The Section 8 Housing Program in Boston,
Massachusetts, offers rent assistance for families who make 60% or less of the median income. A Section 8 housing voucher guarantees that you will pay no more than 40% of your monthly income on rent.
Section 8 can be an extremely beneficial program for those who qualify, but applicants often face long wait times—potentially several years.
To help you navigate the basics of Section 8 housing in Boston,
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What is Section 8 housing?
Section 8 of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act created a federal program to help provide safe and affordable housing to families and individuals who are considered low-income or very low-income.
The government will pay a portion of your rent so that you can access clean and safe housing for no more than 40% of your monthly income.
Here’s how Section 8 works:
Eligible persons can apply for housing choice vouchers with their local housing authority.
The applicant’s family size and composition will affect what the housing voucher will cover, as determined by the Housing Authority.
When approved, the tenant will be able to select housing based on their specific needs. Once the unit is inspected and the lease is approved, the tenant(s) can move in.
The government will provide rent assistance for qualifying families and individuals. Tenants must pay a minimum of 30% of their monthly income but won’t pay more than 40%.
Section 8 obligations
The tenant, landlord, and local Housing Authority each have responsibilities under the Section 8 Program. Here are each party’s obligations:
Provide accurate and complete documentation
Determine applicants’ eligibility and issue vouchers
Find suitable housing and complete all required paperwork before voucher expires
Comply with fair housing laws
Approve units, rental amounts, and leases
Pay rent promptly and attend all required appointments
Complete all necessary repairs and maintenance
Inspect subsidized units annually
Notify the housing authority of any changes in income or family composition
Provide housing authority with documentation of any notices to tenant, including eviction notices
Ensure that both tenants and landlords comply with program rules
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Key Takeaway Section 8 housing provides eligible families and individuals with government-provided rent assistance to ensure they won’t pay more than 40% of their monthly income.
What are the requirements for Section 8 housing in Boston?
The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) with the city of Boston manages the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program in Boston. There are certain criteria you must meet to be considered eligible.
Qualifying individuals must be at least 18 years old, hold U.S. citizen or eligible immigrant status, and make an income at or below 60% of the area’s median income.
Here are some examples of income that will be used in the calculation:
Alimony and child support
You’ll also have to pass a background check that includes your criminal history, eviction records, and your verified ability to pay rent on time.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has compiled
a list of qualifying incomes, so make sure to look this over.
In 2021, Boston’s median household income was $76,298, but your family size and composition will determine the exact income limit for your household. Anyone who makes 60% or less of the median income (adjusted for your family size) is eligible for this program, but keep in mind that the BHA maintains an average income of applicants that make 40% or less of the median income.
Consult the table below to break down qualifying income based on family size in Boston:
Extremely low income (40%)
The BHA prioritizes some applicants based on housing circumstances. Priority One status is given to those who are experiencing homelessness or are displaced due to conditions like natural disasters, domestic violence and sexual abuse, or a court-ordered no-fault eviction.
How to apply for Section 8 housing in Boston
To apply for Section 8 housing in Boston, you’ll need to fill out an application through the BHA
A mailing address with correct zip code
Estimated family annual income for all members of your household
Social Security or Alien Registration number for all members of your household
Dates of birth for all members of your household
How long you’ll wait to hear back after you submit your application will depend on your housing needs and your priority consideration. At any time, there may be 1,200-13,000 applicants on the waitlist, so the potential waiting time could be significant.
You can contact the Boston Section 8 Status Information Line to check on the status of your application by calling 617-988-3400 Monday through Wednesday, 11:00 am-2:00 pm.
How to find Section 8 housing in Boston
When your application is approved and you’re given a voucher or if you currently hold a voucher and you wish to move into a new housing unit, you’ll have 120 days to find housing before your voucher expires.
If certain circumstances prevent you from finding suitable housing in that time frame, you may request an extension in writing and before your voucher expires. Your Leasing Officer may ask for additional documentation to support your request.
The BHA has a
list of approved apartments that you can look over to find one that is suitable for your family size and composition. You can also use
affordablehousing.com—just make sure the unit you select has the same number of bedrooms as the number indicated on your voucher.
Once you find housing that works for you, your Leasing Officer will give you a Request of Tenancy Approval form that you’ll need your prospective landlord to complete. Hand that form back into your Leasing Officer, and the BHA will schedule an inspection of your unit within the next seven business days.
If your unit is not approved, you need to begin looking for another place to live right away to start the process over again. If it is approved, the BHA will determine a fair rent and offer it to the landlord.
If the landlord accepts the rent offer, you may complete the lease. If not, you’ll have to start looking for a new home again.
Key Takeaway After applying through the BHA online portal and receiving a housing voucher, you’ll have 120 days to find a suitable housing unit.
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