The following questions/answers relate to any development where income-restricted/affordable units are overseen by the Boston Planning & Development Agency. Later, there are more specific questions related to renting or buying a home.
Application and Lottery Questions
Eligibility and Certification
Eligibility Questions: Homeownership
Eligibility Questions: Rentals
Purchasing a Condominium
A. Finding Housing
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 that work on affordable housing issues in the Boston area, and some of these programs may have staff available to provide personalized help to you. Please visit our More Housing Resources Page for more information. If you are facing an immediate housing crisis the Office of Housing Stability may be able to help.
Is there a listing of developments with affordable/income-restricted housing?
You can find information on properties that are currently being marketed/advertised as well as buildings where existing rental units are located at the Property Listings page. From this page, you can also submit your e-mail address to be notified of lotteries that are held to fill units in new properties. You can find links to listings of other affordable housing programs on the More Housing Resources Page.
How do I sign up for e-mail notifications?
To sign up for notices of upcoming lotteries, please visit the City of Boston's Metrolist page, and enter your contact information at the bottom of the page to sign up.
How do I find out about the re-sale of affordable condominiums? Does the BPDA have a listing?
The re-sale of an existing affordable/income restricted condominium is handled by the seller and/or their real estate agent. The BPDA does not have a listing of all re-sales; however, from time to time, some re-sale listings may appear on the BPDA Property Listings page 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 eligibility determinations.
How do I find out about existing affordable rentals? Does the BPDA have a listing?
A listing of existing rental properties with income restricted/affordable units can be found on the Property Listings page. When a tenant leaves an existing affordable/income restricted rental unit, the owner and/or manager of the building is required to find a new renter for that unit. The building is not required to hold another lottery when these previously-occupied units become vacant. Some owners/managers keep a waiting list and/or a contact list to notify people when a rental unit becomes available. The Property Listings page has a list of contact information on these properties. In addition, an owner/manager may choose to submit the rental listing to the City of Boston’s Metrolist service.
How long will it take for me to get a condo or apartment?
The BPDA cannot guarantee you will get a place to live through this process. Units become available as new developments are completed and when there is turn-over in existing properties. Because of this, there may not be a unit available for the specific time you need a place to live. When a unit is available, the application, lottery, and eligibility certification process can take a few months to be completed.
B. Application and Lottery 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 general application? I want to submit my information to the BPDA for consideration.
There is no housing application available online because the BPDA does not solicit or accept applications from the general public. Each property’s owner/developer is responsible for marketing available units at that property. This process typically is handled by designated leasing or sales agents, and BPDA staff works directly with agents to provide training and materials. Only applications that have been prescreened for eligibility by an owner/developer or agent may be submitted to the BPDA's compliance department for confirmation of eligibility.
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 Fair Housing and Equity, oversees the lottery process to ensure that it is run fairly and properly.
Will I be notified when the lottery is going to occur?
Once you have submitted an application, you will be notified by the marketing agent of the date and location of the lottery. You are invited to attend, but your presence is not required.
When will I find out about the results of the lottery?
You will hear back about the outcome of the lottery approximately one month after the application deadline. A property may receive hundreds of applicants. If you meet one or more preferences and are randomly assigned a low log number, then your chance of being contacted may be high. If not, then there is a possibility that the units will be filled before they get to your number. In some cases, those at the top of the list are deemed ineligible or chose not to take the unit. In those cases, you may be contacted several months after the lottery.
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 affordable housing application, what do I do?
All questions regarding affordable housing applications should be directed to the marketing agent who provided the application.
I missed the lottery 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 application process is fair to everyone.
How can I figure out if I am eligible to rent or purchase a home?
Households are not deemed generally “eligible” for the BPDA program as a whole. Income and asset limits vary from project to project, and often from unit to unit within a single project. A household may be eligible for one BPDA unit but ineligible for a different unit in the same building. Your eligibility depends on whether you meet the requirements of a specific unit when it becomes available. There is no prequalification.
Marketing information for each new development contains income limits for the units at that property. For preexisting properties, you must contact the unit’s seller or leasing agent to ask if any available units match your household’s qualifications. When a unit is available, the seller/agent distributes paperwork, prescreens households for eligibility, and submits a completed application file to the BPDA.
BPDA income guidelines are based on federally set measures of income referred to as “Area Median Income” or “AMI.” Each BPDA unit has a designated AMI level that does not change. Our Income, Asset, and Price Limits page contains information on the AMI figures currently in effect. Income limits are indexed to household size, while sale and rent prices are indexed to the number of bedrooms in a unit. You can use our Income Calculation Package (.zip folder will download directly to your computer) to get an idea of how your household’s income would be calculated. This package includes instructions, a worksheet, a manual form, and examples. (The Zip folder will download directly to your computer.) Note that the Income Calculation Worksheet is intended for informational purposes only. Calculation results do not constitute approval for affordable housing. Also see our FAQs related to Eligibility and Certification for general program rules.
