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Program Overview

Rent and utilities

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) issues vouchers (also known as housing subsidies) that cover part of monthly rent for privately-owned apartments or homes. If accepted, your household pays the portion of rent and utilities not covered by the voucher.

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.

In general, households pay at least 30 percent—but no more than 40 percent—of monthly adjusted income for rent and utilities. (You may pay more than 40 percent of your income after the first year.) Monthly adjusted income is your household's gross income, after certain deductions and allowances are taken into account.

Number of bedrooms Market Rate Voucher payment standard Affordable Housing Voucher payment standard
Studio $1,050 $949
1 $1,225 $1,017
2 $1,525 $1,219
3 $2,220 $1,772
4 $2,620 $2,130
5 $3,010 $2,450
6 $3,400 $2,769

Starting July 1, 2016, these voucher payment standards were made effective for all new families receiving vouchers and all families that move with a voucher from one unit to another. Annual reviews effective September 1, 2016, and later, will include the new voucher payment standards.

If rent and utilities exceed the voucher payment standard, you may pay the difference, so long as the total amount paid for rent and utilities does not exceed 40 percent of your monthly adjusted income during the first year.

Voucher payment standards are based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Fair Market Rent for the Seattle/Bellevue area, adjusted for the local Seattle market.


Seattle Housing Authority provides eligible households with a voucher. A voucher-holder may then sign a lease and rent a unit from any landlord eligible to participate in the program.

The initial term of the lease is generally 12 months. In most cases, landlords use the same lease for voucher-assisted tenants as others. If you want to start using a voucher for a unit in which you have been living, a new lease is required.

Seven steps must be completed during the leasing process:

  1. You find a suitable unit
  2. You give required documents to the landlord
  3. The landlord completes and returns the documents
  4. The documents are reviewed and tenancy is approved
  5. Seattle Housing Authority inspects the unit
  6. The unit passes inspection
  7. You and the landlord sign and return all necessary forms to Seattle Housing Authority

Learn more about the leasing process.

Reviews & inspections

Once a year, Seattle Housing Authority checks to make sure that participating households are still eligible for the program and recalculates the amount of voucher assistance they receive. The agency checks the household's income and family composition. If any of these items change, the voucher amount is adjusted accordingly.

Seattle Housing Authority also inspects each subsidized unit at least once a year to ensure compliance with Housing Quality Standards. The annual inspection generally takes place at about the same time as the annual review. The unit must pass the inspection for voucher assistance to continue.

Learn more about reviews & inspections in the Residents section of this website.


After your initial lease term expires, you can move to a new unit and use your housing voucher there. If you want to move, you must re-submit income and household information and receive a new voucher.

You must lease a unit in Seattle for at least one year before you may take your voucher to any other city or jurisdiction in the country with similar or lower housing costs.

Learn more about moving in the Residents section of this website.

Terminating assistance

You can terminate assistance at any time by voluntarily giving up your voucher. If this happens, the lease remains in effect, and you will be responsible for paying the entire rent amount.

Seattle Housing Authority may terminate your voucher when your income increases to the point you are no longer eligible, or because you have not fulfilled the program's obligations. Assistance will also be terminated if the landlord evicts you in accordance with the lease and state and local law.

Seattle Housing Authority may stop making assistance payments to the landlord and terminate their contract if they breach their contract, violate the lease, or do not abide by other terms of the program.

Learn more about termination in the Residents section of this website.

Accessibility accommodations

Exceptions to voucher payment standards and portability requirements may also be requested in some cases as a reasonable accommodation due to a disability, with documentation.

If a participating household includes a person with disabilities, the household may request a current list of potentially available accessible units known to Seattle Housing Authority.

Learn more about accessibility accommodations in the Residents section of this website.