Types of Housing Assistance and Shelter
There are many situations one can find themselves in when
it comes to needing housing.
- Requiring immediate or emergency shelter
- Requiring assistance in navigating a housing search
- Requiring financial assistance or affordable housing options
If you are currently in a situation where you do not have a place to go right now, please look under the Massachusetts Emergency Shelter section.
You may currently have a place to live but need more support in being able to pay for your living expenses or are looking to apply to a subsidized housing complex. If you fall into this category, please look under the Types of Affordable Housing Section.
If you are at a point where you are looking for support in navigating a housing search where you may already have state benefits or not, please navigate to the Housing Search Process section.
Massachusetts Emergency Shelter
If you have found yourself in a situation where you need immediate shelter, please call the Department of Housing and Community Development at (866) 584-0653
There are multiple ways to find emergency shelter throughout the state. Some cities (Boston, Worcester, and New Bedford) offer their own online homelessness resources.
You can also find a list of homeless shelters in Massachusetts at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless: https://mahomeless.org/individual-shelters/
If you are concerned with impending eviction, please contact the Eviction Prevention Hotline at (857) 415-2900.
If you are fleeing domestic violence and require shelter there are multiple resources which you can contact who will help you through the process of finding shelter, securing support for family members with you that are under the age of 18, and protecting you from your abuser.
The SafeLink Massachusetts Domestic Violence Hotline can connect you with in-state support networks and shelters. They connect you to an advocate who can, within a single call, connect you with resources in your area. To contact them, please call their hotline at (877) 785-2020
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a nationwide resource which can lead you to local agencies, but do not have as many connections as the SafeLink Hotline.
If you are specifically looking for domestic violence shelters in your area you can contact the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless at (781) 595-7570 to have one of their advocates help you get in contact with shelters.
RAFT and ERMA
Metro Housing Boston manage the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rent and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) initiatives in Massachusetts. These programs can provide up to $10,000 in order to help households keep their housing, obtain new housing, or prevent households from becoming homeless.
Eligibility for RAFT and ERMA can vary greatly between households based on income, size, and other factors. As a baseline, households must be below 80% of their area median income and they must provide documentation/proof that they are currently experiencing a housing crisis.
You can submit an application for these programs in many different languages on the Metro Housing Boston website at https://www.metrohousingboston.org/what-we-do/rental-relief-and-eviction-prevention/
Housing Search Process
- Start as early as possible
- Where you want to live?
- Top towns
- Income- how much can you afford for rent?
- Start requesting and submitting applications
- Keep track of where you have applied. Include the name of the property and the date you sent/dropped off the application
- Always confirm that the application was received
- Check the mail- many properties/housing authorities will communicate via mail, so keep an eye out for mail sent to you
- If you already have housing vouchers such as MRVPs or Section 8 subsidies you can use those on housing units that you are looking for.
- There are multiple property companies in the state which manage affordable housing developments that you can get PBV, AHVPs and other subsidies for:CHAPA
(617) 742-0820MCO Housing Services
(617) 727-5944Peabody Properties
(781) 794-1000Maloney Properties
Other Search Tools
- Local Realtors/Brokers
The Three Types of Affordable Housing
- Subsidized: (public housing) financed by MassHousing
- Income-restricted: Involves a pre-screen and final-screening; may include lottery selection.
- Vouchers: Section 8, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), Massachusetts Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)
There are different applications and requirements for each type. You may qualify for some types of housing, but not for others. The best programs for you will depend on your income and household needs.
What is State Public Housing?
- It comes in all sizes and types
- Operated by 240 Local Housing Authorities throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- CHAMP Website: Universal Application (went “live” on April 10, 2019)
- Some cities have separate applications: e.g., Boston
CHAMP Application – https://publichousingapplication.ocd.state.ma.us/
What is Federal Public Housing?
- Similar to State Public Housing it is administered by Local Housing Authorities but is over seen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- You cannot apply to Federal Public Housing through the CHAMP Application
- You can contact your Local Housing Authority or visit the HUD website to find out your eligibility.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
What is Income-Restricted Housing?
- There is a “cap” on limit on the amount of income for buyers or tenants.
