Massachusetts housing assistance: Emergency and long-term help

This guide covers how to get help with housing in Massachusetts. Learn about shelter, eviction support, emergency help for housing costs, rental vouchers, public housing, and affordable apartments & homes.

This guide is for people who need help with housing. This includes: 

  • Emergency shelter for people facing homelessness 

  • Assistance and guidance for people facing eviction 

  • Short- and long-term support paying for rent and utilities 

  • Resources for finding affordable housing (Public Housing, rental vouchers, and finding affordable rents or mortgages)  

Note: This guide is for MA residents who are looking for housing help. Landlords should refer to the landlord guide for housing help in MA.

Overview Visual of Housing Supports

Table of Contents

Emergency shelter

For individuals

This is a list of shelters serving anyone who is at least 18. Call to make sure the shelter has a bed available. 

For teens

This is a list of emergency housing options for young adults across Massachusetts. 

For families & people who are pregnant

Note: Ask for a free interpreter and translation services at family shelters or over the phone when applying. 

Your family may be eligible for the EA Emergency Family Shelter program if: 

and if the reason you need shelter is one of these: 

  • No-fault fire, flood, natural disaster, condemnation, or foreclosure 
  • Fleeing domestic violence (current or within past 12 months) 
  • No-fault eviction 
  • Your children are exposed to a substantial health and safety risk 

HomeBASE: A program to help families eligible for EA Emergency Family Shelter find stable housing

If your family is eligible for the EA Emergency Family Shelter program, you may also be eligible for HomeBASE, which covers expenses such as: 

  • First and last month’s rent & security deposit for a new apartment 
  • Monthly financial assistance to help pay rent in MA 
  • Furniture, moving expenses, and utilities
  • Overdue rent and/or utility payments

With HomeBASE, a case manager will help you find community supports for education, job training, finding a job, and childcare.

Eviction help

“I received a Notice to Quit. What do I do?”

In Massachusetts, a landlord must send a tenant a Notice to Quit before filing a summary process action, or eviction case. The Notice to Quit is a legal document that tells you that your tenancy is being terminated on a specific date. A Notice to Quit is not an order to leave your home on the date of the tenancy termination. 

IF YOU RECEIVE A NOTICE TO QUIT, YOU DO NOT NEED TO IMMEDIATELY LEAVE. You're allowed a legal proceeding where you can defend against the eviction. ONLY a court order can force you to leave your unit.

If you have received a Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent, you should immediately contact your landlord to try to work out a payment plan. You might also want to get legal help or mediation.

    Get legal help and mediation 

    "Mediation" is a process where a neutral third party (the mediator) will help you and your landlord resolve your differences based on what's important to you both. This might be especially important if you are applying for RAFT (emergency help with housing costs assistance), since you'll need your landlord's help to complete a RAFT application.

    • Massachusetts Community Mediation Centers offer free pre-court mediation between landlords and tenants for lease disputes and mediation for eviction cases in district courts.
    • Legal Resource Finder connects you to information for legal aid programs, nonprofits, government agencies, and court programs that may help you for free or at a low cost. 
    • You may be eligible for free legal help if your household income is under 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and if you are a tenant and your landlord has given you a Notice to Quit. 
    • Contact your local Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC). Each HCEC has staff that can help connect you to resources, information, and services.  
    • The Commonwealth’s Court Service Centers are available to all court users without legal representation. There are no income or immigration status requirements for the Centers. 

    Understanding your rights

    Housing for victims of domestic violence

    The Department of Transitional Assistance has domestic violence specialists who help domestic abuse victims get benefits and services. Reach them at 877-382-2363 and:

    • Listen to the options and press the number for your language
    • Select 2 for a domestic violence specialist
    • Enter your 5 digit zip code

    After hours, call SAFELINK at 877-785‐2020 (TTY line at 877-521-2601).

    The Department of Children and Families Child-at-Risk hotline is 800-792-5200

    You can report elder abuse online or call (800) 922-2275.

    Emergency help with housing payments (RAFT)

    The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program provides up to $7,000 per household within a 12-month period to help you keep your current housing or to move. RAFT can cover overdue rent, utilities, moving costs, and mortgage costs.

