Frequently Asked Questions
Income Certification Questions
Where can I find the documents I need?
Right here! More information about these documents can be found in the FAQs and answers below.
Where is the application? I am looking for housing and want to submit my information to the BPDA.
To get an application, you must contact the building where you wish to apply. BPDA forms are not available online because our office does not solicit applications from the general public directly. All units under our program are privately owned, and each property's owner/developer submits applications from eligible households for the restricted units on that property. BPDA Housing Compliance Unit staff works primarily with agents to provide training and materials.
How can I apply for a BPDA unit?
You must contact the building where you are interested in applying. Most owners/developers designate agents to lease their BPDA units. If a unit is available - and only then - the designated agent will provide you with the necessary paperwork. After an applicant returns all required documents, the agent prescreens the household for eligibility and (if appropriate) submits a completed file to the BPDA on the applicant's behalf. BPDA staff reviews only files submitted to us by owners/developers or agents for specific units. Prospective applicants should coordinate directly with the agent rather than contacting the BPDA office.
But how do I know if my household is eligible?
Please review all the information here for some general guidelines. If you still have questions, speak with the leasing agent for the building where you are interested in applying. Income requirements vary depending on the particular unit, so there is no way a household can pre-qualify or be deemed generally "eligible" under the program. Eligibility depends on whether the qualifications of a particular household meet the requirements of a specific unit at the time of application. If you aren't sure whether your household is eligible, the agent for the unit you want is in the best position to help. If an agent is unsure about any of the requirements, BPDA staff can provide the necessary guidance directly to the agent.
Can someone on your staff help me find affordable housing in Boston for myself or my household?
The BPDA does not provide individualized assistance to people seeking housing. There are several agencies working on affordable housing issues in the Boston area, and some of these programs may have staff available to provide personalized help to individuals or households. Please visit our Non-BPDA Affordable Housing Resources Page for more information.
Is there a listing of available BPDA units?
Any new units currently being marketed for sale or rental through a lottery will be posted on the BPDA Available Units page, which also contains a list of buildings with existing affordable rental units. If you are looking for an apartment, you will need to contact buildings individually to ask if they have a unit available. The BPDA does not keep waitlists or post apartment vacancy listings, and we do not post listings of affordable condo units which may be up for resale. You can find more links to listings of other affordable housing units on the Non-BPDA Affordable Housing Resources Page.
What do the different percentages (80%, 100%, 120%) listed on the Income Limit Chart mean?
The income percentages listed by column are categories of affordability within the program. When a development is approved, each restricted unit in the building is designated at a particular income category. For instance, in a development with 10 affordable units, five units may be designated at the 100% level and the other five units at 120%. To qualify for a 100% unit, a household must have an income that is at or below the applicable limit for their household size. If the household's income is greater than the 100% figure but less than the 120% figure, they would not qualify for the 100% unit but may qualify instead for one of the 120% units.
Affordability designations are permanent and specific to each unit and do not change. On an annual basis applicable figures for each category are updated to reflect current median incomes in the Boston area. Applicants are encouraged to contact the marketing agent or leasing office for the development they are interested in to inquire about availability in each income category.
I've heard that there is an asset cap. What is the cap?
The asset cap applies to households who are interested in renting or purchasing an affordable home. For affordable units at or below the 80% income category, the combined total assets of the household cannot exceed $75,000. For a household applying for a unit above the 80% income category, the combined total assets of the entire household cannot exceed $100,000. All liquid assets and real property are counted towards the cap except government approved college savings accounts and qualified retirement plans such as 401(k) plans, other IRA’s, Keogh plans, and pension plans, unless they are being liquidated to purchase a property. Applicants for affordable rental units can exceed the set forth asset limitations if all of the household members are over the age of 65 years. In this instance, a household can have combined assets, including all retirement funds of $250,000. Real estate is valued by the current assessed value of real estate by the municipality or county. An individual’s actual equity in the real estate is not considered.
How is my income calculated?
The household income is calculated based on the gross income of the household. Commissions, bonuses and other regular payments are included and considered part of the gross annual income. Individuals may use the Income Calculation Worksheet to get an idea of what their current annual income is and how it is calculated.
I am looking to purchase a house through an affordable program. Does the BPDA have single family homes in the lottery?
The affordable homes in our portfolio are all condominiums.
Who oversees the lottery to make sure it is fair for everyone?