- It is intended to provide affordable housing for lower income families and individuals.
- A clearinghouse for income-restricted* and affordable housing opportunities in Boston and neighboring communities.
- Help with searches for affordable units
- Income-restricted housing lists/waitlists
- Information about rental lotteries
- Has a built-in tool to find housing based on your
*Must make below a specified maximum income to be eligible
MA Affordable Housing List
- Lists affordable properties throughout MA, sorted by city
- Each property maintains its own waitlist, so need to call each individually and request an application
Rental Assistance Program
Providing financial aid to help people afford apartments outside of public housing.
The 3 largest programs are:
- The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP)
- The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
- and The Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)
Section 8 Choice Voucher
- It’s mobile
- It works almost like a coupon for rent
- Vouchers provider a certain amount of money for rent each month
- Once the voucher is issued, an individual only has a limited amount of time to find a unit (it has an expiration date)
Section 8 Eligibility
- 75% of selected households for Section 8 must have incomes within 30% of the area median income (ex. $24,800 for a family of four in Boston)
- The other 25% of vouchers have up to 50% of the median income of the area (ex. $41,350 for a family of four in Boston)
- Income limits are based on number of household members
- For households above 30% of the area’s median income must meet one of three preferences:
– Involuntarily displaced due to fire, natural disaster, government action, domestic violence, having a disability or threats due to witnessing a crime
– Living in substandard housing or being homeless
– Paying more than 50% of your income for rent for more than 90 days
- Flexibility – People can search anywhere for an apartment
- Security – The landlord knows the rent will be paid each month
- Discrimination: it’s illegal for landlords to discriminate against people with vouchers, but it happens.
- Waitlists: The sooner you get on a list, the better
Section 8 Centralized Application
Section 8 DHCD Applications
Section 8 Project Based Subsidies
- Shorter waitlists, sometimes (than mobile vouchers)
- Rent is flexible – goes up or down with income
- Some of the units are located in new buildings where some of the units are affordable and some are market rate.
- The subsidy stays with the building; when you move out, you no longer have the rental assistance.
Section 8 Project Based Subsidies Application
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
- Provides families and households with tenant- and project-based rental subsidies.
- The tenant-based voucher known as Mobile can be used for any housing unit that meets the state sanitary code.
- The project-based vouchers are assigned to a specific unit or development and cannot be used on other kinds of housing. If a tenant moves, they forfeit the housing subsidy.
- MRVP’s are issued locally through housing authorities or non-profit housing agencies.
- Households are eligible if they do not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income.
Applications must be submitted through a local housing authority; you can access the form in English at:
Applications in different languages can be accessed at:
Massachusetts Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)
- Provides rental assistance to people with disabilities under the age of 60 who live in or are eligible to live in elderly/disabled state assisted public housing.
- Recipients pay 25% of their income for rent or 30% if utilities are included in rent.
- To apply, applicants must contact their Local Housing Authority to see if they have an AHVP program. You may also call the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. (DHCD)
DHCD Phone number: (617) 573-1150
Project Based Voucher (PBV)
- Subsidy is connected to a specific apartment in a specific building.
- Rent will be 30% of a person’s income and will be adjusted up or down if one’s income grows or shrinks.
- There is a universal Section 8 housing choice voucher program, but many properties also maintain their own waitlists, meaning if interested, one has to apply to each specific property.
- Some of these waitlists are shorter than others.
Local Housing Authority (LHA)
- Housing Authorities are independent non-profits which manage public housing in their area.
- They function independently with local governments but follow federal regulations.
- Local Housing Authorities are the institutions to contact about more details about public housing in your area as well as how to apply for multiple forms of public and federal housing.
List of Housing Authorities in Massachusetts
Scan the QR code to be brought to an online listing of Local Housing Authorities and other resources for finding out opportunities for Affordable Housing:
Income Eligibility for Affordable Housing and Other Financial Assistance
Massachusetts Service Locator https://hedfuel.azurewebsites.net/
When determining if you qualify for affordable housing in Massachusetts some forms of aid scale off
of federal income guidelines, but most are determined by the income of the area you are living in. Massachusetts puts out a chart dictating net income limits by household size in order to qualify for State-Aided Housing Programs by region.
