How to Calculate Rent in HUD, Section 8 and USDA Housing

Artwork: Robin Mead

These regs apply to HUD apartments, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, USDA apartments and some other subsidized housing.

If you live in one of these places, your rent will be calculated to be 30% of your household income. So, if your income is $700, then your rent is $210.

But wait! In certain situations, your rent may be even lower than 30%.

If you are disabled or over the age of 62, your rent may be lower in the following ways:

🌸  A live-in aide will not be charged rent. Salary from a live-in aide will not be counted as part of your household income. (See below for details)

🌸  Rent will be reduced if you have medical expenses, co-pays for doctors, or prescription costs.

🌸  If you have a service animal or emotional support animal, you can include their pet food, vet bills, and other expenses as part of your medical expenses. If you are disabled, and your animal provides you with mental or emotional support, it is easy to get documentation for your animal as an emotional support animal. Any doctor can write a letter for you (bring a sample letter to your doctor so she knows what to include. See the bottom of this page for a sample letter for an emotional support animal). Do NOT listen to any websites that try to convince you to pay hundreds of dollars to register or certify your animal. This is completely unnecessary. Any doctor can write a letter for you.

🌸  If you have other kinds of health-related expenses (vitamins, supplements, over-the-counter meds, walkers, wheelchairs, etc, etc) these may be considered medical expenses if they are written down by your doctor or listed in your medical records. (Pansy got her rent lowered when her doctor wrote down all her supplements plus her air purifier filters on a prescription pad. She then brought this paper to her housing manager).

🌸 This page on food stamps has a few tips on documenting medical expenses. This same tips would be helpful for housing: How to Follow the SNAP Health & Medical Expenses Rules

If You Have a Live-In Home Aide

🌸  If you are disabled and have a live-in home aide, in some programs, you do not need to list your aide’s name and financial information on the preliminary application. You can just write “live in aide” and they will let you know if they need more info.

🌸 At some point you will need to show documentation of your medical need for a home aide. Or the housing agency may contact your doctor.

🌸 If/when the housing agency is going to contact your doctor, make sure your doctor knows your medical needs and is aware to expect this form. If your doctor does not return the form, or your doctor is not aware of your need for a home aide, the request may be denied.

🌸 If your request for a live-in home aide is granted, you may apply to be on the waiting list for a two-bedroom apartment. Your rent will not increase.

🌸 Some programs have special rules for adult children. If your adult child is your live-in aide, it is possible their salary and income will be counted and they will have to pay rent.

Need More Time for a Housing Voucher?

If you have a housing voucher, sometimes it takes time to find the right landlord and right location. You do not need to go to a building that accepts Section 8. Any landlord can accept your voucher if they are willing.

Most agencies have deadlines for how much time you are allowed to find housing, or you can lose your voucher. If you need more time, you can make a disability accommodation request for more time. Make sure to make your request in writing and get a written reply.


🌸 Sally lives with her home aide Jane. Sally’s income is $1,000 per month. Jane’s income is $1,100 per month.

🌸 Sally has $50 per month in food and care expenses for her emotional support animal, plus $50 per month in medical expenses and supplements.

🌸 Sally moves into a one bedroom apartment, but stays on the waiting list for a two bedroom. Eventually Sally and Jane move into a two bedroom.

🌸 Sally’s rent is $300. Jane’s rent is free. Jane is able to provide extra care for Sally in exchange for the free rent.




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