Best bets

Legal tactics: finding public and subsidized housing. Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, 3d ed., 2009. 
Offers help with the nuts and bolts of government-funded housing programs in Massachusetts. 

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

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.

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." 

Housing choice voucher program administrative plan, Mass. Dept. of Housing & Community Development, 2014
This 600+ page book outlines policies and procedures for Section 8 tenant-based programs, including topics such as fair housing, eligibility, discrimination, etc.

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

Instituting smoke-free public housing, Federal Register, 2016.
Effective February 3, 2017. "No later than 18 months from the effective date of the rule, each PHA must implement a “smoke-free” policy banning the use of prohibited tobacco products in all public housing living units, indoor common areas in public housing, and in PHA administrative office buildings."

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. Also includes links to appendices.

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 Help
"A 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."



Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only


Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email


Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: October 7, 2020