For large families and single parent households alike, homes can quickly become too small when a newborn child is added. Your income must also be enough for another child. If you have a low income and if you have either rented a larger home or are short on rent because your expenses have increased, you can apply for a housing benefit at your local Housing Benefits Office. If your application for a housing benefit is approved, then as a tenant you will receive a subsidy towards your rent. If you own an apartment or house that you use yourself, you can get a subsidy towards the burden of interest, debt repayment or maintenance costs. Those who receive housing benefits or a children’s allowance (Kinderzuschlag) can benefit from another program: what’s known in Germany as an ‘education package’. It includes grants for many activities that will help your child develop.
How much your housing benefit will be depends on a number of factors. It depends on how many people live in your home, what the rent is, and the monthly income those who live there. What rent bracket your place of residence is grouped into is also taken into account. The rent bracket depends on the customary local rent. In cities with the highest rents in Germany, rent level 7 applies, while rent level 1 applies in cities with the lowest rents. The higher the rent level, the higher the amount of rent that can be taken into account. Rents are capped by so-called ‘maximum amounts’ and are based on the rent levels. When you apply for a housing benefit, the Housing Benefits Agency will check whether your income plus housing benefit is enough to cover your living costs. In case of doubt, the agency has the right to ask precise questions.
If you are a tenant, you will need to provide several documents for your housing benefit application. These include a confirmation of registration on the housing benefit application, your rental contract, a rent certificate completed by your landlord, and proof of your rent payments. Additionally, you will also need a certificate of earnings from your place of work showing your gross salary for the last twelve months and a recent payslip. If you receive social benefits or Unemployment Benefit I (Arbeitslosengeld I), you must also provide proof of this. The same applies if you are obliged to pay child support or alimony. If you are the homeowner, you will need to provide additional documentation. Get advice from the Housing Benefits Office where you live. They can tell you exactly which documents you have to submit if you want to apply for a housing benefit. Often you can download the application forms from their homepage. As a rule, housing benefits are paid for twelve months starting from the month in which the application is submitted. If your income or housing situation changes during this period, you must of course inform the relevant authorities. If you need a housing benefit for longer than twelve months, you should reapply two months before the end of the initial twelve months.
If you receive a housing benefit, you are also entitled to the so-called ‘education package’, i.e. benefits for education and community participation for your child. These can be benefits in kind, vouchers or grants in the form of money. They make it possible for your child to take part in day trips for which a fee is charged, to eat lunch together at school and daycare, to participate in music, sports and games in clubs and groups, or to take private tutoring lessons. Another example of these benefits is the so-called ‘school supplies package for personal school needs’ amounting to €154.50 per year. As part of the benefits for education and participation, your city or municipality also pays the costs for daily travel to school. The housing office where you live can tell you what offers, such as education vouchers or reductions, are available for your child and where you can apply for them.
If you receive social benefits, for example social welfare, Unemployment Benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II), basic security benefits for the elderly or in case of reduced earning capacity, BAföG, federal training assistance or benefits according to the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act, this already includes housing costs. Therefore, you will not normally receive an additional housing benefit in these cases. As a rule, this also applies if you are studying or training and do not receive BAföG. However, there are exceptions. If you only receive BAföG as a loan, you are entitled to a housing benefit. It is best to find out what your entitlements are from a social welfare advice centre.