What is counted as income?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed April 2019

In state public housing, the income that the housing authority counts when calculating your rent is called gross income. In federal public housing it is called annual income. While the rules about what is counted are slightly different for state or federal public housing, there are also many similarities.

Both state and federal public housing

Both state and federal public housing count the following as income:

Income from work

Wages, salaries, tips, overtime pay, commissions, fees, and bonuses.

Income from business

Net business income if self-employed or if income is from a business or profession.

Income from assets

Income from property, such as rent, dividends, interest, capital gains, or trust income. For more information about assets, see Are assets counted as income?.

Social Security or Veterans Affairs (VA) disability periodic payments

Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), or Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance (RSDI)or VA disability benefits.


One big difference between state and federal housing is if you receive a deferred amount from SSI or SSDI (generally in a lump sum), it is counted as income in state public housing, but not in federal housing. VA deferred disability benefits are now treated by HUD the same ways as SSI and SSDI See How are lump sums counted?.

Government benefits

Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) or Emergency Assistance to the Elderly, Disabled and Children Program (EAEDC) benefits.

Payments to replace earnings

Unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, disability insurance or benefits.

Periodic, regular allowances

Alimony, separate support, child support.

Other payments

Annuities, retirement funds, pensions, death or disability benefits, insurance policies, or other similar types of periodic payments.

Regular gifts or contributions

Regular gifts or contributions from someone not living in the apartment.

State public housing only

If you live in state public housing, the following additional income is counted when determining your rent:

Lottery and gambling winnings

Foster care payments

Principal from a trust

Taxable capital gain

Federal public housing only

If you live in federal public housing, the following additional income is counted when determining your rent:

Severance pay

Imputed welfare income for certain sanctions

The amount of income not received by a family as a result of a welfare benefit reduction for certain sanctions. See Is my rent always based on my income?


760 C.M.R. § 6.05(2).

24 C.F.R. § 5.609; see generally HUD’s Public Housing Occupancy Guidebook, Chapter 10. The Guidebook also includes worksheets and forms that housing authorities can use to calculate rent and verify income. You can find this Guidebook on HUD’s website at: www.hud.gov/offices/pih/programs/ph/rhiip/phguidebook.cfm.

State: 760 C.M.R. § 6.05(2)(b Federal: 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(b)(2). If you own your own business it is very important to set up good financial records. Your housing authority may be able to refer you to free services that can help you do this.

State: 760 C.M.R. § 6.05(2)(e Federal: 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(b)(4), (c)(14).

Note: Federal and state public housing programs have different definitions of "regular gifts" and "contributions." State: 760 C.M.R. § 6.05(2)(f) (regularly recurring contributions or gifts must occur at least twice a year for two or more years or must exceed $2,000 once a year for two or more years in a row Federal: 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(b)(7) (contributions and gifts can be received from organizations as well as from persons). For example, in federal public housing, if someone who is not part of the household pays the telephone bill every month, that would be considered a regular contribution.)

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