The United States is in a housing crisis, with not enough affordable homes for everyone who needs them. When newcomers are searching for housing, it is important to understand the minimum features (needs versus wants) that you or your family will require—and that you can afford on your monthly budget. Here is a guide to help you search for housing that fits your needs and budget.


Housing Size

The number of bedrooms will be listed in the description of a housing advertisement. In the United States, it is common for two people in a family to share a bedroom. Young children can share a bedroom, but it may not be appropriate for adolescents of different genders to share one bedroom. It is also important to know that local governments regulate the number of people who are allowed by law to live in a particular housing unit, based upon the number of bedrooms. The maximum amount of people allowed in one housing unit will also most likely be written in the lease.


Calculate the minimum number of bedrooms your family will need before you start your housing search. For example, if your family consists of a married couple, two adolescents of different genders and two small children, you might be searching for housing with four bedrooms. If you are a married couple with two small children, you would be searching for two-bedroom housing. If you are a married couple with no children, you would be searching for either one-bedroom or studio housing. (Studio housing consists of a single room that includes a kitchen and a sleeping area). 


Accessibility Requirements

Your housing search should consider any accessibility requirements for a disabled family member. For instance, a family member in a wheelchair would need housing that could accommodate wheelchairs. Families with a blind member may need housing appropriate for the sight impaired. Families with very young children may require housing with an elevator. When searching for housing, these features may be listed in the housing advertisement. If they are not listed, you can inquire with the real estate agent, the property manager or the property owner.



Most newcomers to the United States will not have a vehicle or a driver’s license. If there is no access to a car, the housing search should consider locations that are near public transportation or are considered “walkable” or “bikeable” for access to work, food stores, schools, laundry facilities, medical facilities, houses of worship and other important locations. To find out if it would be realistic to live without a car at a certain address, neighborhood, city or town, type in the location at the website Walk Score. It is also important that in the search for housing, newcomers feel safe in a neighborhood they are considering to make their home.


Knowing what you require regarding housing size, accessibility requirements and understanding facts about the neighborhood will help you narrow your search for housing that you can afford.


Disclaimer: This article was created in partnership with Refugee Housing Solutions. Refugee Housing Solutions is a project of Church World Service (CWS) under an agreement paid for by the U.S. departments of State, and Health & Human Services.