    You may be eligible for RAFT if: 

    • You’re at risk for homelessness or housing instability 
    • Your income is less than 50% of your city/town's Area Median Income (AMI)
    • Your income is less than 60% of your city/town's AMI and you are at risk of domestic violence 

    Check your town’s Area Median Income

    Get help paying rent (housing vouchers)

    “Voucher” programs pay part of your rent. You can use some vouchers anywhere as long as the unit meets health and safety standards (tenant-based or mobile vouchers). Other vouchers are for specific housing units (project-based vouchers). 

    (Federal) Section 8 vouchers 

    The Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers Program (HCVP) pays a portion of your rent each month. You can use some vouchers anywhere as long as the unit meets health and safety standards. Other vouchers are for specific housing units. 

    The amount of money paid depends on your family’s income. You’ll pay roughly 30% of your income in rent.

    You may be eligible for Section 8 if your family’s income is less than 50% of the median income for where you live. The federal government publishes a tool to help you figure out what the median income is in your area. 

    Section 8 participants may also be eligible for the Family Self Sufficiency Program (FSS). Participants sign a five-year contract that outlines their goals & describes the work-related activities they’ve agreed to do. At the end of the contract, participants receive funds that they can use to buy a home, start a business, go back to school, and more. 

    Massachusetts Rental Vouchers Program (MRVP) 

    You may be eligible for this program if your income is up to 80% of the Area Median Income. Check your town’s Area Median Income

    You can apply through the Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Programs (CHAMP) website

    Alternative Housing Vouchers Program (AHVP): For people under 60 with a disability

    Some state housing authorities offer vouchers to people under 60 years old with a disability. You may be eligible if you make up to 80% of your area’s median income. Check your town’s Area Median Income

    You can apply through the Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Programs (CHAMP) website

    Apply for Public Housing

    Public housing is available for low-income family, elderly, and disabled people in 240 towns in Massachusetts. These units are owned by Local Housing Authorities (LHAs).  

    Eligibility

    You may be eligible for public housing if your household earns less than 80% of the area median income. Here are the income limits for Public Housing.

    There are also programs for families where at least one member is older than 59 years old or is disabled. 

    How to apply

    There are 2 types of public housing: 

    • Single-family or single-occupant Public Housing
    • Congregate (shared) housing

    To apply for single-family or single-occupant Public Housing:   

    Application for single-occupant Public Housing English  Español  简体中文  Kreyòl ayisyen  Português  Русский  Tiếng Việt

     

    To apply for Congregate (shared) Public Housing, fill out one of these application forms below and mail it to your LHA:

    You should mail an application to each of the Local Housing Authorities that you want to apply to.

    Find affordable housing (to rent or buy)

    Renters

    Massachusetts partners with housing developers to support affordable rental homes. Here are a few places to search for affordable rent:

    • HousingNavigatorMass is a nonprofit organization where you can filter your search for “rent-based on income.” This means your rent will be capped at a portion of your income, usually 30%.  
       
      Older adults who want to live in an older adult community can check the “age-restricted” filter. Otherwise, the tables under “Unit Information” in the listing pages show more details on exact income levels and rent.  
    • MassHousing maintains a list of affordable units for rent. You can filter for Section 8, accessible,  elderly, and workforce housing (housing for people who make a little too much to qualify for subsidized housing)
    • You can also contact your local non-profit housing developer about the affordable housing units that they own and operate  

    Home ownership

    Help with utility costs

    Note: You can also use RAFT for short-term, emergency utility payments.

    The Massachusetts home energy assistance program (LIHEAP) helps eligible households pay their winter heating bills. Eligibility is based on:

    • Household size
    • Your total household income

    You can be either a homeowner or renter. For renters, you can still apply if the cost of heat is included in your rent.

    Contact for Massachusetts housing assistance: Emergency and long-term help

    Phone

    Please listen for phone menu options for EOHLC divisions

    Address

    Main Office
    100 Cambridge St, Suite 300, Boston, MA 02114

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