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Social Security and Housing

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities who have limited income and resources.

Social Security Rules Related to Housing

If you receive SSI, it’s important to know that The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) has rules about money you receive from other people to help you pay for “shelter expenses,” also called “room and board.” The SSA requires people to contribute their “fair share” toward their shelter expenses. These expenses include rent or mortgage, utilities, and food. If people do not pay their fair share for these expenses, the SSA will deduct the “presumed maximum value” of the portion of shelter expenses you do not pay. This can happen if someone else pays all or part of your shelter expenses or if you do not contribute your fair share to the shelter expenses where you live.

Why is your living arrangement important?

Your living arrangement is where you live, if you live alone or with someone else, or if you live in an institution, such as a nursing facility. Your living arrangement also depends on who pays for your food and shelter. Whether you live alone or with someone else, the SSA needs to know who pays for your food, shelter and utilities.

Is a Home an Asset?

The SSA does not consider everything you own as an asset. For example, a house you own and live in is not considered an asset when determining your financial eligibility for benefits. In addition, a vehicle you use for personal transportation is not considered an asset. This link provides more information from SSA on the assets that are and are not counted when calculating your financial eligibility for benefits.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program pays benefits to you and certain family members if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and recently enough, while paying Social Security taxes on your earnings. The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are different, but the medical requirements are the same. If you meet the non-medical requirement criteria, monthly benefits are paid if you have a medical condition that’s expected to last at least one year or result in death.

The SSDI program does not consider your living arrangements when calculating your benefits. Your living arrangements will have no impact on your benefits.

Retirement Income

How Retirement Benefits Work

Social Security replaces a percentage of your pre-retirement income based on your lifetime earnings. The portion of your pre-retirement wages that Social Security replaces is based on your highest 35 years of earnings and varies depending on how much you earn and when you choose to start benefits.

When you work, you pay taxes into Social Security. The SSA uses the tax money to pay benefits to:

People who have already retired.

People who are disabled.

Survivors of workers who have died.

Dependents of beneficiaries.

The money you pay in taxes isn’t held in a personal account for you to use when you get benefits. Taxes are used to pay people who are getting benefits right now. Any unused money goes to the Social Security trust fund that pays monthly benefits to you and your family when you start receiving retirement benefits.

Your living arrangements have no impact on your Social Security Retirement benefits.

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Accounts and Paying for Housing

ABLE account funds can be used to pay for your housing costs, including rent, mortgage, property taxes, utilities (gas, electric, water sewer), condo fees, home maintenance, etc. If you receive SSI, The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not consider ABLE account funds used for housing costs as income IF the funds are withdrawn from your ABLE account and spent on housing costs in the same month.

Here’s an example: You rent an apartment and the rent is due on the first of the month. You want to pay your rent for April. It takes a few days for the funds to transfer from your ABLE account to your checking account.

How can you use your ABLE account funds and not be late in paying your April rent? If you withdraw the funds during March and pay your rent on March 31, the money you withdraw from your ABLE account is not considered income. You withdrew the money and paid your rent in the same month. You also paid your rent early. That will make your landlord happy!

One more good thing to know – ABLE account funds are not considered assets when you apply for a “means-tested” program. A “means-tested” program is one that looks at your assets and income to see if you qualify financially. Typically, these programs have an upper limit on the amount of income and/or assets you can have to qualify. Means tested programs include SSI, most federal, state and locally-funded rent subsidy programs such as the DDA Rent Subsidy Program, the federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) program, the HUD 811 Project Rental Assistance program, the Weinberg Apartments program, Moderate Income and Disability Income Housing Unit programs in Howard County and the Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit program in Montgomery County.
It’s also important to note that the HUD Guidance on ABLE accounts state that “The entire value of the individual’s ABLE account will be excluded from the household’s assets. This means actual or imputed interest on the ABLE account balance will not be counted as income.”