The following are the numbers to determine admission for State-Aided Housing Programs for a few of the major area in Massachusetts in 2021:
If your region is not listed above, you can look find more at:
Local Housing Authorities will also assist you in determining whether or not you fall within the income limits for affordable housing.
For some financial assistance such as childcare, eligibility is based on household income in relation to the state median income. The following are the current income brackets in relation to state median income:
|% of State Median Income (SMI)
- Fair housing is the right to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination. Federal, state, and local fair housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing transactions such as rentals, sales, lending, and insurance.
- Fair housing organizations assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination. They work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to connects victims to the correct government agencies to handle their complaints. They will also conduct preliminary investigations into properties suspected of practicing housing discrimination.
If you feel that you have been the victim of housing discrimination, you can contact MassFairHousing online or by phone at 413-539-9796.
Tenancy Preservation Program
The Tenancy Preservation Program (TTP) is a homelessness prevention program that work with tenants facing eviction as a result of a disability in order to preserve the tenancy and help accommodate the disability.
- Eligibility is based on meeting all three of the following criteria
– A household member with a disability and disability related violation to the lease
– The household is at risk for eviction, as documented by a Notice to Quit or Notice of Lease Termination
– Tenancy can be preserved
– The tenant can afford the rent by existing or other available means
– There cannot be a move-out agreement of execution in place
-The tenant and landlord must be willing to participate
To apply for TTP, please contact the Massachusetts Housing Court via phone at 617-788-6500 or at their helpline at 833-912-6878
Boston Center for Independent Living (BCIL)
- BCIL protects and provides services to people with disabilities.
- They provide workshops and assistance for people with disabilities to help access affordable housing options.
- They offer many other forms of support and educational opportunities as such as support for victims of domestic violence and referrals to local agencies for support.
Boston Center for Independent Living
https://bostoncil.org/ or call 617-338-6665
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal nutrition program that provides monthly financial assistance to purchase groceries that is run by the Department of Transitional Assistance.
Eligibility for receiving assistance is based on your monthly income and household size. You can explore SNAP eligibility documents online at https://www.mass.gov/lists/department-of-transitional-assistance-program-eligibility-charts-and-tables
The application process for SNAP requires you to provide documents verifying your identity, income and expenses. You will need:
- Your Social Security Number
- Documents to prove Massachusetts residency
- Pay stubs or letter from employer that demonstrates your earnings and hours worked
- Records of any other incomes
- Noncitizen status documents if they apply
You can also improve your SNAP application to make you eligible for more SNAP benefits by providing more documents:
- Housing costs such as rent receipts, leases, and mortgage statements
- Utility costs such as heating, electricity or water bill.
- Dependent care costs for children or adult day care
- Medical costs for anyone in your household over 60 years old or has a certified disability
- Child support payments
You can apply for SNAP online or over the phone by contacting the DTA https://dtaconnect.eohhs.mass.gov/ (877) 382-2363
Food Banks and Pantries
- Food Banks and Pantries are locations which have food available for households and families in need.
- These resources can be used in addition to any SNAP benefits you may receive.
There are multiple places online where you can search for food pantries and food banks near you.
- When you reach out to Project Bread via phone you will speak to one of their coordinators who will ask you screening questions about your situation.
- If you do not currently receive SNAP benefits and are eligible, they will assist you in starting your application for them.
- If you do not qualify for SNAP benefits, they will help direct you to food pantries and other resources in your area.
Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC)
WIC is a nutrition program that provides nutrition and healthcare support to families with pregnant women and children ages 5 and under who qualify.
- To be eligible, your household income must be at or below 185% of the federal poverty level ($49,025 for a family of four)
- If you are currently receiving MassHealth/Medicaid insurance, TAFDC or SNAP benefits you are automatically income-eligible for WIC
- Foster parents can enroll their babies and children under 5 regardless of their income
You can apply for WIC online or by phone at https://www.mass.gov/forms/apply-for-wic-online or (800) 942-1007. When you apply you will provide information and then make an appointment at a local WIC clinic. To apply you will need three forms of proof of identity and income:
- Proof of current household income such as pay stubs or a letter from your employer
- Proof that you live in Massachusetts such as a piece of mail addressed to you, rent receipts, or a driver’s license
- Proof of identity such as a driver’s license, passport, or birth certificate
At your appointment, the agent you are working with will go over income information to determine eligibility, they will then do a brief health assessment of you and your children, they will provide education about good nutrition and healthy eating, finally if you qualify for benefits, they will issue you a WIC card and go over how to access your benefits.
