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Home Ownership and Supplemental Security Income

Posted on:11/21/2011
Besides satisfying income criteria, persons eligible for SSI must meet resource requirements. These requirements prevent persons with large amounts of assets other than a home from receiving SSI payments.


Persons eligible for SSI can own a home and still receive cash assistance. Since October 1976 there has been no limit on the value of a home an individual can own and still qualify for welfare payments. Before 1976 the SSI limit was $25,000 ($35,000 in Alaska and Hawaii).


Under previous welfare programs, the limit tended to be lower, and many states required a lien against real property as a condition of eligibility. This probably discouraged many needy people from applying for financial assistance. SSI abolished lien requirements for federal payments but permits state-administered programs to impose them for entitlement to state supplements.

A home is the asset most frequently reported by persons who became eligible for welfare after the advent of SSI. Because the implicit income from home ownership is not included in countable income in determining SSI payments, homeowners may receive much larger incomes than non-homeowners but still receive identical SSI payments.

SSI resource exclusions favor home ownership and discourage holding wealth in cash or other financial assets. Thus, some households have an incentive to become eligible for SSI payments by transferring excess assets to friends or relatives, purchasing a house, or modernizing their present residence. There is an additional incentive to purchase or modernize a home if a state makes optional supplementary payments for special housing needs and permits the individual to will the house to heirs without reimbursing the state for the supplementary payments.

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