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How to get low income housing in Massachusetts?

Getting affordable housing can be a challenge for low-income individuals and families in Massachusetts. However, there are programs and resources available to help. Here is a guide on how to apply for and get low income housing in Massachusetts.

What are the income limits for low income housing in Massachusetts?

The income limits vary depending on the program, your household size, and where you live in Massachusetts. Here are some of the main income thresholds:

  • Extremely low income – Household earns 30% or less of the area median income (AMI)
  • Very low income – Household earns 50% or less of AMI
  • Low income – Household earns 80% or less of AMI

For example, in Boston in 2023:

  • For a 1-person household, the extremely low income limit is $34,550
  • For a 4-person household, the very low income limit is $78,500

Check with your local housing authority to find the income limits for your household size and location in Massachusetts.

What are the main low income housing programs in Massachusetts?

The major programs that provide low income housing assistance in Massachusetts include:

  • Public housing – Units owned and managed by local housing authorities. Rent is subsidized based on income.
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers – Vouchers to help pay rent for private units. Participants find their own place.
  • Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance – Subsidized units in specific apartment complexes.
  • LIHTC – Private apartments with rent restrictions made affordable through Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
  • USDA Rural Development – Subsidized rentals in rural areas.
  • MassHousing – Financing for affordable housing developments and homebuyer assistance.
  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) – State-funded vouchers similar to Section 8.

How do I apply for low income housing in Massachusetts?

Here are the basic steps to apply for low income housing assistance in Massachusetts:

  1. Determine eligibility – Check that your household income is below the limits for programs you want to apply for.
  2. Find listings – Search for affordable apartments on sites like MassAccess Housing Registry, local housing authority listings, or sites like
  3. Choose programs to apply for – Select 1-3 housing programs you want to apply for from the options above based on what’s available in your area.
  4. Apply to local housing authority – For public housing and vouchers, apply through your regional housing agency. Attend briefing if voucher awarded.
  5. Apply to apartment complexes – For project-based or LIHTC units, inquire with the apartment managers about vacancies.
  6. Assemble documents – Gather all required documents like ID, social security cards, income verification.
  7. Submit applications – Complete and submit all program applications. Provide required documents.
  8. Get on waiting lists – You’ll likely need to wait, sometimes for years, for subsidized housing to become available.
  9. Respond when contacted – Respond promptly if a housing agency contacts you about an opening.

The wait can be long, so get on lists for as many programs as you can. Waiting list status can usually be checked online or by calling the housing agency. Openings can take months or years to come up.

Tips for applying for low income housing in Massachusetts

Here are some key tips when applying for income-based housing in Massachusetts:

  • Provide all required documents – Have needed pay stubs, tax returns, ID, social security cards, birth certificates ready.
  • Report changes – Promptly disclose any changes to household size, income, contact information, etc.
  • Renew on time – Submit required annual renewal documents on schedule to maintain assistance.
  • Check listings frequently – New affordable housing opportunities can open up.
  • Apply to multiple programs – Get on as many waitlists as possible – public housing, MRVP, LIHTC, Section 8.
  • Consider all areas – Look for opportunities outside just desired locations.
  • Meet deadlines – Follow-up on all appointments and due dates so you don’t lose your place in line.

With patience and persistence, affordable subsidized housing in Massachusetts can become available. Utilize local housing counselors if you need help navigating the process.

What documents do I need to apply?

When applying for low income housing in Massachusetts, you’ll need to provide certain documents as proof of eligibility. Standard required documents include:

  • Photo ID for all adult household members
  • Birth certificates or other proof of age for all household members
  • Social Security cards for all household members
  • Income verification such as pay stubs, SSI award letters, unemployment benefits, etc.
  • Tax returns for past 1-2 years
  • Bank statements
  • Asset documentation like retirement accounts, stocks
  • Hardship documentation if applicable – divorce decree, doctor’s notes, eviction notice

The housing agency will let you know a full list. Have copies of documents ready to submit with applications and at appointments. Keep copies for your records as well.

What are tenant responsibilities in low income housing?

When living in subsidized low income housing, tenants have certain responsibilities, including:

  • Paying rent on time and in full each month
  • Maintaining the unit in clean, safe condition
  • Promptly reporting maintenance issues or damages
  • Complying with the lease agreement and program rules
  • Allowing inspections of the unit
  • Reporting changes in household size or income
  • Completing annual recertifications on schedule
  • Not engaging in criminal activity

Make sure to understand all program policies. Violating tenant responsibilities can result in eviction or loss of housing assistance.

Where can I find low income apartments in Massachusetts?

