Housing

Rental Benefits and Work

This page discusses the income rules for:

Other programs may also use these same rules or rules that are similar.

Rent Based on Your Income

The key thing to know when you get help with rent from these programs is that how much you pay for rent is directly related to your total income, including earnings from work, benefits you get (like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and other unearned income.

When you get benefits from one of these housing programs and move into a place, you’ll have to pay about 30% of your household income in rent. For example, if you make $1,000 a month, you may have to pay $300 each month for rent. The program pays the rest of the apartment’s rent. You may end up paying a little less if you qualify for credits related to your disability or medical expenses, or if you have children and you pay for childcare costs.

Note: Any money earned by a child under age 18 does not count as household income, and will not affect the rent the family pays. However, unearned income is counted, including SSI, FIP, or child support.

Generally, you keep paying the same amount of rent as long as your income or other family circumstances don’t change. The only thing you have to do is keep your income, family information, and contact information up-to-date with the manager of your housing benefit:

  • Each year, in a process called "annual reexamination," the housing agency looks at your income and family situation again and decides how much rent you must pay in the coming year.
  • If there is a change in your income or situation between your annual reexaminations, you have to let the housing agency know. They may then do an "interim reexamination." Depending on the results of the interim reexamination, the amount you pay for rent could change.

After an annual or interim reexamination, you still pay about 30% of your income for rent, but if your income is higher than it used to be, your share of rent goes up and the housing program pays less. Note: The exact timing of when your rent changes depends on how your income changes and other factors.

Tip: If you get help paying your rent and you start making more money at work, ask your public housing authority (PHA) or your housing program if the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program might help you. With the FSS program, when your rent goes up because your earned income went up, the increase in your rent goes into a special account that you can access later to pay for something you need. Learn more about the FSS.

If 30% of your income is more than the total rent

If you make enough money that 30% of your income is enough to pay the entire rent, Section 8 housing choice vouchers won’t help pay your rent anymore – you’ll have to pay the full rent. However, if your income goes down during the first six months after you stop getting a Section 8 subsidy, Section 8 will start helping you with your rent again and you won’t have to reapply.

The rules are a bit different for public housing. If your income goes over the “low income” limit, the PHA can choose to evict you from public housing unless you are participating in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS). If your income goes up enough that 30% pays the entire rent and the PHA does not choose to evict you, at your next annual reexamination you have the choice of switching to paying “flat rent” (market rate) or staying with income-based rent. If you switch to paying flat rent and then your income drops drastically, you can immediately change back to income-based rent (you don’t have to wait for the next annual reexamination).

Earning More

With Section 8, public housing, and many different project-based housing programs, the more you make, the more rent you pay. Earned income is treated the same as unearned income, so if your earnings go up by $500 per month, your rent would go up by about 30% of that ($150 per month).

Note that if your income changes, the timing of when your rent changes depends on different things like:

  • When your last annual reexamination was done
  • If your income went up or down
  • How much your income changed, and
  • What type of income changed.

The bottom line: You’re better off if you earn more because your rent won’t go up as much as your earnings.

Example

Last year you moved into a project-based apartment that costs $800 per month. You used to make $1,000 a month and only paid $300 each month for your apartment. Section 8 paid the other $500 each month in rent.

Two months ago, you got a better job where you make $1,500 each month. Because you make more, the amount you pay for rent will go up to $450 and the amount Section 8 pays will go down to $350.

Even though the amount you pay towards your rent is higher, you still have more money left over after paying your rent. When you made $1,000 a month from your job and paid $300 a month rent, you had $700 a month left over (minus taxes). Now that you make $1,500 a month from your job and pay $450 a month rent, you have $1,050 a month left over (minus taxes).

See How More Earnings Might Affect Rent
If you have subsidized housing and the amount you pay for rent is based on your income, use this tool to see how making more money could affect your rent.
This tool looks at rent, earnings, SSI, and SSDI. It doesn’t adjust for other benefits. If you have any questions, talk to a Benefits Planner.
No one new can get an Earned Income Disregard (EID) starting 1/1/2024

The Earned Income Disregard (EID) was a rule that helped some people with disabilities living in public housing, or who had a Section 8, HOPWA, or other qualifying voucher. With an EID, a person who got qualifying housing benefits whose earned income increased (because they got a job or started getting paid more at work), wouldn't have all of their earnings counted when their rent was calculated. An EID would help a person for up to 24 months (two years).

People who started getting help from an EID before 1/1/2024 and haven't yet used up their 24 months will continue to get help from it until they finish their 24 months. No new people can get an EID, but they may qualify for the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program instead.

Note: The "See How More Earnings Might Affect Rent" tool assumes that you do not have an EID.

Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program helps families who get help with their rent from programs funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

It helps families whose income goes up because of work. When the family income goes up and the program starts paying less for rent, the FSS program takes the money that it saves on rent and sets that money aside for the family. The family can use these savings for purchases, such as the down payment on a home or a car.

The FSS program can help people who get help from programs like:

Check with your public housing authority (PHA) or with the administrator of your housing program to see if the FSS can help you. Learn more about the FSS program.

Example
Clyde and Bertha live with their two children and have $2,000 in monthly income. Due to their low income, they qualify for the Section 8 housing choice voucher program. With the voucher, they pay about $600/month in rent (30% of $2,000), even though their apartment costs $1,800/month. Section 8 pays the remaining $1,200/month.


Bertha starts doing some childcare work and the family income goes up to $3,000 each month. Because her earnings went up, after their annual reexamination they have to pay about $900/month as rent (30% of $3,000), while Section 8 pays the remaining $900/month for the family's apartment. This means that Section 8 is paying $300 less per month than it used to pay and Clyde and Bertha are paying $300 more.

Because the family is part of the FSS program, the PHA that administers Clyde and Bertha's Section 8 benefits takes that $300 extra that they are paying each month and sets it aside for the family. A year later, there is $3,600, which Bertha can use to make the down payment on a car.

Learn more