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Affordable housing in Boston

Affordable housing in the City of Boston
guide

Affordable housing in Boston

Last updated 8/15/17

Everyone should have access to a home, regardless of their income or background. You can find information below about affordable rentals and homes in the City.

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What is affordable housing?

Types of housing

There are three types of affordable housing: subsidized, income-restricted, and vouchers. There are different applications and requirements for each. You may qualify for some types of housing, but not for others. The best program for you will depend on your income and household needs.

Area Median Income

Many housing programs use Area Median Income as the standard to determine income eligibility. This is often referred to as "AMI." AMI is a measure of income set by the federal government. It's used by housing programs across the country. Find out how to calculate your AMI.

Other requirements

To take part in certain housing programs, there may be other criteria, including asset limits or requirements. You may also qualify for special housing programs based on your age, a disability, or veteran status.

AFFORDABILITY EXAMPLE

Affordable Housing Options

Types of housing
Screenshot from the Boston Housing Authority website
Subsidized Rental Housing

The rent for a subsidized housing unit is linked to your income. In a subsidized unit, you pay a set percentage of your income each month.  This is ideal for households with no or very low incomes. Find out your eligibility.

Screenshot from the MassHousing website
Income-restricted

In most cases, the rent for income-restricted housing is linked to the unit. You pay the same set amount each month. This is true even if your income changes. Income-restricted housing is often calculated using the Area Median Income.

People outside Mosaic building
Voucher programs

Rental vouchers help low-income households rent private market apartments. Vouchers give you a set amount to go toward rent. You pay for any rent over that amount. The only voucher program accepting applications right now is the VASH program for veterans.

Income-restricted rentals

Metrolist

Through Metrolist, you can search through a listing of affordable rental units and properties for sale. You’ll find current listings for lotteries, re-sales, and other properties. You can also sign up for a weekly email newsletter, which will include new affordable opportunities

Inclusionary Development Program Rental Units

This program creates and maintains affordable housing for middle- and moderate-income households. Depending on the home, there are different requirements. The Boston Planning & Development Agency runs this program.

Interested in an income-restricted rental?

To apply for a newly developed income restricted unit, look out for lottery announcements via Metrolist and BPDA housing listings. Pay close attention to application instructions and deadlines. Submitted and approved applications are entered for a lottery, facilitated by the Office of Fair Housing and Equity. Applicants selected in the lottery will be contacted for further screening before an offer is made.

Typical steps for income-restricted rentals
  1. Apply. Contact the agent or department listed on an advertisement for details and deadlines. You need a new application for each lottery. There isn’t a centralized list.
  2. Prescreening. Applications will be reviewed make sure you’re eligible for the property.
  3. Lottery Selection. Applications are randomly drawn from the pool, creating a lottery list. Applicants can qualify for certain preferences that may move their applications up or down on the list.
  4. Final screening and certification. Applicants at the top of the lottery list are then screened and certified to confirm their eligibility.
  5. Housing offer. After certification, applicants are notified if they are picked for the rental unit.

Private market tips

You may be able to find housing that is affordable for you in the private market with a little creativity, planning and flexibility.

  • Be prepared. Make sure your paperwork and finances are in order.
  • Calculate your monthly expenses. Find out exactly what you can afford.
  • Take steps to improve your credit. Check the City of Boston's Office of Financial Empowerment!
When you’re looking for a rental, consider these ideas:
  • Rent with roommates.
  • Rent close to public transportation. You’ll save or cut car costs.
  • Start a rental at “off-peak” times. If you can, avoid starting on September 1.
  • Ask friends, neighbors, and your social networks about upcoming housing opportunities.
  • Be flexible. Consider broadening your search area and criteria.
  • Apply to as many opportunities as you can. Follow-up if you don’t hear from anyone.
  • Try to negotiate a lower rent, if possible.

Buying affordable homes

Neighborhood Homes Initiative

We use city-owned land to create affordable homes for middle-class homebuyers. The homes are:

  • priced between $250,000 - $400,000, and
  • are affordable to households with combined income between $60,000-$100,000.

These homes are subject to a 50-year re-sale restriction. We sell the homes to qualified homebuyers through a lottery. You must meet income limits, pre-approval requirements, and have enough money saved up.

Neighborhood Homes requirements

Inclusionary Development Program

Aside from rental units, you can also find affordable homes through this program. There’s a list of properties on the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s website. These homes are for middle and moderate-income households. Each property has different requirements and preferences.

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Please keep in mind

Affordable homes are deed restricted. This means there is a limit to the equity that you can earn with the property.