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Seattle Housing's treatment of Utility Allowances to change

Three public meetings will address changes

SEATTLE — March 2, 2010 — Tenants who rent housing in Seattle Housing Authority’s High Point, NewHolly and Rainier Vista communities are invited to meetings at each of these locales this month to hear about changes Seattle Housing is making to its way of dealing with small increases or decreases in utility rates, changes that affect the "utility allowances" it grants tenants and participants in these communities.

The meetings are scheduled as follows:

Rainier Vista: Tuesday, March 9 from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m.
McBride Court Community Room

High Point: Wednesday, March 10 from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m.
Neighborhood House Community Center

NewHolly: Thursday, March 11 from 6:00 until 7:30 p.m.
The Gathering Hall

Others whose rent is subsided by Seattle Housing Authority are welcome to attend these meetings. Interpreters will be on hand at all three meetings.

Every year, and at other times if rates go up or down by a certain percentage, Seattle Housing recalculates utility allowances for participants and tenants whose rent it subsidizes. Seattle Housing provides these allowances, which are meant to ease households' burdens of having to pay for rent and utilities, to tenants who pay their own utility bills.

Management plans now to make mid-year adjustments to utility allowances only when rate changes cause an adjustment of more than $10 per month for most households. When the utility allowance goes up, the rent portion goes down, and vice-versa.

Under federal regulations, Seattle Housing's tenants, with few exceptions, pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent (including utilities). In calculating rent, Seattle Housing provides a utility allowance to tenants whose rent does not include utilities.

Utility allowances are designed to make it possible for low-income households to keep enough money back from their payments to Seattle Housing to cover their utilities bills. The allowance is expected to apply to all resident-paid utilities—heat, lights, gas, water and sewer. Utility allowances vary with the size of the unit and the types of utilities used by the household. Allowances for large units, which tend to use more utilities than small units, are higher than allowances for small units.

The goal of utility allowances is to keep the total amount a household pays for rent and utilities fairly constant at around 30 percent of monthly income.

Before utility allowances are changed, Seattle Housing Authority will send every affected household a letter setting out specific calculations that apply to their unit.