The rules on this page do not apply to all forms of low income housing. These rules apply to Housing Vouchers, Public Housing, and apartments funded by HUD. Most rules also apply to USDA rural rental assistance.
How Rent Works
🌸 When you live in subsidized housing, you pay part of the rent and the Housing Authority pays the rest.
🌸 The amount you pay is called the “tenant payment.” For example, let’s say you rent a house for $1000. If your tenant payment is $100, then you pay $100 and the Housing Authority pays $900. If your tenant payment is $500, then you pay $500 and the Housing Authority pays $500.
How Much Is My Tenant Payment?
🌸 The tenant payment will be calculated to be 30% of your household income.
🌸 For example, if your income is $700 per month, then you pay roughly $210 including utilities. Or roughly $100 plus utilities.
🌸 That’s the simple formula. If you want the more exact details: How Much Rent Do I Pay?
🌸 But wait! In certain situations, your share of rent may be even lower than 30%. On the other hand, in some situations, it can be higher! Below is a list of policies that can cause your tenant payment to go up or down.
30 Policies That Lower Your Share of Rent
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 Occassional 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.
HUD doesn’t define what “sporadic” or “temporary” means, but some housing programs have created a definition in their administrative plan.
Three: Automatic Deductions
Your Housing Authority will automatically lower the amount of rent you pay if you have dependents (works out to about $10 per month per dependent). You also get a deduction if you are disabled (again, $10).
Four: Medical Expenses
If you are disabled or elderly, 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 Other People You Live With
If you are disabled or elderly, you can deduct medical expenses for your children or for others in your household…. even if those people are not disabled or elderly. Weird! Who Gets Medical Expense Deductions? (Tip: Not Who You Think!)
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. Learn more about How to Request an Additional Bedroom
Eight: If Your House Has Too Many Bedrooms
If the number of bedrooms on your voucher is lower than the number of bedrooms in your house, this can raise the amount of rent you pay. Four reasons this can happen (plus four possible solutions) Four Reasons Why Number of Bedrooms Can Be Different
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.
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.
Ten: If You Can’t Get Discounted Internet
If you can’t sign up because you are already a customer, don’t give up hope, look here: $10 Internet & The 90 Day Waiting Period
Eleven: Live-in Aides
If you are disabled and need help, a live-in aide can live with you. 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. In most cases, this is given automatically when the aide is approved. The amount of rent you pay will not change. How Do Bedrooms Work For Live In Aides?
Thirteen: Live-in Aides & Other Programs
If you have a live in aide, there are may be other rules and programs that can help you. There are special regulations for utilities, food stamps, taxes, and more. Ten Secrets 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. The goal of PASS is to 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.
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.
If your child has unearned income, this will count. For example, child support and SSI will count.
Eighteen: Removing Fees
If you requested a disability accommodation and this led to you paying higher rent or having extra fees: Can a Landlord Charge for My Accommodation?.
You may be able to request removing fees for accommodations such as paying rent late, having an emotional support animal, breaking lease early, or getting a designated parking spot.
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.
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: Animals
If you have a service animal, or an emotional support animal, in most cases, you cannot be charged pet fees or pet deposits: Sample Letters and Guides (Assistance Animals).
Twenty Four: 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 Five: 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.
Twenty Six: Minimum Rent
Some buildings charge a minimum rent – often $25 or $50. Even if you have no income, you may still be charged a minimum. In some cases, you can request a hardship exemption: Letter Requesting No Minimum Rent
Tip: If your rent payment is $0, the minimum rent may be being deducted from your utility check. You may not be aware it is happening. If you find out it is happening, you can request the exemption.
Twenty Seven: 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
Twenty Eight: Gifts into ABLE Accounts
Gifts into an ABLE account do not count as income, even if they are ongoing, regular contributions. https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/OCHCO/documents/2019-09pihn.pdf
Twenty Nine: Disability Assistance Deduction
This applies if one person in the house is working and one person in the house is disabled. Can be the same person or different people! Learn more: Disability Assistance Expenses Deductions (HUD Housing)
Thirty: Disability Accommodations
In some cases, reasonable accommodation requests can lower your share of rent. This can happen if your rent is above payment standard or if your voucher has less bedrooms than your home: Disability Accommodations that Can Lower Your Rent
Bonus Way #1
If someone in the household has developmental disabilities and receives care through a Medicaid or IHSS program: How to Exclude Income from IHSS and Medicaid Homecare
Bonus Way #2
If your income drops, at any point, you can: Request to Change Your Rent
If that doesn’t work: If Your Income Lowers and Your Housing Worker Refuses to Lower Rent
Still Too High?
There may be other reasons why your rent is too high. If you can figure out the reason, you might be able to figure out a solution.
Special Rules for Assets
🌸 Your assets will also raise your rent. But only a very tiny amount! The HUD rules for assets are quite generous. Here’s how it works: HUD will multiply your countable assets by .06%. That’s a factor of .0006. Then they will count it as income and apply the rule counting 30%. Then they divide by 12 months. Unless you are a millionaire, it is unlikely to have a great impact.
🌸 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 – Special Accounts for people who first became disabled before age 26. Do not count as income or assets.
Rent Above 30%
There are a few situations where the rent you pay might be more than 30% of your income:
🌸 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.
🌸 Your housing authority changes their policy on bedroom size or payment standards in your area dropped down.
🌸 The number of bedrooms in your apartment is different than the number of bedrooms on your voucher.
🌸 In some cases, reasonable accommodation requests can address these issues: Disability Accommodations that Can Lower Your Rent
🌸 You are in a Moving to Work Housing Authority These Housing Authorities do not follow the same rules written above.
🌸 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
🌸 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)
🌸 Income Inclusions & Exclusions for Vouchers (HUD policy)
🌸 Calculating Income and Rent for Vouchers (starting on page 13)
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