How to Calculate (and sometimes lower) Rent in HUD Housing

Art: Robin Mead

The rules on this page apply to Section 8 Housing. Many of these rules also apply to USDA apartments and some other forms of HUD and subsidized housing.

How Much Rent You Pay 

🌸 If you live in this type of housing, the amount of rent you pay will be calculated to be 30% of your household income.

🌸 So, if your income is $700 per month, then you pay roughly $210 including utilities. Or roughly $100 plus utilities.

🌸 If your income is $1,000 per month, then you pay roughly $300 including utilities. Or roughly $200 plus utilities.

🌸 But wait! In certain situations, your rent may be even lower than 30%. On the other hand, in some situations, it can be higher! Read on.

🌸 Special Note for Housing Vouchers: If you have a housing voucher, the amount of rent you pay is different than the amount of rent your landlord receives: How Much Rent Does My Landlord Get?

23 Policies that Lower Your Rent Payment

🌸 Below is a handy list of policies that will cause the amount of rent you pay to go up or down.

🌸 Some of these policies apply to everyone, but some are specifically for people with disabilities.

🌸 All the rules below for people with disabilities also apply to seniors. The rules are called “elderly or disabled” Think that you are not elderly or disabled? Don’t be so sure: Am I “Elderly or Disabled”?

One: Help with Moving In

You may face some fees when you first move in, including: copies of birth certificates, state IDs, security deposits, and utility deposits. In some cases there are programs that can assist with this. Learn more here: How to Escape Move-In Fees

Two: One Time or Intermittent Income

Must HUD programs have special rules that they will not count money that is “Temporary, non-recurring, or sporadic”. For example, if someone is giving you money every month, that would count as income and your rent will be higher. But if you inherit a bunch of money at once or if someone gives you a gift from time to time, this won’t count as income and won’t affect your rent. However, if you keep the money, it will start to count as a resource. Please check the rules for your individual Housing Authority.

Three: Automatic Deductions

Your Housing Authority will automatically lower the amount of rent you pay if you have dependents (works out to about $14 per month per dependent). You also get a deduction if you are disabled (again, $14).  

Four: Medical Expenses

If you are disabled, you can deduct medical expenses from rent calculations. Here’s How to Document Medical Expenses

Five: Other Health Expenses

A lot of things count as medical expenses. All kinds of things you never considered: What Counts as a Medical Expense?

Six: Health and Medical for Your Children or Other Household Members

If you are disabled, you can deduct medical expenses for others in your household, even if those people are not disabled. Weird!

Seven: Requests for Extra Bedrooms

In certain situations, you can request additional bedrooms as a disability accommodation. This does not actually change the amount of rent you pay, but it does give you extra bedrooms. If you have a voucher, it also gives you a larger voucher for a higher amount (increases amount landlord receives). Learn more about How to Request an Additional Bedroom

Eight: Utility Allowance

If utilities are not included in your lease, you will automatically get a utility allowance. This will lower the amount of rent you pay somewhat (maybe not enough to cover all your actual utility bills, though). Learn more about How Payment Standards Work

Nine: Internet Essentials

Internet Essentials offer $10/month internet for people who live in Section 8 or some other forms of HUD housing. It is exactly what it says it is: $10 and no strings attached.

Ten: Other Internet Programs

If internet essentials is not in your area, check out AT&T Access and ConnectAll. Here’s a list of other programs offering discounted internet and here’s another great article on How to Get $5 Internet.

Eleven: Live-in Aides

If you are disabled and need help, a live-in aide can live with you. A live in aide can be someone you hire or someone who is hired for you or it can be a friend or (in some cases) a family member. If you are in need of an aide, you can offer someone free rent in exchange for being your aide. Your aide will not pay rent and their income will not be included in rent calculations. How to Get a Live-In Aide 

Twelve: Live-in Aides & Bedrooms

You may request an additional bedroom for your aide. The amount of rent you pay will not change. How Rent and Bedrooms Work if You Have a Live in Aide

Thirteen: Live-in Aides & Other Programs

If you have a live in aide, there are many other special rules that can help you. There are special regulations for utilities, food stamps, taxes, and more. Other Benefits for People with Live-In Aides

Fourteen: Other Utility Programs

Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can lower your utility bills and will not impact your rent. Liheap is sometimes available even if the utilities are included in your rent. Other types of utility assistance (not Liheap) may count as income. Find out more about utility programs on this page: How to Be Poor in America

Fifteen: PASS Plans

If you are receiving SSI or SSDI and you participate in a PASS plan, your portion of the rent may be much lower. PASS plans can be used by people who are working, or people going to school with a work-related goal, with the goal of transition to full-time work and off benefits.

Sixteen: Student Financial Aid

Student loans do not count. Scholarships amounts used just for tuition do not count. Other types of financial aid counts in some circumstances and not others. Income regulations. In some housing programs, going to school part time is allowed, but full time would could cause someone to be ineligible for housing.

Seventeen: Children

Earnings from children under age 18 do not count.

Earnings from children age 18+ may not count, if child is full time student.

Child care expenses can be excluded from income if the child care allows a family member to do any of the following: work, look for work, participate in training or education.

Eighteen: Loans

Loans do not count as income. This includes student financial aid, loans from banks, and personal loans from family or friends (with a valid, signed loan agreement before any money is exchanged)

Nineteen: Special Program for Working

If someone in your household is working, your portion of the rent can be much lower if you participate in a self-sufficiency programs.

Twenty: Another Special Program for Working

If you are you start earning more money through work, there is a special program that can keep your rent from increasing. Earned Income Disallowance.

This program is available to people who were previously unemployed, or to people who are participating in a job training or self-sufficiency program, or to people who received TANF. For public housing, anyone can participate in this program. For housing vouchers and other HUD programs, the person working must be someone with disabilities.

