Frequently Asked Questions
Below are questions and answers on the final rule "Changes
to the Admission and Occupancy Requirements in the Public Housing
and Section 8 Housing Assistance Programs," published on March
III. Rent (24 CFR 960.253)
A. Choice of Rent
B. Flat Rent
C. Ceiling Rent
A. Choice of Rent (24 CFR 960.253)
Q1: Must a newly admitted tenant be given the choice of paying
a flat or income-based rent?
A1. Yes, PHAs must offer new admissions a choice of paying a
flat rent or income-based rent at the time of admission.
Q2: If a PHA does an interim change based on an increase in income
(which does not qualify for an income disregard) that would result
in the family paying an income-based rent that is higher than
the flat rent, is the PHA required to give the family a choice
in rent at that time?
A2: A PHA is only required to offer a family a choice of rent
annually, except in financial hardship cases described in 960.253(f).
Q3: Can a family elect to pay the income-based rent at an annual
reexamination if it exceeds the flat rent?
A3: Yes, it is the familys choice.
Q4: How many times can a public housing family request to switch
from a flat rent to an income-based rent because of hardship?
A4: A public housing family can request to switch from a flat
rent to an income-based rent one time in between regular examination
periods. The resident must then wait until the next reexamination
to switch back to a flat rent.
B. Flat Rents ( 24 CFR 960.253(d))
Q1: What are flat rents based on?
A1: The flat rent is based on the market rent charged for comparable
units in the private unassisted rental market. It is equal to
the estimated rent for which the PHA could promptly lease the
public housing unit after preparation for occupancy.
Q2. What must a PHA consider in determining flat rents?
A2. The PHA must use a reasonable method to determine the flat
rent for a unit. To determine the flat rent, the PHA must consider
the location, quality, size, unit type, and age of the unit, as
well as any amenities, housing services, maintenance, and utilities
provided by the PHA.
Q3: When a family chooses the flat rent, is the utility allowance
then subtracted from the flat rent to calculate the rent paid
by the family? Or is the rent just the flat rent?
A3: A flat rent is just that - a flat rent. There is no consideration
of a utility allowance for a family electing to pay a flat rent.
The flat rent must be based on a comparable unit as discussed
in Q2/A2. Therefore, when considering comparable costs , the PHA
must consider utility costs. Example: if a PHA is using a comparable
unit that rents for $400 and the tenant in that unit is expected
to pay utilities (that average $50/month), then the PHA should
use $450 as the flat rent for if its units assuming its rent includes
Q4: May a PHA use the imputed debt service figures previously
established by HUD to establish a system of flat rent?
A4: No. Flat rents must be based on the market. The imputed debt
service figures were issued by HUD in 1989 in connection with
the establishment of the old ceiling rents. These numbers would
not reflect a market rent. PHAs may retain ceiling rents that
were authorized and established before October 1, 1999, for a
period of three years from October 1, 1999. After this period,
the PHA must adjust ceiling rents to the level required for flat
rents. After October 2002, the PHA may retain ceiling rents as
part of its income-based rent policy but must absorb any cost
associated with doing so. (See 960.253 (d))
Q5: Does the non-citizen rule apply to families who choose flat
A5: Yes, the non-citizen rule is applicable to everyone. 24 CFR
Part 5, 960.253 states that "Mixed families (those that include
both citizens/eligible immigrants and noncitizens/noneligible
immigrants) will not have assistance prorated if they choose to
pay the flat rent, and the flat rent is greater than the public
housing maximum rent as referenced in 24 CFR Part 5.520."
If the flat rent is less than the public housing maximum rent,
rent is prorated in accordance with the method described in 24
CFR Part 5.520 (d), however, it is expected that in most cases
the flat rent will be greater than the public housing maximum
rent, so proration will not be necessary.
Q7: What are the record keeping requirements for a PHA with respect
to flat rents?
A7. The PHA must maintain records that document the method used
to determine flat rents, how flat rents are determined by the
PHA in accordance with this method, and what flat rents are offered
to families under this method.
C. Ceiling Rent (24 CFR 960.253)
Q1: If a PHA opts to retain ceiling rents that were authorized
and established prior to October 1, 1999, for the allowed 3-year
period in lieu of establishing flat rents, does the PHA still
have the option of verifying income as infrequently as every 3
A1: No, the PHA must still verify the income annually if they
opt to retain ceiling rents that were authorized and established
before October 1, 1999, for a period of 3 years in lieu of establishing
Q2: Can a PHA continue to use ceiling rents as a cap on the income
based-rent in addition to having flat rents?
A2: A PHA can continue to have ceiling rents as a cap on the
income-based rent. PHAs may retain ceiling rents that were authorized
and established before October 1, 1999, for a period of three
years from October 1, 1999. After this period, the PHA must adjust
ceiling rents to the level required for flat rents. (See 960.253
(d))or absorb any costs associated with retaining lower ceiling
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