There are a few ways to find listings for low income apartments across Massachusetts:

  • MassAccess Housing Registry – Database of affordable rental units at Can search by location.
  • Local housing authority websites – Most list public housing complexes and openings on their sites.
  • – National site with searchable listings at
  • Apartment guide sites – Some like let you filter by rent price to find cheaper units.
  • Property manager websites – Where companies like WinnCompanies, Peabody Properties, etc. list affordable units.
  • Craigslist – Can find rental listings marked “low income” or “Section 8” here.

Drive or walk around your desired neighborhoods and look for signs advertising vacancies too. Check frequently as new affordable opportunities do open up.

What areas in Massachusetts have the most affordable housing?

Some areas in Massachusetts with a higher inventory of affordable low income housing options include:

  • Boston – As the largest city with many low income neighborhoods, Boston has the most public housing units, project-based Section 8, and LIHTC properties.
  • Springfield – Massachusetts’ 3rd largest city also has a large stock of subsidized housing.
  • Brockton – Significant low income housing resources are available in this smaller metro south of Boston.
  • New Bedford – This coastal community with a large low-income population offers public housing and LIHTC options.
  • Lowell – Historic former mill town with ample affordable housing complexes.
  • Fall River – This part of southeast MA has income-restricted rentals and public housing.
  • Fitchburg – Smaller city but still home to many low income apartment communities.
  • Pittsfield – In western MA, this small city contains affordable rentals.

Section 8 vouchers can be used anywhere in the state if a landlord accepts them. Rural areas often have USDA subsidized complexes. Do research to locate options in your desired neighborhood or region.

What if I have a disability? Is there special low income housing in Massachusetts for people with disabilities?

Yes, there are affordable housing programs and resources for people living with disabilities in Massachusetts. Some options include:

  • Section 811 Program – Supported subsidized housing for people with significant disabilities.
  • Group homes – Residences for individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Public housing disability priority – Some units prioritized for disabled applicants.
  • Accessible affordable units – Apartments with ADA accessible features.
  • MassAccess – Accessible Housing Registry – Database of units with accessible features at

Contact your local Independent Living Center or housing authority to learn about applying for disability housing services. Reasonable accommodations can also be requested.

Are there any low income housing options if I have an emergency or need housing quickly?

If you have an emergency situation and need housing right away in Massachusetts, here are some options to try:

  • Homeless shelters – Temporary overnight shelter, often clustered in larger cities.
  • Domestic violence shelters – Short term housing for those fleeing abuse.
  • Transitional housing – Somewhat longer term supportive housing to help people get back on their feet.
  • Emergency rental assistance – Programs like RAFT can provide short term help with rent.
  • Emergency housing vouchers – Limited vouchers available specifically for homelessness, domestic violence situations.
  • Subsidized hotels – Rooms paid for on a temporary emergency basis.

Call 211 to get connected to emergency shelters and services in your local area. Have a plan for permanent stable housing after using emergency options.

What other resources besides the programs listed are available?

In addition to the major housing programs, there are some other resources available for low income housing assistance in Massachusetts:

  • Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) – Administer public housing and Section 8 vouchers locally. Help with applications.
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) – Help navigate the process of getting and retaining housing assistance.
  • Homeownership assistance – Programs like ONE Mortgage can help first-time buyers.
  • Home modification grants – Help making needed accessibility changes.
  • Homelessness prevention – Programs to avoid evictions and stay housed.
  • Rental assistance – Short term help paying overdue rent.
  • Fair housing organizations – Help with discrimination complaints.

Learn about programs you may qualify for by contacting local non-profit housing organizations and your housing authority.

What if I need help navigating the process of applying for low income housing?

If you need assistance completing applications, gathering documents, understanding eligibility for affordable housing programs in Massachusetts, there are HUD-approved counselors who can help guide you through the process, typically for free. Here are some options:

  • Contact a Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) – Over 20 across MA to assist with housing process.
  • Reach out to a housing non-profit like Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA).
  • Find a HUD-approved housing counseling agency via
  • Inquire at your local housing authority.
  • Research legal aid organizations that assist with housing.

The process can be complex, so don’t hesitate to ask for help from professionals. They can review your situation, ensure you apply for the right assistance programs, and help collect and submit application documents.


Navigating low income housing programs in Massachusetts takes research and persistence. Determine your eligibility based on income limits in your area. Identify and apply to affordable housing options like public housing, Section 8, LIHTC, and USDA properties. Get on multiple waitlists and respond promptly when units become available. Ask housing counselors for help if needed. Resources are available to help lower-income households access affordable rental housing across Massachusetts.