Housing in Massachusetts is obtained by renting or owning a residence through the private real estate market. However, for residents of the state for whom the normal channels are not affordable, Massachusetts has a number of agencies and programs designed to provide reduced cost, subsidized housing opportunities. Massachusetts has many programs and a wide range of housing types that are available to low-income households, as well as the disabled, seniors and veterans. Home ownership opportunities for low-income families are offered through several federally backed programs, though housing units and voucher programs assist the wide majority of program beneficiaries. Massachusetts is dedicated to seeing that all of its residents have access to clean, safe and affordable housing. From the Section 8 program, to assistance for Veterans, Massachusetts residents have many programs to ensure adequate shelter for themselves and their families. The following is a brief overview of those housing programs.
Rental Assistance in Massachusetts
Several rental assistance programs exist in Massachusetts. The Section 8 program is one of the largest, but the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), as well as the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) are also very active. While the Section 8 program is federally funded and administrated by the Commonwealth, the AHVP and MRVP programs are funded by the state.
Massachusetts Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works with the Commonwealth to provide funding for the Section 8 Housing Voucher program. Eligibility for the program is primarily based on income as compared to the median income of those living around the applicant. The household size is also a large factor taken into consideration for eligibility. Participants in the Section 8 program in Massachusetts are expected to pay at least 30 to 40 percent of their overall income for their monthly rental cost. The vouchers that are issued are to cover the difference. Applications can be submitted through many agencies throughout the state, including public housing authorities. If there are no current vacancies, then qualified applicants are placed on a waiting list that is maintained by the Department of Housing and Community Development.
The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
The state of Massachusetts provides funding for this rental assistance program. The Commonwealth issues mobile vouchers that can be taken by recipients and used throughout the state. This allows low-income families to move into suitable housing where there is a vacancy, or to move closer to better paying jobs. Project based vouchers are also issued, but do not allow for mobility. Project based vouchers are only good for rental on that one unit, and cannot be transferred to another unit if the tenant decides to leave. Applicants must earn at or lower than 50 percent of the median income of the area, and that amount can differ based on household size.
The Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) in Massachusetts
This state-based housing program is for disabled residents who are 60 years old or younger and are very low-income. Qualifying tenants can earn no more than 80 percent of the median income, though each region and public housing authority has discretion to change this annually. Apply for this program through the local housing authorities.
Massachusetts Housing Resources for Domestic Violence Victims
The Department of Children and Families (DCF), along with the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) and the Department of Housing and Community Development offer housing assistance for residents who are fleeing domestic violence in their homes. These programs not only help battered individuals with applying for the appropriate services, but offer counseling as well. The DTA also offers transitional shelters, but will relocate beneficiaries when there are no vacancies. Families who are awaiting legal assistance can obtain temporary housing through the Family Unification Program (FUP), which issues temporary Section 8 vouchers.
Homeownership Opportunities for Low-income Massachusetts Families
Low, or moderate, income families in Massachusetts may be able to purchase a modest home through several homeownership programs. These programs are primarily offered to first-time home buyers. My Mass Mortgage is a program that offers educational resources for determining which state-sponsored mortgage products are available for low-income families. The Mass Housing Partnership offers families a way to obtain a home with as little as 3 percent down. Mass Housing is a state agency that assists families by offering below market-rate financing for new home buyers.
Veteran Housing Programs in Massachusetts
Veteran Affairs supported housing, often referred to as VASH, is a program that offers Section 8 vouchers to veterans who have mental health issues, substance abuse problems and to veterans who are homeless. State-aided public housing programs will offer preferential placement to qualifying veterans on waiting lists, or in available housing units. This can include not only the veteran, but the surviving spouse, dependent parent or children. Four emergency shelters for veterans operate within the state, with 11 transitional housing shelters, as well as 13 Outreach Centers, which will extend aid to veterans and their families for free. Additionally, the VA Medical Centers provide free homeless counseling and will work with individuals and their families to find shelter.