The Boston Fair Housing Commission, part of the City of Boston Office of Civil Rights, oversees the lottery process to ensure that it is run fairly and properly.
Can a friend or family member co-sign a lease?
No, co-signors and guarantors on a lease are not permitted through the program.
Do I have to pay condo fees?
Yes, condominium association fees must be paid for all units in a condominium, including the affordable units. You may ask the marketing agent/seller what the estimated monthly condo fee is when you apply.
Can I rent my affordable unit?
No, renting of affordable units is not permitted. The affordable units are intended to serve moderate/middle income households to help those who would otherwise not be able to afford to live in Boston, an opportunity to live and work in the city. Affordable housing units are not intended to be investment properties and must be owner occupied.
What happens if I violate the restrictions on my unit?
Individuals who violate the terms of their restrictions (rent out unit, etc...) will be investigated by the BPDA Compliance Department and legal action will be taken to bring the affordable unit back into compliance with the program. Penalties may include a forced sale of the property with proceeds going to the BPDA.
My neighbor is renting out their unit. What do I do? Can I notify the BPDA?
Yes, we appreciate any help from neighbors, property managers or other individuals who notify the BPDA that an affordable unit owner is renting out their unit. Affordable unit owners must live in the unit as their primary residence. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential and the BPDA will investigate the claim.
The prices listed on the website are too high for me. How can this be called affordable housing?
The term affordable housing is a relative term. For some, the purchase prices of the units are more than they can afford. The BPDA affordable housing program is geared towards moderate and middle income households and the purchase prices of the units are priced accordingly. For other affordable housing options geared towards different income levels, please visit the Non-BPDA Affordable Housing Resources Page.
How do I find out about affordable re-sales? Does the BPDA have a listing?
The BPDA does not have a complete listing of affordable housing re-sales available to the general public. However, from time to time, some re-sale listings may appear on the BPDA website as a courtesy to the seller. Potential buyers should contact the seller or the seller's realtor/listing agent directly with any questions about the unit, including questions about income qualification determinations.
Am I eligible for down payment assistance?
Depending on your income, you may be eligible to receive down payment assistance through the City of Boston Home Center. Applicants must complete a first-time homebuyer class to qualify. Interested individuals may register for a first-time homebuyer class by calling the Home Center at 617.635.HOME.
Do I have to be a Boston resident to participate?
No, anyone may participate. Boston residents receive a "preference" in many lotteries, but residency is not a requirement. The preference gives residents priority in the order by which applications are reviewed for eligibility. But ultimately all households must qualify under the same eligibility guidelines in order to buy or rent a unit. Learn more about lottery preferences here.
What materials or information should I have on hand to make the application process easier?
Individuals interested in applying for affordable housing should have the following items on hand in order to make the application process easier.
Two recent pay stubs.
Mortgage pre-approval letter.
Past two years State and Federal tax returns and W-2s.
Copies of full bank statements.
Can the BPDA send me something when applications become available?
You can sign up to receive notices of upcoming affordable opportunities by e-mail. To register for this service, visit the City of Boston's email subscriptions page. Select "Affordable Housing Lotteries" and enter your information at the bottom of the page. You should receive an e-mail message confirming your subscription. When a new development begins distributing applications - and occasionally when a unit is up for re-sale - you will receive a message with instructions on how to apply.
The development that I am interested in is not listed under "Available Units" and I would like more information on that development. How can I get more information?
If you see a development listed on our website which is not yet marketing and would like more information, you may search the BPDA website under Residents: My Neighborhood, and look under Development Projects. Once there, you may search for the development and find the contact information for the Project Manager at the BPDA who may have additional information.
How do I get an application?
The BPDA does not distribute application documents to the general public. Applications are distributed by the owner/developer or marketing agent for each development. Only applications that have been pre-screened for eligibility by an owner/developer/agent may be submitted to the BPDA for final review.
When I obtain an application from the marketing agent, does that enter me in to all future BPDA lotteries?
No. Applicants must obtain a new application for each lottery that they would like to participate in. Each lottery is held independently of the other.
I have a question about the application. What do I do?
All questions regarding your application should be directed to the marketing agent who provided the application.
I missed the application date. How can I get an application?
Unfortunately, if you miss the application date you will not be provided an application. Deadlines are enforced to ensure that the process is fair to everyone.
I am applying for a lottery and want to get the Boston resident preference. What documents should I provide to the marketing agent with my application?
