Housing allowance: This is how the rent subsidy is available

Many people are entitled to housing benefit and do not use it. The rent subsidy is available for people with low incomes. According to the Federal Statistical Office, around 618,200 households received housing benefit in 2020, in Berlin there were over 48,500 households. However, many more people would be entitled to it.

Who is entitled to housing benefit?

The rent subsidy is intended for people with low incomes. Retirees and recipients of unemployment benefit I are also eligible. The income must not exceed a certain limit. The income limit depends on where you live. In Berlin, the limit for a one-person household is currently 1099 euros per month, or 1570 euros if someone pays compulsory contributions such as health insurance, nursing care insurance and pension insurance as well as income tax.

In a four-person household, the monthly income limit is 2362 euros, or 3375 euros if compulsory contributions and income tax are paid from income. In addition to the applicant, the household includes the life partner (married or unmarried), children and also parents if they live in the apartment.

Recipients of basic security in old age or unemployment benefit II are not entitled to housing benefit. Anyone who is entitled to Hartz IV can decide: either social benefits or housing benefit. “As a rule, however, unemployment benefit II is the better choice,” says Kai-Gerrit Venske, specialist for homeless assistance and livelihood security at Caritas Berlin.

Low-income homeowners can also get government support for housing costs. This is called a load subsidy.

How much is the housing allowance?

The average housing benefit in recent years has been 150 euros. Since January 1, 2022, the housing benefit has increased by around 13 euros per month on average. The amount of the housing benefit depends on several factors: how many people live in the apartment, how high the income of all household members is and how high the rent is. The calculation is complicated. The approximate personal entitlement can be determined with online housing allowance calculators, such as those provided by the Berlin Senate Administration. The housing benefit authority of the responsible district calculates the specific amount.

Since 2021, recipients of housing benefit have also been relieved of heating costs and have received a CO2 surcharge. This year there is also a one-off heating subsidy of 270 euros for people living alone. For a two-person household, it is 350 euros.

How can housing benefit be applied for?

Housing benefit can be applied for at the housing benefit authority responsible for the district. In Berlin, the application can also be made online. Several documents are required for this: the completed application itself, a copy of the rental agreement, proof of income for all household members who live in the apartment, information on maintenance obligations and more.

There are numerous advice centers such as Caritas, the social association, numerous tenants’ associations or even the housing benefit authority itself that can help you with the application process.

Why do so many people not apply for housing benefit even though they are entitled to it?

“Many people, especially older people, are often ashamed of having to claim benefits from the state,” says Venske. Ursula Engelen-Kefer, Chairwoman of the Social Association Berlin-Brandenburg, gives further reasons from the consulting practice. Above all, the high bureaucratic hurdles in the application process. There is help online and advice is available. “Nevertheless, some of those entitled to housing benefit feel overwhelmed and put off by this,” says Engelen-Kefer. She calls for a simplification of the application process.

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