. To find out which programs run by your state are eligible for all immigrants, you should talk with an immigration attorney, the local legal services office, or the state housing agency.
Step 3: Find other housing programs for eligible noncitizens.
If you live in a rural area, there may be low-income apartment communities funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA programs can also serve mixed households, but the head of the household must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident. Rent subsidy is not pro-rated based on the number of other household members who are not eligible immigrants.
Three programs, the Section 514 and Section 516 Farm Labor Housing programs, and Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance have restrictions based on immigration status. The Section 516 program provides subsidized loans to farmers and community nonprofit organizations to build affordable housing for farm workers, with the Section 516 program providing grants to community organizations building these low-income rental communities. Tenants must be employed in farm labor in order to live in these apartments. Households must have incomes below 80% of the Area Median Income to qualify for this housing. The head of the household must be a U.S. citizen or a Lawful Permanent Resident. A Lawful Permanent Resident is a non-citizen who has been authorized to live and work in the U.S. on a permanent basis. The permanent resident card they receive is often called a “green card.”
Section 521 rental assistance can be attached to projects with different funding sources, as long as they are located in a rural area. The head of the household must be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Tenants pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income or 10% of their gross monthly income for rent. There is no proration of rent for mixed households like there is with HUD programs. You can earn up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to live in an apartment with Section 521 rental assistance. If Section 521 rental assistance is being used in a property whose funding would otherwise allow undocumented households, such as USDA’s Section 515 program, the stricter rental assistance eligibility rules would apply and the head of the household would have to be a citizen or lawful permanent resident.
For more information visit: https://rdmfhrentals.sc.egov.usda.gov/RDMFHRentals/select_state.jsp
Under New York City Human Rights Commission, a civil rights law prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived immigration status in employment, housing
and public spaces (schools). An immigrant tenant in New York City may also not be evicted, threatened, or harassed simply because of actual or perceived immigration status
If you feel you are being discriminated against, you can make a complaint on the New York City Human Rights Commission website: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/about/report-discrimination.page
You can also make a complaint on the NYS Division of Human Rights website: https://dhr.ny.gov/complaint or call their hotline, 1-888-392-3644