Earned Income Disallowance laws: and

Twenty Two: Increased Utility Allowance

If you have a disability-related need for higher a higher utility allowance, you can request this as a disability accommodation. This will lower your portion of the rent. How to Request Disability Accommodations

Twenty Three: Gifts and Fundraising

If someone is giving you gifts or paying your bills, this may or may not count as income for HUD. Gift Rules for HUD Housing

Twenty Four: Other Kinds of Income

HUD has many other income exclusions, including Food Stamps, Liheap Utility Assistance, Americorp Payments, and a long list of (mostly obscure) other programs. Here’s a list of other things that don’t count as income.

Special Rules for Assets

Your assets will also raise your rent. But only a little! The HUD rules for assets are pretty generous. Here’s how it works:

🌸 HUD will count 3% of your assets as income. Then they will apply the rule counting 30%. Then they divide your annual income by 12 months.

🌸 Let’s take a look: You have $10,000 in assets. HUD counts 3% = $300 in income. Then counts 30% of income = $90. Divide by 12 months = Your rent raises $7 per month.

What Counts as an Asset? 

🌸 Some Housing Authorities don’t count all your assets. For example, they might not count the first $10,000. Check the rules for your local program.

🌸 Some assets are automatically excluded according to the HUD asset rules, such as personal jewelry, cars, furniture and certain types of retirement accounts.

🌸 Special Needs Trusts: According to HUD Regulations, funds in a Special Needs Trust are not counted as income or assets in most cases. However, some Housing Authorities have set up their own (evil) rules, counting them as income. Some tenants have taken their Housing Authorities to court over these rules (and won!)

🌸 ABLE Accounts – HUD has not yet established rules for ABLE accounts. Stay tuned! In the meantime, individual Housing Authorities must make their own determinations about ABLE accounts.

Rent Above 30%

There are a few situations where the rent you pay might be more than 30% of your income:

🌸 You have assets that are raising the amount you pay.

🌸 You couldn’t find a place within the price range of your voucher, so you chose a more expensive apartment and the Housing Authority is allowing you to pay the extra.

🌸 Your landlord raised your rent while you were living there, and your Housing Authority agreed to let you stay if you paid more.

🌸 You are in a Moving to Work Housing Authority These Housing Authorities do not follow the same rules written above.

Having Problems?

🌸 If you want more details on how your rent was calculated, try requesting a copy of your Family Report. Some Housing Authorities will automatically send this to you each year.

🌸 If you continue to have problems: How to Get Help or File Complaints for Housing Problems

Learn More

🌸 If you have a Housing Choice Voucher, the amount of rent you pay will be different than the amount of rent your landlord receives. Take a look here: How High Can the Rent Be if I Have a Housing Voucher?

🌸 How does everything above work when you put it all together? Meet Jane and Sally (Section 8 Rent Example)


🌸 Calculating Rent for Public Housing & Multi Family Housing

🌸 Income Inclusions & Exclusions for Vouchers (HUD policy)

🌸 Calculating Income and Rent for Vouchers (starting on page 13)

Updated February 2019. Please comment below with stories, ideas, questions or suggestions. Please let us know if any links on this page stop working. If you found this page helpful, please share it with others by pressing one of these magic little buttons: 

6 thoughts on “How to Calculate (and sometimes lower) Rent in HUD Housing”

  1. Hi and thanks for all the information. I have asked repeatedly for a written breakdown of how my share of a section 8 rent
    voucher is calculated. I have followed the formula and my rent share just does not seem right.

    My county housing worker says that this cannot be done under any circumstances and that is not something that they can prove/ verify. I can’t find an independant third party to do it either. There are no free housing help centers in my county or the one next to us.
    Any ideas as to where I can have my rent amount verified?


    1. This is the form some of our readers receive from their HAs which shows breakdown of figures:

      Perhaps you can make a written request for a copy of this form from your file?

      If they won’t give it to you, perhaps contact supervisors or HUD field office?

      Do you know if your landlord is setting the rent within payment standard. That is the most common reason why someone’s monthly payment can wind up being higher then expected.

      hope this helps.


  2. Hi,
    Great and comprehensive article. I’ve never seen this topic so clearly written about. I have a quick question. I have a section 8 voucher in NYC. I’m paying a large sum of my limited income to paying off credit card debt that was incurred due to a surgery. After paying that debt and my basic bills, there’s little left to survive on, let alone pay rent with. My portion of the rent is not calculated with debt as a factor. Is there a way that this debt could be considered by NYCHA to reduce my portion of rent?


    1. Hello.

      You’ve asked and excellent question. I believe that regular payments on past due medical bills, can count as a medical expense.

      In this case, I am not sure how you would demonstrate that the payment is for medical bills if it is going to a general credit card payment. You might be able to document and show that the bills were incurred due to medical debt?

      Even if you do get this approved as a medical expense, I should warn you that it won’t lower your rent payment dramatically. It will have a small impact.

      I will also share a link below, some of our readers have been successful in negotiating down medical debt, but if you have already paid the bill and now need to pay off the credit card, then I’m guessing it’s too late for that one?

      It also might be helpful to know that credit card companies cannot garnish your Social Security check. There is more information about this in the link below. Many of our readers report that could not pay off their medical debt, and eventually the debt just expired. Of course, if someone has other assets or income aside from Social Security then the credit card company can pursue that.

      If you are having a problem getting approved for an apartment due to medical debt, you can request an accommodation to have an exception to their credit policy by showing that the debt is related to your disability. In any kind of building that is funded through HUD, this request should be granted. For other types of private building the landlord might not granted, but maybe they will.

      Hope this helps:


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