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New online tools to expand access to affordable housing

September 12, 2017

Neighborhood Development

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Neighborhood Development

Residents can now find a complete guide to affordable housing on the City's website.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh today launched new online affordable housing tools and an information guide to increase residents' access to income-targeted and subsidized housing, a deliverable of Boston's Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 plan. 

"We know creating and maintaining affordable housing in Boston is crucial for our residents. It's critical every Bostonian who needs affordable housing knows where to look for it, how to apply for it, and use the City's resources to help them through the process," said Mayor Walsh. "I appreciate the work the Department of Neighborhood Development, the Office of Fair Housing and Equity, and the Boston Planning and Development Agency have done to streamline our processes and information to make housing more accessible to those that need it."

Residents can now find a complete guide to affordable housing on the City's website. This new guide helps residents understand the different types of affordable housing available in Boston, including vouchers, income-restricted rentals, single-room occupancy units and affordable homeownership opportunities. It lays out in simple terms how Bostonians can apply for income-restricted housing, and explains what residents need to prepare to qualify for and apply for different types of housing units. It also consolidates various available housing search tools, including those from outside partners.  

The new affordable housing guide complements the City's revamped Metrolist, which is the City's resource for available affordable housing opportunities. The Department of Neighborhood Development's Innovation and Technology unit collaborated closely with the City's  Office of Fair Housing and Equity to bring Metrolist online, resulting in a database that users can subscribe to receive emails about property listings, lotteries and services, and search for affordable housing opportunities in Boston and the surrounding metro area. In addition, landlords, property owners, and property managers can now easily post their affordable housing listings with the City; these listings will then be distributed to Metrolist subscribers. Residents in search of housing options are encouraged to subscribe to Metrolist.

In addition, the City of Boston has also standardized and brought online its applications for affordable housing through a collaborative process including DND, BPDA, Fair Housing, DoIT, the Housing Innovation Lab and the Boston Housing Authority. In the past, applications were only available on paper and needed to be both picked up and delivered by hand. Moving the application online is expected to significantly increase the ease with which residents can apply for affordable housing opportunities and will expand the number of people who apply for these units.  

"As a realtor that helps people find affordable homes in the city, I've seen firsthand how bringing the affordable housing application online has improved access to those that need it," said John Costello, a housing specialist at Maloney Properties. "Since applicants no longer need to wait for a paper application to arrive by mail or to make time to visit the post office, we've seen the number of applications nearly triple. I want to commend the City of Boston for streamlining this process and their dedication to making Boston a more affordable place to call home."

The City has also standardized and expanded the types of documentation that are acceptable to establish Boston residency. In the past, each agency responsible for the creation of affordable housing set its own standards for proving residency. In addition, under the new standards, Boston residents who fill out the City's annual resident census will now be able to use the census as proof of residency when applying for affordable housing. This is a significant step that allows residents who might have been otherwise unable to prove their residency -- homeless families in shelter outside Boston and those ineligible to vote, for example -- to establish residency for affordable housing opportunities.

With this project, Imagine Boston 2030 is building on Housing a Changing City by increasing access to affordable housing resources and information. Other initiatives of the plan include: working to increase the overall housing supply, deploying tools to support the preservation of affordable housing citywide, putting forth an anti-displacement package that will create and preserve affordable housing, and preventing eviction, link housing and transportation and supporting homeownership. For more information included in the plan, please visit imagine.boston.gov.

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