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How to Calculate Rents

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed April 2019

Usually, rent in public housing is a percentage of your anticipated yearly income. This is called income-based rent because it is based on your income. (See Is my rent always based on my income? for other ways that rents are set.) The way that income-based rent is set is:

  • You give the housing authority information about the income you anticipate coming into your household for the coming 12 months.
  • The housing authority then subtracts certain deductions and arrives at an amount called your net income (for state public housing) or adjusted income (for federal public housing).
  • The housing authority then determines your rent based on a percentage of your net or adjusted income.

The exact percentage depends on whether you live in state or federal public housing. If you do not know whether you live in state or federal public housing, ask your manager or check your lease.

State public housing

For elderly/disabled public housing, your rent will be the following:

  • If you pay no utilities separately, rent = 30% of your net income
  • If you pay some or all utilities, rent = 25% of your net income1

For family public housing, your rent will be the following:

  • If you pay no utilities, rent = 32% of your net income
  • If you pay some, but not all, utilities, rent = 30% of your net income
  • If you pay all utilities, rent = 27% of your net income.

Federal public housing

If you live in any kind of federal public housing, you generally pay whichever is more: 30% of adjusted income or 10% of annual income.2 Most tenants pay 30% of adjusted income.3 If you pay utilities, then a utility allowance is subtracted from this monthly amount.

Find more information about rent in federal public housing at the U.S. Housing and Urban Developments (HUD) website.4


1 G.L. c. 121B, § 32; Elderly/handicapped: G.L. c. 121B, § 40(e 760 C.M.R. § 6.04(1)(a Family housing: 760 C.M.R. § 6.04(1)(b).

2 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(a)(1)

3 42 U.S.C. § 1437a(a)(1 24 C.F.R. § 5.628(a). Also see General Rent and Frequently Asked Questions on HUD’s website

4 Another useful source of information is Chapter 5 in the HUD Handbook 4350.3: Occupancy Requirements of Multifamily Subsidized Housing Program. Although this applies to HUD privately-owned multifamily housing and not to public housing, it does interpret the similar regulations.

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