Financial support with utilities comes in two forms,
either discounted rates directly from vendors
or support from non-profit agencies.
- National Grid has a program which provides utility assistance to those in need.
- Eligibility for National Grid assistance is based on your household income which cannot exceed 60% of the state median income.
Households receiving their utilities through National Grid can apply directly on their website for discounted rates at https://www.nationalgridus.com/Discount-Rate-App-MA
Households who receive their utilities through Eversource and are qualify for other forms of assistance from the state can be eligible for direct utility assistance.
- LIHEAP/Fuel Assistance
- Supplemental Security Income
- Veterans Dependency & Indemnity Compensation
- School Breakfast/Lunch Program
- Emergency Assistance for the Elderly, Disabled & Children
- Veterans’ Non-Service Disability Pension and Veterans’ Service Benefits
- Public or Subsidized Housing
- Commonwealth Care Plan Types 1, 2 or 3A
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children
- Head Start
- Health Safety Net Plan
- WIC Program
If you qualify for any of these programs, you can apply for utility assistance on the Eversource website at:
- There are local agencies around the state which administer the fuel assistance which you can find on the MASSCAP website.
- The Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund provides financial assistance to residents who can temporarily not meet a month’s energy expense.
- Eligibility for the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund requires you to fall between 60% and 80% of the state’s median income.
Massachusetts Good Neighbor Fund http://www.magoodneighbor.org/
or 800-334-3047 (Eastern Mass)/ 800-262-1320 (Western Mass)
LEO Inc provides utility assistance to residents of households in Lynn, Lynnfield, Nahant, Saugus, Swampscott and Wakefield.
New applicants should call 781-309-5639.
Documents can be mailed to their office at 156 Broad St, Lynn, MA 01901 or sent via email at email@example.com
Child Care Assistance
Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (CCRs) receive funding from the Department of Early Education and Care to provide families with resources, referrals, and assistance to help meet their childcare needs. CCRs are responsible for different regions of the state. Here are the seven major CCRs and their regions:
||Child Care Choices of Boston/ABCD
||Community Care for Kids, Quincy Community Action Program
||Child Care Circuit
||(800) 660-2868 or
|South Shore and Cape Cod
||CACCI/Child Care Network
|Southern Massachusetts (Bristol and Southern Norfolk Counties)
||P.A.C.E Inc Child Care Works
||Children’s Aid & Family Service
||(508) 856-7930 or
||New England Farm Workers’ Council
- To qualify for childcare assistance your household must be at or below 50% of the state median income (SMI).
- If you have a documented disability or special need then your household income must be at or below 85% of the state median.
- You can refer to the Income Eligibility for Affordable Housing and Other Financial Assistance section for a list of the different SMI brackets.
- You must also be working, seeking employment, or enrolled in an educational program for a minimum of at least 20 hours a week, over 65 and retired, or have a diagnosed and documented disability or special need.
Mass 211 is a hotline service in Massachusetts that is connected to the CCR network. When you call their hotline, you will get connected with one of their agents who can help you in submitting applications for childcare vouchers and other forms of financial assistance and also connect you to other resources in your local area.
You can reach them by calling 2-1-1 or (877) 211-6277
You can also submit your own application for getting on the Child Care Waitlist on their website at https://mass211.org/child-care-wait-list-registration/
MGB Employee Child Care
MGB Employees have access to both traditional childcare as well as back-up childcare through the Ask My HR portal. Depending on your income level you are able to sign up for different types of care at reduced rates through the contracted childcare entities such as Bright Horizons.
For more information about these reduced rate options please visit the Ask My HR portal through https://www.massgeneralbrigham.org/for-employees/child-care
Your EAP clinician can also assist you in setting up childcare through the institution.
