Housing Search

Searching for Affordable Housing


Handicap Accessible Affordable Housing 

  • MassAccess - The MassAccess Housing Registry helps people to find affordable rental and homeownership opportunities in Massachusetts. A key feature of the Registry is to highlight homes for people with disabilities who need accessible or barrier-free housing.
  • ApartmentGuide.com - Under "Special Features," select "Disability Access."
  • Apartments.com - After searching for your desired location, click to open the menu under "Amenities"; then under "Community Amenities," select "Disability Access."
  • ForRent.com - Under "Community Amenities," select "Disability Access."
  • MyNewPlace.com - Select "Search by Amenities," and then under "Special Features," select "Disability Access."
  • Rentals.com - After searching for your desired location, select "Handicapped Accessible" under "Property Features" and/or "Handicap Access" under "Community Feature" (if available).

"Across Massachusetts, there is a shortage of rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income households (ELI), whose incomes are at or below the poverty guideline or 30% of their area median income (AMI). Many of these households are severely cost-burdened, spending more than half of their income on housing. Severely cost-burdened poor households are more likely than other renters to sacrifice other necessities like healthy food and healthcare to pay the rent, and to experience unstable housing situations like evictions."

Types of Housing

What is Affordable Housing?

Housing is considered to be affordable if its total costs (rent or mortgage, plus utilities, taxes, insurance, etc.) are no more than 30% of a household’s gross income.  Typically, the phrase “affordable housing” means any housing where the total housing costs are affordable (cost no more than 30% of income) for a family that earns no more than 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).  



The phrase ‘Affordable Housing’ is often used when referring to any of 4 basic types of housing:

1) Private, subsidized affordable housing is privately developed, owned, and operated, and is often created by a private non-profit organization that has a mission to provide affordable housing, like WATCH. Creating affordable housing in this way generally requires a combination of government funding, grants, and low-interest loans to bridge the gap between the high costs of creating housing and the rent or mortgage the tenants or owners can afford. Especially when these developments are built by nonprofit organizations, decisions at each development are driven by people’s need for housing and not by a profit-maximizing bottom line. Such properties are deed restricted to keep rents or mortgage payments affordable for the long term.

Some privately developed affordable housing is created by for-profit companies, often as part of a mandated program to create affordable housing. When a for-profit company creates affordable housing, it usually receives some benefit in return, such as zoning relief, increased density, or subsidy funds.

2) Public housing, home to about 1.3 million families nationwide, is owned by the federal or state government and managed by local Housing Authorities who report to HUD.  To apply, families must have incomes at or below 50% of the area median income (AMI).  Rents are set at 30% of a family’s income.  The Waltham Housing Authority is responsible for 810 units of public housing for families and seniors in Waltham.  Most of the affordable housing built in the United States prior to the 1970s was public housing, however, since 1978 very little public housing has been built.

3) Section 8, is a federal program that is also managed by the local Housing Authority.  Low-income families pay 30% of their income in rent to their private landlord, and the federal government pays the balance to the landlord, up to a set limit. Massachusetts also runs a program similar to the federal one called MRVP, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program. Learn more and apply for section 8 here

4) Private, unsubsidized housing is housing owned by a landlord who charges moderate rents, while still earning a fair profit on his/her investment.  Places like this often permanently lose their affordability when the landlord decides to significantly increase rents, sell the property or convert to condos.  There are also no quality controls, so if a landlord does not keep up their property, the rents may be affordable, but the conditions of the apartment may not meet common expectations of decency.