An applicant wishing to establish the resident preference must provide the marketing agent with two utility bills showing the applicant's name and current Boston address. Bills must be from separate companies and must be dated within the past 60 days.
If the applicant cannot provide two utility bills, the following documentation must be provided to establish the resident preference: 1) current signed lease* AND either (2a) proof of voter registration from the City of Boston Election Department or (2b) proof of automobile insurance showing the address where the car is garaged.
*In lieu of a signed lease, an applicant may provide a letter from a homeless shelter confirming current residency; the letter must be on shelter letterhead and signed by an executive or manager authorized to act on behalf of the agency.
Unfortunately, applicants who cannot provide documentation within these guidelines are not eligible to receive the residency preference.
I received a pay raise between the time I picked up an application and the time I was income certified and now I am over the income limit. What do I do?
Income is calculated at the time the marketing agent submits an applicant’s information to the BPDA, not during the application process or at the time of the lottery. Eligibility must be maintained from the time of the application pick up until after income certification verification by the marketing agent and the BPDA. Unfortunately, if an applicant’s income is over the income limit, the applicant will not be eligible for the particular unit for which they applied.
I purchased a home many years ago, but haven’t owned in a long time. Am I considered a first-time homebuyer?
The BPDA considers a first-time homebuyer to be “a buyer who has never owned a residential property." Lending institutions may have a different definition of a first-time homebuyer for first-time homebuyer mortgage products.
I have children in school/college, how does this affect my application?
Income from children in school/college under the age of 18 is not considered towards the income of the household.
I am separated from my spouse, does this affect my application?
Legally married couples shall both be considered part of the household, even if separated. Applicants with additional questions regarding this policy must speak with the marketing agent/seller.
I am a single person household, can I apply for a two bedroom unit?
Yes. Single person households may apply for two bedroom affordable units, but will be ranked beneath households with at least one person per bedroom on the lottery list. In order to maximize your chances in the lottery, single person households are encouraged to apply for one bedroom units. There are no household size preferences in the case of resale or release after initial lottery.
How does the lottery work?
The lottery is held by the marketing agent and is overseen by the Boston Fair Housing Commission. All applicants are randomly pulled and a lottery list is created.
How do I sign up for affordable housing lotteries?
Go to the City of Boston email subscription page and check the box next to "Affordable Housing Lotteries." Then scroll to the bottom of the page, enter your email address, name, and location, and click "submit." You should receive an email message confirming your subscription.
I am trying to participate in a lottery, but the marketing agent is not answering my questions and is unresponsive. What do I do?
If a marketing agent is unresponsive or is not answering your questions you may consider contacting the developer directly or the Boston Fair Housing Commission to file a complaint.
What are the preferences in the lottery?
Preferences are awarded in the lottery and may move households up or down on the lottery list. The three most common preferences in the lottery are Boston Resident preference, Household size of at least one person per bedroom, and first-time homebuyer preference.
What type of assets does the BPDA count?
Assets include but are not limited to the following: Checking or savings accounts, CDs, money market accounts, treasury bills, stocks, bonds, securities, trust funds, gifts, pensions, IRAs, Keoghs, other retirement accounts, cash on hand over $500, real estate, rental property, other real estate holdings, all property held as an investment, and safe deposit contents.
How do I find out the lottery results?
Lottery results are made available by the marketing agent.
I was selected as a top candidate in the lottery. Do I automatically get an affordable unit?
Applicants selected in the lottery process must still go through an eligibility screening. The marketing agent handling the lottery and eligibility screening must obtain the financial documents from the applicant and review for eligibility, and finally send to the BPDA for review. BPDA review may take up to six weeks after receipt of a file from the marketing agent.
How long does the entire affordable housing process take?
The affordable housing process varies in length depending on several factors. The income certification process may take up to six weeks after the BPDA receives a complete file of income information from the marketing agent.
Can I receive a monetary gift for the purchase of an affordable home?
Yes, affordable housing applicants may receive monetary gifts but all gifts are subject to the asset policy.
I am a full time student, am I eligible?
Full-time undergraduate students age 18 and over are not eligible to purchase or rent unless they are co-buyers/co-tenants with an immediate family member who is a non-full time student. Full-time graduate students without income are not eligible unless they are co-buyers/co-tenants with an immediate family member who is a non-full time student. The BPDA's determination of full-time student status will be final.
