Affordable housing: Am I eligible? (Part 2)

By Vivien Wu, director of programs, Asian Community Development Corporation


In my November article about affordable housing, I covered the basics about how our government defines “affordable” housing, the income qualifications for an application and income documents required for most applications. Once you determine you are eligible, you need to search for affordable housing. This article clarifies the process for you.


Types of affordable housing

There are many types of affordable housing due to the variety of federal, state and local funding programs, which have their own set of requirements.

However, there are generally several types of special housing programs:

  • Elderly: Depending on the funding sources, elderly housing can be age-restricted from 55 years and above such as 60 or 62. Make sure you ask about the age eligibility requirement to find out if you qualify.
  • Disabled: Depending on the funding sources, this type of housing can include physical, mental, developmental, or HIV/AIDS-related conditions. You must have a doctor or medical professional certify you have an impairment that substantially impedes your ability to live independently in traditional housing.
  • Veterans housing
  • Housing for the homeless and formerly homeless families and individuals

If you think you may qualify for one of the above special housing programs, please inform the person who is helping you apply for housing. There may be federal- and state-funded affordable housing for these special categories in your location. (ACDC cannot and does not guarantee that you will receive affordable housing based on this advice.)


Publicly owned and operated housing

You must complete application forms and submit all required documentation to be considered for affordable housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development oversees the federal government housing program which is often called “Section 8” or “low income” housing.

Tai Tung Village is an affordable housing complex in Chinatown. (Image courtesy of Flickr user aaron.knox.) 大同村是唐人街其中之一的經濟房屋社區。(圖片來自Flickr用戶aaron.knox。)

Tai Tung Village is an affordable housing complex in Chinatown. (Image courtesy of Flickr user aaron.knox.)


Municipal housing authorities manage this program locally and can be found online at Many of these offices are referred to as the “housing authority.” You can contact the local housing authorities in the cities you want to live or seek help at an organization that maintains a list of affordable housing opportunities for purchase or rent. Often there is a waiting list or lottery system for these opportunities and you can find out more when you speak with someone helping you with your application.

The Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) manages state-owned and -operated public housing. Other services it oversees are of state- and federally-funded initiatives for public housing, homelessness prevention, community development and anti-poverty. For more information, go online to


Privately owned and operated housing

Many community development corporations and nonprofits also develop and operate privately owned affordable housing. Your local community development corporation has listings of homes and apartments for purchase or rent. MassAccess is a good resource for affordable housing opportunities.



An affordable housing voucher program helps an eligible household rent from privately owned homes. This is a “tenant-based” program because the voucher can be used at any privately owned property that signs the rental agreement with the tenant holding the voucher. Typically, the tenant pays 30 percent of their gross income for rent and the landlord receives the remaining balance from the program. These programs are administered by the local housing authorities and DHCD. It is important that you inquire if the program is accepting new applicants. (ACDC or other nonprofit housing counseling agencies cannot provide or guarantee vouchers.)

For more information, contact Asian Community Development Corporation and speak with our bilingual Chinese-English housing counselors at (617) 482-2380: Lee Lin (Mandarin) #208 or May Lui (Cantonese) #212. ACDC is a community-based nonprofit organization founded in 1987 to build and preserve affordable housing in Greater Boston where Asian Americans live, work and play. ACDC’s comprehensive approach to homeownership includes homeownership education, rental counseling and financial education in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. Please visit ACDC’s website at for more information.

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