There are 3 types of low rent housing:

  • Public housing is owned and run by a local housing authority.
  • A voucher is rental assistance to help people find an apartment in the private market.
  • Multifamily subsidized housing is owned by a private landlord or corporation that has received government subsidies to provide affordable housing.

Best bet

 A guide to obtaining housing assistance, Dept. of Housing and Community Development.
This reference guide is for Massachusetts residents seeking information on housing for low and moderate income families and individuals. Includes information on state aided public housing, rental assistance, homelessness prevention, resources for victims of domestic violence, and home ownership opportunities.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.23B, § 25, § 26, and § 27 Department of Housing and Community Development

MGL c.121B Housing and urban renewal

Massachusetts regulations

760 CMR Department of Housing and Community Development

Federal laws

42 USC 1401-1440 Low Income Housing

42 USC 13663 Ineligibility of Dangerous Sex Offenders for Admission to Public Housing

Federal regulations

24 CFR § 5 HUD Program Requirements and Waivers

24 CFR § 247 Evictions from subsidized and HUD housing

24 CFR §§ 965.651-965.653 Smoke-free public housing

24 CFR §§ 800-999 Section 8 and Other Housing

Selected case law

Commonwealth v. Nelson, 74 Mass. App. Ct. 629 (2009)
A Boston Municipal Court judge erred in finding the criminal defendant guilty of trespassing, where the defendant was found to be passing through the halls of Boston Housing Authority property in order to reach a tenant's apartment at the tenant's invitation, and there was no evidence that the defendant had lingered or loitered in the hall.

Garcia v. Dept. of Housing and Community Development, 480 Mass. 736 (2018)
Vacates a preliminary injunction that had directed the DHCD to use motels as emergency shelter for people with approved ADA accommodation requests whose request could be satisfied by a motel placement. 

Web sources

2022 HUD housing resource and rental assistance guide for Massachusetts, HUD.
This guide is designed to help you navigate some of the key programs that are funded by HUD that involve rental assistance, homeownership, homelessness, housing counseling, and fair housing.

Affordable housing, Mass.gov. 
Find information about public housing, rental assistance programs, emergency housing, and other state resources to help you find safe and secure shelter.

Applying for Emergency Assistance shelter: A guide for families, Mass. Law Reform Institute and Rosie's Place, October 2015. Also available in Spanish.
"Emergency Assistance is the shelter system for families in Massachusetts..." Pregnant women and families with children are eligible...You have to show you are homeless because of domestic violence, fire, flood or natural disaster, or certain kinds of eviction that were not your fault." There are several more requirements to be eligible. The guide explains these requirements and how to apply for shelter.

Housing choice voucher program administrative plan, Mass. Dept. of Housing & Community Development, October 2020
This 400+ page book outlines policies and procedures for Section 8 tenant-based programs, including topics such as fair housing, eligibility, discrimination, etc.

Housing Navigator Massachusetts
"We develop technology that promotes housing equity and ... brings transparency to the affordable housing market. Working with owners and public sector partners, we’ve built a database of income-restricted rentals from all over the state. Search for housing here."

Housing search guide for people with disabilities in Massachusetts, Chapa.org
A guide for disabled renters in Massachusetts, providing step-by-step assistance for your search

Income limits by household size, Mass Housing and Community Development, April 2021.
Low-income households are typically eligible for the state-aided public housing if they earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income. There is no asset limit for families seeking to get into public housing, the Section 8 voucher program, or HUD federally subsidized multifamily housing.

Mass Legal Help Housing booklets and information:

  • Finding housing, Mass. Legal Help. Housing programs, how to apply, who is eligible, who has priority, waiting lists, tenant screening, challenging a denial, section 8 vouchers, immigrants and housing, reasonable accommodations.
  • Creating a Memorandum of Understanding, Mass. Legal Help"Agreements called "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) can be powerful tools for tenant groups to negotiate how to work with the housing authority on issues of concern. This booklet explains the law, what steps to take to create an MOU, and includes a sample MOU." 
  • Reasons for denial, Mass Legal Help. Answers questions about when you can be denied public housing. 
  • Rent in public housing, Mass. Legal Help"This booklet will give you answers to questions about how rents are set in both state and federal public housing in Massachusetts."
  • Transfers in public housing, Mass. Legal Help. "A booklet for tenants in Mass. about how to request a transfer to another apartment and what to do if a housing authority requires you transfer."
  • Understanding your lease in public housing, Mass. Legal Help. "A know your rights guide for public housing tenants in Massachusetts"
  • Using your public housing grievance process, Mass. Legal HelpA booklet for tenants in Mass. about the grievance process, including worksheets to help you prepare for a grievance hearing.
  • What types of public housing are there? "There are different types of public housing programs in Massachusetts. Some are for families. Some are specifically for seniors and people with disabilities. Some are funded by the federal government, and some by the state government. A housing authority may offer different types of public housing. For this reason, it is important to figure out what type of public housing you are applying for or live in and who funds it to figure out what your rights are."

Public housing occupancy guidebook, US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
235-page guide to public housing covers civil rights and nondiscrimination requirements, eligibility for admission, waiting list administration, applicant selection criteria, occupancy guidelines, processing applications, verification standards, tenant selection and assignment plan, leasing requirements, income and program rents, transfers, annual reexamination of income and family circumstances, interim rent adjustments, utilities, community service and self-sufficiency, pet policies, general public housing lease requirements, grievance procedure, and domestic violence. Updates to chapters here.

Smoke-free public housing, US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
Includes Guidebook for landlords, a checklist, and information for residents on health and quitting smoking.



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Last updated: April 12, 2022