What is the shelter deduction and how is it calculated?

The SNAP rules allow you to deduct shelter expenses that exceed half of your net income, but not a dollar for dollar deduction of shelter costs. This is called the “shelter deduction.” 106 C.M.R. § 364.400(G).  

Example:  Lauren’s shelter expenses are $700 per month, but her net income after other deductions is $1,500 per month. Lauren will not get any shelter deduction. That’s because half of her  net income ($750) is more than your shelter expenses of $700.

The SNAP shelter deduction is complicated but important. After Section 8 and public housing, it is the biggest source of federal assistance to low-income households based on their housing needs.

Remember, shelter costs may be self-declared by the household unless questionable. See What proofs do I need and how do I get them to DTA?

Two types of shelter deduction:

  • Regular shelter deduction: The current shelter deduction is capped at $504 per month for households that do not include an elder, disabled adult or disabled child.
  • Elder/disabled shelter deduction: If the household includes at least one person who is elderly (age 60+) or is disabled, there is no limit or cap on the shelter deduction.  

Allowable shelter expenses  106 C.M.R. § 364.400(G)(1)

  • monthly rent paid (or owed) if you are a tenant, or the amount you are responsible for if you sublet or share an apartment;
  • mortgage, including payments on the principal, interest, legal fees, home improvement loans (even if you are behind in your payments);
  • property taxes and homeowner insurance (even if zero mortgage);
  • trailer payments and parking fees;
  • the cost of repairs to your property (a new boiler, new roof, replacement of windows, etc.) needed as a result of a fire, flood, severe storms or other natural disaster and not reimbursed by insurance;
  • shelter expenses for a home not occupied by you if you are planning to return to it and are not otherwise renting it; plus
  • the appropriate standard utility allowance (SUA) for your household. See What is the standard utility allowance and what is H-EAT? Actual utility costs and heating costs are not allowed as they are covered under the SUA.

How DTA calculates the shelter deduction – four steps

■    Step 1: Calculate your preliminary net income – gross monthly income after subtracting the earned income deduction, standard deduction, any dependent care , child support payments, and allowable medical costs .

■    Step 2: Calculate the shelter deduction by adding your non-utility shelter costs (rent, mortgage) to your standard utility allowance (SUA).

■    Step 3: Divide your preliminary net income in half.

■    Step 4: Subtract the result in Step 3 from the result in Step 2. The result is your excess shelter cost. If the answer is zero or less, you do not get a shelter deduction. If the answer is more than $504, you can deduct only $504 unless the household includes an elderly or disabled person.

Example: Carl works party time and earns $1,500 per month. He lives with his wife Cindy and their child. He pays $100 per month in child support for a child who does not live with him. The family pays $500 per month in rent, and pays for heat and utilities.

$1,500       Gross earned income of Carl (including child support)

-    300       20% earnings deduction from gross

-    155       Standard deduction for household of 3

-    100       Child support deduction

$    945      Preliminary net income

                  Shelter deduction calculation

                  $   500       Rent

                  +   621       SUA

                  $1,121       Shelter expenses

                  -   473        One-half prelim net income

 $  648        Shelter expenses


-    504       Maximum shelter deduction (capped)

$   441 NET INCOME for Carl’s family (preliminary net income minus max shelter deduction)

DTA Policy Guidance

Online Guide Sections: SNAP > Expenses and Deductions > Household Expenses > Shelter Expenses >

Additional Guidance
  • SNAP clients who own their homes entitled to total incurred cost of mortgage, homeowners insurance, property taxes and condo fees as shelter costs. Fact of no mortgage obligation does not mean household has no shelter costs. Transitions, March/April 2015, Quality Corner.
  • Mortgage or rent payments still included as shelter costs even if household is in arrear and cannot make payments, but household cannot claim arrearage payment for back rent/mortgage if previously deducted while getting SNAP. Transitions Hotline Q&A (Feb. 2010).
  • Shelter costs paid by others (e.g., relatives, friends) are not deductible shelter expenses. Transitions Hotline Q&A (May 2004).
  • Condominium fees are allowable shelter costs. Transitions Hotline Q&A (January 2000).
  • Rent or utilities paid in advance may be deducted in the month when they would have been due. USDA Food Stamp Program Regional 04-05 (Northeast Region).
  • Only the mortgage amount billed is countable, even if household pays the bank more than monthly mortgage. Transitions Hotline Q&A (October 2000).

Hide Additional Policy Guidance

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Last Updated January 2016

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
9am and 4pm