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Disabilities: Housing Assistance Programs

This webpage presents an overview of public programs that can offer assistance with renovating and weatherizing existing housing, filling energy needs and obtaining access to public housing and rent assistance. Because programs and funding sources change rapidly, interested persons should check with their local city or county housing authority (if any), with the local Rural and Economic Development office, and with the local social services or human services department for current information.

Rural and Economic Development Loans

Rural and Economic Development "Section 502" loans are available to rehabilitate homes that fail to meet minimum standards for "decent, safe and sanitary" housing, and to make homes accessible to persons with disabilities. Contact the local Rural and Economic Development office, which is generally located at the county seat.

Home Improvement Loan Program

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) administers the Home Improvement Loan Program (HILP) and the Home Energy Loan Program (HELP). These programs are designed to enable homeowners with low or moderate incomes to repair and improve their homes. The program makes FHA-insured home improvement loans available at an interest rate below the market rate. A third program, the Home Energy Incentive Program, is used with HILP for energy conservation projects. To apply for a loan, visit a participating lending institution, or call 800-334-6873.

Low-Income Energy Assistance Program

The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program provides energy assistance for low-income renters and homeowners. Eligibility is limited to households that have an income not greater than 150% of the poverty level, and that show an "energy burden". This means the household must directly pay a fuel provider or pay rent that includes heat. Applications usually must be made through the county Energy Assistance Office. Payments are made based on a multi-tier schedule depending on income, household size, and fuel type. One payment at the appropriate benefit rate is made for the entire heating season.

Weatherization Programs

In most counties, free weatherization is available for qualified low-income customers through gas and electric utilities. Contractors are hired to install insulation, as well as to caulk and weather strip. Call the local utility for further information.

Rent Assistance for Public Housing

Public housing programs provide publicly-owned and publicly-operated housing for low-income families and single persons who are age 62 or older, have a disability, or are displaced by government action or disaster. Local housing authorities set income limits, and rent may not exceed 30% of income. Contact the local city or county housing authority for information.

Section 8 Housing Subsidies

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts, either directly or through a local housing authority, with owners of new, existing or rehabilitated housing units. HUD pays the difference between rent charged on the private market and the tenant's contribution, which is based on income. The participating owners may be public or private. Apartments, houses and rented mobile homes may be eligible. Another type of Section 8 program provides a rent subsidy certificate to a qualified applicant who then finds a landlord who is willing to participate. Sometimes it is possible to obtain a subsidy for the tenant's current dwelling. Contact the local housing authority for details.

Rural Rent Assistance

In rural areas, the Rural and Economic Development office administers a rent assistance program similar to the Section 8 program. The rural program uses the same income guidelines to establish eligibility. The rent charged to the tenant is generally limited to 30% of the tenant's income. Priority is given to tenants in program-sponsored projects who are paying the highest percentage of their income toward rent. Contact the local Rural and Economic Development office for details.

Last revised July 13, 2020