How Bedrooms Work (HUD Housing)

Art: Robin Mead

Every housing program has its own policy on how they determine bedroom size. You might be living in one area and have three bedrooms, then move to the next county and suddenly only have two! Or the opposite can happen.

Here’s how to figure out how many bedrooms your family is eligible for and what you can do if you don’t have the bedroom size you need.

Finding Your Policy

If you want to see how your bedroom size is determined, you need a copy of the bedroom or occupancy policy for your housing program. It might look something like this: Sample Occupancy Policy.

You may be able to find this on the website of your housing program. If you don’t see it, see if there is an “administrative plan” is posted on their website and look in that. Or you can contact them and ask them for a copy of the occupancy policy or administrative plan.

Reader’s Tip: Some administrative plans are 400 pages! If the administrative plan is long, I highly recommend using the find feature on your browser. (Ctrl+f or command+f). I’d search words like ‘sex’ ‘gender’ ‘reasonable accommodation’ ‘adult’ ‘minor’ and ‘occupancy’. These are all common words used in the section to describe the rooming requirements. You can also use those search words on Google and include your housing authorities name.

Ways Bedrooms Go Up and Down

Change in Household Size

If more people are added or removed from your household, some housing programs will automatically increase or decrease your bedrooms. Some will not. Depends on their bedroom occupancy policy.

Moving (Low Income Buildings)

If you switch to a building owned by a different landlord, they may have a different bedroom policy. Sometimes moving ONE BLOCK can make your bedrooms go up or down!

Moving (Vouchers)

If you port your voucher to a different housing authority, they may have a different bedroom policy. Sometimes moving ONE BLOCK can make your bedrooms go up or down!

Disability Accommodations

If someone in your household is disabled, and this causes a need for an extra bedroom: Five Ways to Request an Additional Bedroom

Policy Changes

If your housing program changes their occupancy policy, this may change your approved number of bedrooms.

Some Housing Authorities are switching to a rule called “two heartbeats per bedroom.” This means for every two people there is one bedroom no matter what their ages or genders are. Some families are getting their number of bedrooms reduced because of this rule.

For Housing Vouchers Only

How Many Bedrooms Did I Get?

If you have a voucher, the number of bedrooms your family is currently approved for should be listed on your voucher. It may also be called “units.” This tells you how many bedrooms you will get so you know what number to look up when figuring out how much rent your voucher will pay for.

Can I Rent a Place with More Bedrooms? 

Yes. If your house has more bedrooms than your voucher is approved for, you can still rent it, as long as the rent is within the amount you are allowed to spend.

There are a few catches: Can I Rent an Apartment That’s Larger Than My Voucher?

Can I Rent a Place with Less Bedrooms? 

Yes. But there is a catch. If your house has less bedrooms than your voucher is approved for: The amount of your voucher will go down to a lower payment standard, so you will need to look for a less expensive place.

Example 1:

Sally has a three bedroom voucher. She rents a place with four bedrooms. This is no problem, as long as she stays within the payment standard and utility allowance for three bedrooms.

Example 2:

Sally has a three bedroom voucher. She rents a place with two bedrooms. This is causes a problem. She can only rent this place if she goes down to the payment standard and utility allowance for two bedrooms (also, she will need to check for overcrowding. In some situations the Housing Authority will not allow a rental if there are too many people in too few bedrooms).

What Happens When I Get Approved for an Additional Bedroom?

You will need to transfer apartments or more to an apartment with more bedrooms. (Unless you are already in a place with more bedrooms, then you can just stay still!). The amount of your voucher will also go up: How Much Will My Housing Voucher Raise if I Get Approved for An Additional Bedroom?

Thanks for Reading

🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Affordable Housing Survival Guide

🌷 Facebook Group: HUD and Section 8 for People with Disabilities (and family)

🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.

🌷 Page Updated: 8/1/19

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12 thoughts on “How Bedrooms Work (HUD Housing)”

  1. I have had a housing choice voucher as a first-time homebuyer for the past 16 years. I am selling my home due to financial reasons and will rent an apartment with lower rent than my home mortgage. My housing authority said I will lose my voucher all together when I sell my home. I have been told that each housing authority can set there own rules in this regard. Now I will have to find an open waitlist and apply for a new Housing Choice Voucher all over again for an apartment I need to rent. It doesn’t seem fair or right to have to start all over again, especially since I am still low income, on disability, as well as now I am a senior also. Has anyone ever experienced the same situation? What do people think about this or know a way around this?


    1. I have not seen the rules stating that each Housing Authority can set their own rules for this. If that rule exists, then you would have the option to request that they make an exception to the local policy as a disability accommodation, if someone in your household is disabled and needs this support because of their disability.

      It is my impression that typically you would need to reapply for new assistance. However, you would be able to keep any profit from the sale of the home, plus still get additional assistance in the future, which could be considered a very favorable situation for many people.

      Another option, if you or someone in your household is disabled, is To look at why your current mortgage is outside of what you can afford, and see if there are any reasonable accommodations that can assist you with this. Two accommodations that apply in some situations and can raise the value of a voucher are: request for additional bedrooms and requests for exception to payment standard. You can find out more on this page:


  2. I have a family of 5. Me and my husband, 7 yr old son, 6 yr old daughter, 2yr old son. I have a 3 bedroom which would work fine but my problem is that the housing market has gone wayyyy up and there aren’t any 3 bedroom that will accept vouchers. I have found 2 places that have 4 bedrooms and will accept a voucher but can’t afford to go from $1800 requested rent to my $1500 approved. All 2 bedrooms are either way to small for me to fit bunks and a twin bed in the kids room, in the worst most unsafe part of town, or the ones big enough are over my voucher amount because of the market dramatic increase. I don’t have time to port as I need to move by September 15th. What can I do to get bumped just so I don’t end up homeless?


    1. The regulations above are only for people with disabilities. If someone in your household is disabled, and has special housing needs related to their disabilities, you might be eligible for an additional bedroom, or for an exception to payment standard which would allow you to have a higher voucher. You can follow the links above to see how to apply for this.


  3. Hello thanks for reading my question I have a 2 bedroom voucher me 39 son 11 and son 4 I sent a reasonable accommodation with a dr note for my son with a learning disability speech iep and dietitian from his dr to request a extra bedroom my question is can I get a 3 bedroom voucher if there’s only 3 of us can this request be approved for a 3 bedroom voucher 😞


      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question I’m not too sure where to find that out I’m with the Long Beach Housing Authority In California


        1. Hi trisha,

          Is this your housing authority? This is from a few years ago so you can look to see if it’s still accurate.

          Occupancy policy is included in this. Unfortunately, looks to me like long beach will put up to three people in a one bedroom.

          If more than one person in the family meets the definition of disabled, you can submit more than one bedroom request, and then you might need to also submit documentation on why someone can’t sleep in the living room. More info on how to do this is here:

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Does anyone know what family members can be added? Im 29 my father is 68 I wanted to move in but not as live in aid.


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