Poor by Design: SSI Asset Caps

Shelterforce: Poor by Design: SSI Asset Caps (August 2, 2023)

Homebuyers need significant savings to cover a downpayment and closing costs, and homeowners frequently need to replace broken appliances, make major home repairs, or retrofit a home to make it more accessible due to a disability.

For many disabled people, however, there’s a big barrier that prevents them from building up the sorts of savings required to handle these expenses (and many other non-housing ones as well): they rely on Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, which has strict asset caps. SSI provides income to low-income recipients who are disabled or are above 65. If you receive SSI, you cannot accumulate more than $2,000 in assets, or $3,000 for couples. Though there is an exception for a home that you own and a vehicle, it’s extremely difficult for recipients to save the funds to acquire those things.

Tracey Gronniger, managing director of economic security at Justice in Aging, a nonprofit that addresses poverty among older adults, says that SSI asset limits can be confusing. “I think that SSI is one of the more complicated programs that exists in terms of figuring out how you qualify, how you maintain your eligibility, why you may or may not be seeing your benefit reduced or terminated,” Gronniger says.

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