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Financial Eligibility

 

Am I financially eligible for public or subsidized housing?

To be eligible for public or subsidized housing, your household's yearly income must be below certain income limits. Generally, that income is measured by comparing your income to the average income in the area. This is called the area median income.1 If your income falls below a certain percentage of the area median income, you are income eligible and can apply to that housing program.

Income limits for public housing and vouchers are set by the government. They change every year and are different in different parts of the state and for different sized families. Below is a chart that tells you in general what these income limits are for different programs. Often, the income limits for a housing program appear right on the application itself. The best thing to do is to ask the housing agency or subsidized landlord what the income guidelines are for their programs. 

Housing Program: If you are applying for...
Income Limits: Your household's income can be no greater than...
Public Housing 80% of the area median income
Vouchers Section 8 Vouchers

50%-80% of the area median income)

Alternative Housing Voucher Program

80% of the area median income

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
200% of federal poverty level
Multifamily Subsidized Housing Developments with Project-Bases
Section 8 Assistance

80% of the area median income

All other developments

Ranging from 40%-80% of area median income

What are income limits for housing programs in general?

To give you a better sense of actual dollar amounts of the income limits for major housing programs, below are the actual income limits in the Boston area for 2009. Keep in mind that Boston has one of the highest income limits in the state. See the Massachusetts Area Median Incomes chart to learn about the income limits that apply in other parts of the state in 2009.

Public Housing, Project-Based Section 8, Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)

You are income eligible for public housing, the AHVP program, and private multifamily developments with project-based Section 8 assistance if your yearly income is less than 80% of the 2014 area median income:

Family size
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Yearly Income $44,750 $51,100 $57,500 $63,900 $69,000 $74,100 $79,250 $84,350

Section 8 Voucher

You are income eligible for a Section 8 voucher if your yearly income is less than 50% of the 2014 area median income (although in some cases the income limit could be as high as 80% of area median income):2

 

Family size
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Yearly Income $30,850 $35,250 $39,650 $44,050 $47,550 $51,100 $54,600 $58,150

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)

The MRVP program is the only one in the state that ties financial eligibility to the federal poverty guidelines, rather than to median incomes. These guidelines apply statewide. For 2014, this means you are income eligible for MRVP if your yearly income is less than 200% of the federal poverty guidelines:

 

Family size
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Yearly Income $23,340 $31,460 $39,580 $47,700 $55,820 $63,940 $72,060 $80,180

 

How do I figure out my household's yearly income to determine if I am eligible?

 

Different housing programs have different rules about how you determine your household's yearly income to figure out whether you are income eligible.

Federal housing programs base eligibility on what is called gross yearly income.3 Gross yearly income is before tax income, and does not include funds such as income from children under 18 years old, amounts received through training programs funded by HUD, and the income of a live-in aide.

State housing programs base eligibility on net yearly income.4 Net yearly income does not include funds such as wages earned by full-time students, worker's compensation, and a certain amount of wages earned by a tenant 62 or older. It also allows you to deduct certain amounts, such as necessary medical expenses and personal care services.

Because this is complicated, the best thing to do is to ask the housing agency or subsidized landlord for information about how they calculate your yearly income. For more information about how rents are set in public housing, go to Rent in Public Housing.

Am I still eligible for housing if I have assets?

Federal housing programs

An asset is something you own that has value—for example, a house, a car, life insurance that you can cash in, or money you have in a bank. There is no asset limit for families seeking to get into public housing, the Section 8 voucher program, or HUD federally subsidized multifamily housing. This means that you will not be denied housing because of how much money you have in the bank or what you own. If, however, you make income from your assets—for example, interest from a bank or rental income—that income will be counted toward your rent from year to year.5

State public housing and AHVP

As with federal housing programs, there are no asset limits for most state housing programs. Also as with federal programs, income that comes from your assets is included in your rent calculation for state housing programs.6

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program

In order to get a tenant-based or project-based voucher through MRVP, you cannot have assets that are worth more than one and one-half times your income or $15,000, whichever is greater. Once you have a voucher, you cannot lose it because you gain assets. This is because there is no asset limit for continued eligibility. 7

Endnotes

1 Area median income is the mid-point of household incomes for a particular area; in other words, half of all households have incomes below the median and half have incomes above the median.

2 Information about admitting people with incomes up to 80% of area median is in a housing authority’s Section 8 administrative plan. Such admission policy must be consistent with a housing authority’s yearly public housing agency plan.

3 24 C.F.R. § 5.609.

4 State public housing and AHVP: 760 C.M.R. §§ 5.06, 6.05, and 53.03(2); MRVP: 760 C.M.R. §§ 49.03(1)(3) and 49.05(6).

5 24 C.F.R. § 5.609(a)(3) and (a)(4).

6 760 C.M.R. § 6.05(2)(c).

7 760 C.M.R. § 49.03(1)(d).


Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last updated May 2009


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