Housing Resources for People with Disabilities

Links to information or support around housing for people with disabilities

For most housing issues, people with disabilities will use the same approach as everyone else. 

On this page you will find:

  • The standard resources that everyone should use for common housing topics
  • Tips addressing common concerns for people with disabilities
  • Specific resources and programs specifically for people with disabilities.

For more general information on services available for people with disabilities, we recommend contacting MassOptions or your local Center for Independent Living.

Table of Contents

Emergency housing: homeless or at risk

See Housing assistance: emergency and long-term help for information on emergency shelters, eviction help and emergency help with housing payments. 

Note that emergency shelter options depend on whether you are an individual or a family. There are not additional shelter options available because someone has a disability. However, families or pregnant people living with certain medical conditions may not have to wait as long for a spot in a family shelter (see waitlist prioritization).

The Housing Court has a Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP), which is a homelessness prevention program for individuals facing an eviction as a result of behavior related to a disability.

Affordable housing

A person with a disability who needs affordable housing uses the same resources as a person without a disability: Housing assistance.

Do I get priority if I have specific needs or am about to lose my current housing?

It is important to understand that being a person with a disability does not put you higher on the housing waiting lists by itself. You will use the same application form as everyone else and if you have certain accessibility needs, you can specify this in your application.

However, affordable housing programs may offer "preference or priority" for applicants that meet certain eligibility criteria. If you meet any of these criteria, that may shorten your wait for housing or rental assistance. Ask about the priorities and preferences to see if any apply to you. Read more about homeless priority and tips on priorities and preference in waiting lists.

Housing with additional services

Some people need additional services in their housing.

  • Many services can be provided wherever you live (such as personal care, housekeeping)
  • There are many privately run homes that provide services.
  • Assisted Living homes are expensive and generally for seniors.
  • People who are receiving comprehensive services (for example from the Department of Developmental Services or the Department of Mental Health) may have group living options available through those services.
  • There are a few public housing options that come with built-in services: Congregate Housing and Supportive Housing.

Congregate Housing

Congregate Housing is a special type of public housing for seniors and people with disabilities where you share a living space (roommates). Some Congregate Housing programs have coordinators who help build community and make sure the living environment is stable. They may help you access community services, manage issues between residents, and plan social events. This is a program organized by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs. You can’t apply for Congregate Housing in CHAMP (where you apply for other public housing). Instead, you’ll use the congregate housing listing to find a location where you want to live and contact them directly.

Supportive Housing

Some public housing also offers supportive services, where a coordinator helps residents access community resources, arrange meals, plan social activities. This is a program organized by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs.

Transitioning from institution to community

If you are currently housed in an institution and are looking to live in the community instead, you can contact your local Center for Independent Living for support planning the transition.

Housing accessibility

Finding accessible housing

When searching for housing you should be aware of how any physical or health conditions may impact you in using particular features in your home, with particular focus on the entrance and the bathroom.

If you are applying for affordable housing, you will use the standard application process and indicate any accessibility needs in the application or through priorities and preferences.

The Accessible Housing Registry is a database that allows users to search for accessible features in market rate and subsidized housing including wheelchair accessible units, ground floor/elevator units, and units with roll-in showers.

Note that housing providers have obligations under Fair Housing laws to allow reasonable modifications to your housing to make it accessible for you. They do not have to allow all requests and who pays for the modification depends on the circumstances (see disability rights in housing for more information). So if an apartment basically meets your needs, but would require small modifications like the installation of grab bars, this may be something you can achieve through requesting a reasonable modification.

Home modification funding resources

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission provides a useful listing of resources for funding to perform modifications to make a home more accessible to a person with a disability.

Supports finding housing

The shortage of affordable housing can make a housing search hard. It is also important to understand that there is very limited assistance available to help with applications or housing search. Some organizations may offer advice or support on how you can find housing but it is unlikely they will find housing for you.

Here are our suggestions on making the most of the supports that are available, and what you want to make sure you do.

Inform yourself about your options

Some Centers for Independent Living run workshops on finding affordable housing.

Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC) are regional agencies that provide up-to-date information about affordable housing in Massachusetts. Contacting your local HCEC helps you make sure you know about the programs and resources available that could help with your housing goals.

You can use the links on this page to get more information on the different types of affordable housing, housing with services or accessible housing. It will help to get clear on any critical requirements you have, which programs you are eligible for. Then it is up to you to make the applications.

It can be overwhelming. Remember, you don't have to do everything at once. You may start by applying for one or two programs. You can always come back and look for others to apply for later on.

Know what you need to do

If you have applied to specific affordable housing programs or projects, you will usually have a long wait. During that time you may change your contact details. Make sure you keep all the programs you applied to up-to-date with any changes in contact details.

If you receive an email or message about your application or position on the waiting list, make sure you read it and answer any questions: if you do not, it is very possible to lose your place on a waiting list.

If you are granted a transferable voucher (such as a Section 8 voucher), you will be given a certain period to find housing on the open market and it is up to you to find it (although if you face difficulty because of your disability, you can request an extension).

If you have applied to some housing programs and are frustrated with the wait, revisit all the housing assistance options to see if there are any more you want to apply to. Make sure you have found out about any priorities and preferences that might be appropriate for you.

Support

If you are simply overwhelmed by how to navigate the process of applying for or finding housing, then you can reach out to your local Center for Independent Living to ask if they provide any supports. Some centers run regular housing workshops. Others may be able to offer peer support as you work through your housing search.

Rights

Depending on the type of issue, there may be different laws that apply, and different avenues for addressing the problem. Here are some key types of law in housing:

  • Tenant-landlord law covers the basic rules about what is allowed for leases, deposits, notice to enter, keeping the unit habitable, evictions.
  • Disability rights law requires landlords, realtors and home-owner associations to not treat people worse than others because of a disability.
  • Consumer protection laws are about getting what you paid for.

Tenant rights (including eviction and state sanitary code)

All applicants/residents/tenants have certain rights under landlord-tenant law.

An applicant/resident/tenant with a disability does not have more or less rights under these laws because of their disability.

Be aware of your basic tenant rights about habitability, landlord access, rent, deposits and leases.

The Housing section of MassLegalHelp has detailed guidance on tenants’ rights, eviction, housing discrimination, and more. This is written or reviewed by staff from legal aid programs and attorneys. It explains your rights and gives practical suggestions for how to protect yourself. We strongly recommend reading this if you have a tenants' rights issue.

The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities has information on getting legal help and mediating with your landlord.

For questions about state sanitary code, you should contact your city/town’s Board of Health.

Disability Rights

Most housing is covered by Fair Housing laws. These require landlords and homeowners' associations to not discriminate against people because of a disability. This broadly means two things:

  • Housing providers should not treat people with disabilities worse than they treat people without disabilities.
  • If a resident is facing an obstacle to equal use of their housing, because of their disability, the housing provider should allow reasonable accommodations/modifications. 

Learn more about disability rights in housing. You can also contact the Massachusetts Office on Disability for a consultation to help you understand how to navigate your disability rights.

Consumer rights

Consumer protection laws cover homeowners who engage with contractors to make home improvements such as accessibility modifications. If you have an issue with a contractor you have hired or worked with, file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

Last updated: June 10, 2024

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