Furniture Assistance ranges across the state. It can take the form of free furniture or vouchers for buying furniture at a discount. Multiple entities exist across the state that provide help.
My Brother’s Keeper
A Christian ministry that provides free furniture assistance to households in the Dartmouth and
Easton areas. They deliver needed furniture to households within their service area.
To apply for help please call contact the location closest to you.
Easton: 508-238-7512 Dartmouth: 774-305-4577
An agency which provides free furniture to households across the state. Once you are accepted as a client you are given a meeting to pick up furniture from one of their locations. To be eligible for their services you must have a referral from a social service, healthcare provider, faith community or other organization.
Once you have a referrer, they will have to fill out a Client Referral form to set up an appointment for you. Your referrer will be the point of contact for your case at Household Goods. They will provide you with the date and time of your appointment.
Once you have been accepted as a client and have an appointment date, you will need to fill out a client checklist to give information about your household and what furniture you need. You will also need to procure a vehicle to transport the furniture that you are given.
Client Referral info: https://householdgoods.org/about/referrals/
Client Referral Form: https://householdgoods.org/about/referrals-form/
Bob’s Discount Furniture Charitable Foundation
Bob’s Discount Furniture Charitable Foundation provides financial assistance to be used towards furniture. They do not provide their assistance directly to individuals, instead they require a non-profit organization to function as a go-between. To apply for help, an agency must submit a letter on your behalf on agency letterhead to the foundation. Letters can be submitted via email at Kathryn.Pianta@mybobs.com or by US mail addressed to: Bob’s Discount Furniture Charitable Foundation. 434 Tolland Turnpike, Manchester, CT 06042
If you are interested in applying for support, please ask your EAP counselor to write a letter on your behalf in order to begin the application process.
Getting help with legal issues is very often confusing and cost prohibitive. It can be difficult to find the right lawyers and even then, one that is in your price range. There are multiple services in Massachusetts which can assist you in finding the right kind of legal support.
Consolidated Legal Concepts (CLC)
CLC is a company which connects clients with attorneys in their area free of charge. They have a robust legal network which helps find an attorney that fits the client’s budget and needs. They also directly offer mediation services and education services for managing identity theft.
Your EAP clinician can help you get in contact with them or you can reach them online at https://www.clchomeoffice.com/contact-us
Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS)
A legal service which offers advice and representation for non-criminal legal problems to low-income individuals in the greater Boston area. Eligibility is based on annual household income. GBLS serves families that are at or below 125% of the poverty line ($33,125 for a family of 4 in 2021).
They have a varied staff of lawyers and paralegals which have expertise in a variety of fields. Greater Boston Legal Services can help with the following types of legal issues:
- Abuse Prevention Orders for Elders, DV Survivors, and Disabled
- Consumer Rights
- Criminal Record Sealing and Re-Entry
- Debt Collection and Bankruptcy
- Education and School to Prison Pipeline
- Employment and Unemployment Benefits
- Government Benefits
- Healthcare Benefits and Nursing Home Rights
- Social Security, SSI, and State Benefits
- Victims of Crime
To reach them and you are a first-time client, you can call 617-603-1700 to access their intake service.
Northeast Legal Aid (NLA)
Northeast Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low income and elder residents of Northeast Massachusetts. They have offices in Lynn, Lawrence, and Lowell and an outreach office in Haverhill.
To be eligible for their services you must live in a low-income household and have limited assets. There is no financial eligibility requirement if you are an elder or if you are a victim of crime or survivor of homicide with a legal problem related to victimization.
You can contact NLA for help via phone at 978-458-1465 or by visiting their site and filling out an online form at https://www.northeastlegalaid.org/get-legal-help
Disability Law Center (DLC)
DLC is a protection and advocacy agency in Massachusetts for people with disabilities. They cover a large range of legal issues related to people with disabilities, focusing on priority cases over others. Their highest priority are cases that are disability-related such as individuals who experience discrimination, abuse or neglect, or denial of services because of their disability. They will also assist with other legal issues for people with disabilities if the staff have the time and resources available.
To get help, you can call DLC at 617-723-8455 or 800-872-9992. You can also send them an email or fill out their online intake form at https://www.dlc-ma.org/ask-for-help/