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What is affordable housing?

Last updated: 8/8/17

What is affordable 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.

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Neighborhood Development
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Boston, MA 02108-2501
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Affordable housing information

You can learn more about affordable housing, and your options, on our affordable housing page.

Affordable housing in Boston

Types of housing

SUBSIDIZED

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.

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.

VOUCHERS

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.

Subsidized Housing Options

Subsidized
Screenshot from the Boston Housing Authority website
Boston Housing Authority

The authority owns and operates public housing units for:

  • low-income people
  • the elderly, and
  • people with disabilities.

There are units in neighborhoods throughout Boston. The Boston Housing Authority website has information on eligibility requirements and the application process.

Please keep in mind: there’s usually a long waitlist. At times, the waitlist is closed.

Screenshot from the MassHousing website
MassHousing

MassHousing finances the construction and preservation of affordable rental housing in Massachusetts. The program also keeps a list of its projects with affordable housing.

Through MassHousing, the state offers a tax incentive for those who want to create affordable homes.

People outside of Mosaic building
Privately owned subsidized housing

With these properties, private owners receive subsidies for renting to low-income households. Most often, these are multi-family homes. You must apply to each property separately, through the property’s management company.

The Boston Housing Authority has information on available project-based properties and mod-rehab properties. You can also find more property listings through MassHousing.

Area Median Income

What is AMI?

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. Your eligibility depends on how your household income compares to other households in the Boston area. By knowing your AMI, you can find out if qualify for a certain programs.

To find out your AMI, you need to:
  1. Add up all of your household members, including all adults and children.
  2. Determine your Gross Household Income. This includes the income before taxes of all household members who are 18 and older. You also need to include earned wages, benefits, and pension and support payments.
  3. Find a program for which you may be eligible based on your household size and income limits.

HOUSEHOLD INCOME VS. AMI

Other requirements

To take part in certain housing programs, there may be other criteria, including:

  • asset limits or requirements
  • immigration status
  • criminal record background check
  • housing history, including eviction from subsidized property, and
  • priorities and preferences for certain programs.

You may also qualify for special housing programs based on your age, a disability, or veteran status.

AFFORDABILITY EXAMPLE