Are student loans considered income?
Student loans are not considered income and may not be used to income qualify.
I didn't file taxes last year. What do I need to provide?
Individuals or households that did not file taxes must fill out and file a 4506-T form, verification of nonfiling, with the IRS. The IRS will mail a confirmation that must be provided with the income materials given to the marketing agent. You may find the 4506-T form at the IRS website.
Can my family or friends co-sign a mortgage or loan me money for the purchase of an affordable home?
Co-signors and Guarantors of mortgages or any lending instrument are not permitted unless they are cobuyers of the unit. In addition, the buyer must obtain arms-length financing. This means that the buyer may not borrow from a friend, family member or private source. A bank or mortgage company must be used.
I applied for a BPDA apartment, but the leasing agent said my income was too low. Why?
Most of the units in our program only have maximum income limits. A small number of units have maximum *and* minimum income limits set by the BPDA. However, many developments set their own minimum-income standards for tenants. A landlord may require that no more than 1/3 of a household's income go towards their rent, for example. The BPDA does not prevent developments from having rules like this as long as they are applicable to all tenants in the building.
I or someone in my family works for the City of Boston. I have heard that I need to fill out a special form. How do I get this form and how do I fill it out?
If you or a family member is currently and employee of the City of Boston or has been within the last 12 months, the individual employed by the City of Boston must fill out a Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest form. The form can be downloaded here (see additional instructions here) or obtained from the marketing agent. This form must then be filed with the City Clerks Office on the 6th Floor of City Hall. A stamped copy must be obtained and provided to the marketing agent. If the marketing agent does not have the proper form or does not know how it is to be completed, they must contact the BPDA. Please note this form is not needed to participate in a housing lottery. The form is required only after an applicant has been selected (via lottery or as purchaser of a resale property) to move forward with the BPDA's income certification process.
I would like to appeal a decision regarding lottery preferences or income eligibility. How do I appeal?
There is no appeal process for affordable housing applications. The BPDA determination of income eligibility is based on material provided by each household, is administrative in nature, and therefore final when made.
Where can I get a mortgage? Are there certain banks that are better than others?
There are certain banks in the Boston area that are more familiar with the affordable program than others. You may ask your lender if they are familiar with the BPDA affordable housing program.
If I get a promotion or make more money after I purchase the unit will I have to move out?
No. After purchasing an affordable unit, households are free and encouraged to become as financially
successful as possible. However, the affordable unit must always be owner occupied.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
Applicants do not have to hire an attorney, however it is recommended that prospective buyers hire a closing attorney to review all documents and represent the buyers interests at closing. Often, the bank or lending institution will have an attorney at the closing who will act on the buyers behalf at the closing.
I want to sell my affordable unit, what do I do?
Once you decide to sell your affordable unit, you must notify the BPDA with a letter or intent to sell form. If a real estate agent will be used, a copy of the signed listing agreement must be provided. If you have made capital improvements to your unit, you must provide a list of the improvements and receipts evidencing payment.
How do I get a copy of the restrictions on the affordable unit?
The restrictions on the affordable unit are usually attached to, or referenced in the Unit Deed. You may find a copy online at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds at www.masslandrecords.com .
How many years do the restrictions last?
Restrictions on the affordable units may vary; typically, however, the restrictions are effective for 50 years from the date of initial purchase.
Are there a certain number of years that I must own the affordable unit?
No, you may sell your affordable unit at any time. However, if you have received down payment assistance, you may need to own the property for a certain number of years before you sell in order to avoid any penalties.
How much can I resell my affordable unit for?
Typically, the affordable unit will appreciate at 3-5% of the purchase price, compounded annually. It is recommended that owners read through the restrictions regarding the appreciation of affordable units.
How are my property taxes calculated?
Property taxes are based on the assessed value of your unit. The City of Boston Assessing Department is aware of which units are “Affordable” and your taxes will be based on the “affordable value” of your unit. Any and all property tax questions or concerns must be directed to the City of Boston Assessing Department at 617.635.4287.
Can I refinance my current mortgage?
Yes, under most circumstances owners may refinance their current mortgage. Individuals interested in refinancing must notify the BPDA by completing the Refinance Request Form and submitting it to the BPDA along with all requested materials. Affordable unit owners may instruct their lender representative to contact the BPDA Affordable Housing department directly at 617.918.4306.