Immigration status and affordable housing

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

You can be eligible for public and subsidized housing in Massachusetts even if you are not a U.S. citizen.

Public and subsidized housing programs are different from other benefits like SNAP and cash assistance. Even if you qualify for public or subsidized housing, you are not guaranteed a spot. There is not enough housing available for everyone who qualifies. But the programs are worth applying to because:

  • There are more than 200,000 affordable housing units and vouchers in Massachusetts.
  • Thousands of units and voucher spots open up each year with people moving.
  • Sometimes new affordable units get added.

Not all affordable housing programs are alike. There are different kinds of public and subsidized housing and vouchers. Each program has its own rules and is run by a different government agency.

Does my immigration status matter for state housing programs?

State housing programs in Massachusetts are generally open to applications from all immigrants. Your immigration status does not matter. The major state housing programs include:

  • State public housing,
  • The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP),
  • The Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), and
  • State-funded multifamily (privately-owned subsidized) housing.

Learn more about eligibility rules for different programs.

What are the immigration restrictions for federal housing programs?

The major federal housing programs include:

  • Federal public housing,
  • Section 8 Vouchers, and
  • Subsidized multifamily housing.

These 3 federal housing programs are “restricted.” This means your household must include at least one citizen or “eligible noncitizen” to be admitted to the 3 major federal housing programs.

If your household also includes people who are not eligible for the restricted program (a "mixed status household"), your household can still be admitted to these programs. But, your household will pay a higher rent. 

Several other federal programs have no immigration restrictions, including the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program.

Which noncitizens are eligible for “restricted” federal housing programs?

To get into restricted federal housing, at least 1 person in your household must be a citizen or an “eligible noncitizen.” An eligible noncitizen is one of these statuses:

  • A lawful permanent resident,
  • A registry immigrant (admitted for permanent residency by U.S. Attorney General and eligible for citizenship,
  • A refugee or asylee,
  • A conditional entrant,
  • A parolee,
  • A withholding grantee,
  • A person granted 1986 amnesty status,
  • A resident of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau or Guam,
  • A victim of trafficking or their relatives,
  • VAWA self-identified.
What are "mixed status" households?

In the restricted federal programs, “mixed status” households are those with

  • at least one citizen or eligible noncitizen, and
  • at least one noncitizen who is not eligible.

Mixed status households are eligible for the restricted federal housing programs, but they will pay a higher rent called a prorated rent. The unit may not be affordable. 

Mixed status households may include statuses not eligible for a federal subsidy such as:

How much “prorated rent” will mixed status households in federal restricted housing pay?

Prorated rent in federal restricted housing means that the housing authority or multifamily owner will base your rent assistance or subsidy on the number of eligible people in your household, not on the total number of people.

You can move into a unit in one of these programs but your subsidy will be lower than if all household members were citizens or eligible noncitizens. That means your share of the rent will be higher.

Section 8 proration example

There are 4 people in your household:

  • 2 are citizens or eligible noncitizens. 
  • 2 are not eligible.

If you are admitted to the Section 8 Voucher program, the housing authority will give you a Section 8 subsidy as if you are a 2-person household. The subsidy will be prorated by 50%.

If the total rent is $2,000, and the Section 8 voucher is worth $1500, this is how it would work:

Calculation of Section 8 voucher before proration:

  • Total rent to landlord: $2,000
  • Section 8 voucher worth $1,500
  • Your rent payment without proration: $500

Calculation of voucher with proration: 

  • Total rent to landlord: $2,000
  • Section 8 voucher worth $1,500
  • 50% prorated Section 8 voucher: $750
  • Your rent payment with proration: $1,250
Do I have to prove my household's immigration status in federal restricted housing programs?

In restricted federal housing programs, the housing authority or subsidized owner will verify the immigration status of everyone who will be living with you.

If everyone in your household is either a citizen or eligible noncitizen:

Each person claiming they are either a citizen or an eligible noncitizen has to fill out a form called a Section 214 Declaration. By signing the Section 214 Declaration,

  • you claim that the whole household has eligible status, and
  • you are agreeing that immigration authorities can check on your status.

If you are a mixed-status household:

You should not complete this form if you have noneligible family members.

Instead of completing the Section 214 Declaration, you can provide a written statement that one or more household members are not claiming to have eligible status.

Do I need a social security number for housing programs?

State assisted housing programs

Generally, each household member must put their social security number on the application for state housing programs. But it is okay if you don’t give a social security number. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities said in a notice that no one can be denied or otherwise sanctioned if they do not have a social security number. See Public Housing Notice 2023-23, p. 2.

Federal housing

Generally, each household member must give their social security number. However, this does not apply to immigrants in “mixed status households” who do not claim to be either citizens or eligible noncitizens. But if those household members do have a social security number, they should provide it.

Does “Public Charge” apply to any housing programs?

No, housing programs do not matter for the public charge rule. Learn more about Public Charge.


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