How to Calculate (and sometimes lower) Rent in Section 8

Artwork: 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 subsidized housing.

Basic Calculation

If you live in this type of housing, 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%.

Disability Rules

There are many rules that can help lower your rent, raise your voucher payment amount, give you extra bedrooms, or give you other accommodations and considerations if you are disabled. Learn more: Extra Special Benefits for People with Disabilities. If you are not on Social Security disability, you may still qualify.


The disability rules also apply to seniors. See above.

Cheap Internet Programs

🌸 Internet Essentials offer $10/month internet for people who live in Section 8 HUD housing Internet Essentials.

🌸 If you are not in HUD or internet essentials is not in your area, check out AT&T Access, or contact internet providers in your area to see if they have any low income programs.

Utility Rules

If utilities are not counted in your rent, you will pay your own utilities. Here’s a few things that can help:

🌸 In many states food stamps will grant a standard utility allowance. This can increase food stamps by $0 – $300 per month, depending on the state, and depending on whether you have already reached maximum allotment for your family size. Learn more: SNAP Utilities Rules

🌸 In addition, housing authorities will grant a utility allowance when determining your rent. This can lower your rent. The amount it lowers depends on where you live and what type of utilities and source of heat you have. It usually will not cover the full cost.

🌸 You may also be able to apply for Liheap utility assistance. You can apply twice a year – sometimes three. Summer, winter, and emergency. In addition, many utility companies offer their own programs for people who are low-income. Call and ask.

🌸 If you have a live-in aide, Liheap will not count your live in aides income, so you will be more likely to qualify.

🌸 In some areas, utility companies have additional programs that will lower bills for people who are low income, and in some areas, they will lower the cost of utilities for people with special health needs.

Applying and 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 Get Approved for Affordable Housing (And every little thing that happens along the way)

Intermittent Income

🌸 Must HUD programs have special rules that they will not count money that is given intermittently or as single-time gifts. For example, if someone is paying your utilities every month, that would count, but if you inherit a bunch of money at once, this won’t count as income.

🌸 However, if you keep the money, it will start to count as a resource (see below)

Resource and Asset Rules

🌸 If you have assets, you can still apply for Section 8. Some people think you cannot, because the rules are confusing. They will only count a small amount of your assets (3%) so it will slightly raise your rent.


🌸 If you are disabled and have a Special Needs Trust or an ABLE account, this may or may not affect your rent. Learn more: Extra Special Benefits for People with Disabilities


🌸 How does everything above work when you put it all together? Meet Jane and Sally

🌸 How does rent and bedrooms work when you have a live in aide? Meet Jill and Susan

🌸 Success stories: How I Got Disability Accommodations in Affordable Housing

Exceptions: Moving to Work Programs

HUD has a demonstration project called “Moving to Work.” It is now taking place in a limited number of Housing Authorities across the country. In a Moving to Work program, Housing Authorities do not have to follow al HUD policies, and instead have flexibility to make their own policies in some areas. This means they may be able to charge more than 30% or set a minimum rent. We do not know how/if any of the Moving to Work programs will apply to people with disabilities. If anyone has more information, please comment below.

Updated February 2018. 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: 

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