Rents and payments

Four things influence how much rent a landlord in the Housing Choice Voucher program can charge for a subsidized uni

The program does not place exact limits on the amount of rent a landlord can charge, but rents must be comparable to rents for similar units in the same area.

Seattle Housing Authority establishes voucher payment standards for units of each bedroom size. This sets the maximum subsidy the agency will pay for a tenant's housing costs, including an estimate for tenant-paid utilities.

The standards are based on several factors, including HUD’s annually published Fair Market Rent (FMR) for the Seattle/Belleuve area, local vacancy rates, and other local Seattle market information.

Learn more about voucher payment standards

Voucher payment standards include an amount for utilities that impact how much the rent can be. 

Seattle Housing Authority establishes utility estimates for the cost of utilities not included in the rent. They are based on the typical cost of utilities and services paid by energy-conservative households that occupy housing of the same size and utility type in the same locality. Estimates are not based on an individual family's actual energy consumption and do not include non-essential utility costs, such as telephone or cable.

 Utility Estimate Schedule


Tenants may pay between 30 percent and 40 percent of their adjusted gross income for rent and utilities when they initially lease a unit. If they find a unit where the rent plus the applicable utility estimate equals Seattle Housing Authority’s voucher payment standard, they will only pay 30 percent of their income for housing costs.

They may choose to pay more if the unit is in a location or has amenities they want, but they may not pay more than 40 percent of their income. This "40 percent affordability cap" applies only at initial leasing. After the first year, the only regulatory restraint on the rent is the rent reasonable calculation, and families may choose to spend more than 40 percent of their income on rent and utilities.



Rent negotiation

You may be asked to lower rent before the first lease is signed because rent must be both affordable and reasonable during the initial lease term.

  • Rent is affordable if it does not require the tenant to pay more than 40 percent of his or her monthly adjusted income for rent plus utilities. 
  • Rent is reasonable if it is comparable to similar units in the same area. 

After the first year the tenant may pay more for rent and utilities, so Seattle Housing Authority will only ask to lower rent if it is not reasonable.

The program does not have specific rent limits. However, rents must always be comparable to similar units in the same area, and the tenant may not pay more than 40 percent of their monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities during the initial lease term.

Rent increases

If you can document that the current rental rate for a subsidized tenant’s unit is below market, Seattle Housing Authority may be able to approve an increase. Learn more

Who pays for what?

Tenants pay what is called the total family share, which is between 30 percent and 40 percent of their monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities. "Monthly adjusted income" is the household’s gross income, after certain HUD-mandated deductions and allowances are taken into account.

Seattle Housing Authority pays the housing assistance payment, which is the difference between the cost of rent and utilities and the total family share. The agency does not actually pay tenants' utilities. Instead, a utility estimate—an average amount the tenant can expect to spend on utilities for his or her unit—is included when calculating how much subsidy the tenant will need each month.

If the tenant's total family share is greater than the utility estimate for tenant-paid utilities, the tenant pays the utilities called for in the lease, and also pays a portion of the rent to the owner. If the tenant’s total family share is less than the utility estimate for tenant-paid utilities, Seattle Housing Authority will pay the entire contract rent to the owner and also assist the tenant with a payment allocated for their utilities.

If you are a landlord participating in the program, Seattle Housing Authority will initiate your first payment after all paperwork from you and the tenant is received. Your first payment will be prorated to the date the unit passed inspection. Subsequent checks or direct deposits will arrive on the first of every month.