The prices or rents listed on the web site or for a specific development 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 or rents of the units are more than they can afford, but for others, these prices or rents are affordable, and provide an opportunity to live in Boston that they otherwise may not have had. The units overseen by the BPDA were secured from developers without any public subsidies, and are geared towards moderate and middle income households. A number of developers (mostly non-profits) are using public subsidies to create units that are affordable to households with lower incomes. The purchase prices and rents of these units are generally lower. For other affordable housing options geared towards different income levels, please visit the More Housing Resources Page.
I am looking to purchase a house through an affordable program. Does the BPDA have single family homes in the lottery?
There are no single family homes in our portfolio. Almost all BPDA homeownership units are condominiums, with a very small number of existing non-condominium townhouses.
Can the BPDA email me something when applications become available?
To receive notices of upcoming lotteries, please visit the City of Boston's Metrolist page, and enter your contact information at the bottom of the page to sign up.
How does the lottery work?
The lottery is held by the developer, usually through a marketing agent, and is overseen by the City of Boston Office of Fair Housing and Equity. All applicants are randomly pulled and a lottery list is created and sorted by preferences.
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 a first-time homebuyer preference (on homeownership units). More detail on the preferences and the order of lottery preferences can be found on the Lottery Preferences page.
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.
How do I sign up for affordable housing lotteries?
Individuals interested in receiving notification of upcoming affordable opportunities may register for our email notifications which are sent when new developments are distributing applications. Go to the Property Listings page to sign up. You should receive an email message confirming your subscription.
I want to appeal a decision about a lottery preference. How do I appeal?
The BPDA determination of preferences is based on material provided by each household, is administrative in nature, and therefore final when made. It is possible – and unfortunate – that some applicants will not receive preferences to which they might otherwise be entitled because they fail to provide required documents. BPDA has made every effort to create guidelines which are strict enough to prevent fraudulent submissions yet flexible enough to accommodate most people. Only applicants who provide the required documentation will receive a preference.
How do I find out the lottery results?
Lottery results are made available by the marketing agent. The Office of Fair Housing and Equity also has a copy of the lottery results.
I was selected as a top candidate in the lottery. Do I automatically get an affordable unit?
No. Applicants selected in the lottery process must still go through an eligibility screening before they will have the opportunity to buy or rent a unit. 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. For further questions on eligibility, see the eligibility section, below.
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. If you believe the agent’s actions are discriminatory, you should contact the City of Boston Office of Fair Housing and Equity to file a complaint at [email protected] or 617.635.4408.
C. Eligibility and Certification
What do the different percentages (70%, 80%, 100%, etc.) listed on the Income Limit Chart mean?
The income percentages listed by column are categories of affordability within the program, based on Greater Boston’s Area Median Income (“AMI"). All units are designated to a particular income percentage category when they are constructed. For instance, in a development with ten affordable units, five of them may be designated at the 80% level, three at 100% and two at 120%. The affordability designations are permanent and specific to each unit and do not change. On an annual basis the income limits, sales and rental prices may change for each income category. Individuals who find that they are not income eligible for the 80% category may be eligible for a 100% or 120% income unit. 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.
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 Package to get an idea of what their current annual income is and how it is calculated. This package includes instructions, a worksheet, a manual form, and examples. (The Zip folder will download directly to your computer.) Note that the Income Calculation Worksheet is intended for informational purposes only. Calculation results do not constitute approval for affordable housing.
I didn't file taxes last year. What do I need to provide?
Individuals or households who did not file taxes must provide a verification of non-filing from the IRS in lieu of a tax return. To obtain the verification of non-filing, applicants should fill out a 4506-T form and file it by mail or hand deliver it to an IRS office. The IRS will mail back a letter of verification which must be provided with the income materials given to the marketing agent. See the IRS website to download a 4506-T form.
Individuals who filed federal taxes with the IRS listing a Massachusetts address, but did not file Massachusetts taxes for that year, will need to obtain proof of non-filing from the Department of Revenue by submitting a Form M-4506 to the DOR office. The DOR will then supply them the requested copy of a state tax return, schedule, or other supporting documentation.
This state documentation will not be required for individuals with a MA State Tax exemption for pension income received from a contributory annuity, pension, endowment or retirement fund of the U.S. Government or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and its political subdivisions.
Download a Form M-4506
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 at any point during that time, the applicant will not be eligible.
My child has a part-time job after school. Does this affect our application?
Income from household members under the age of 18 is not counted towards the household's income for qualification purposes.
Are student loans considered income?
Student loans are not considered income and may not be used to income qualify.
I am separated from my spouse, does this affect my application?
Legally married couples are both 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. Minimum household size requirements may also apply post-lottery when units are resold or released.
I live out of state but recently got a job offer in or near Boston. Can I apply for a unit?
BPDA's program is intended primarily to preserve affordable housing opportunities for longstanding local residents and those who intend to make Boston their permanent home. Additionally, eligibility under our program is determined by calculating a household's projected income on the basis of their current earnings. All applicants generally are required to provide their two most recent consecutive paystubs; however, an applicant who is relocating from out of state may provide an offer letter along with a single first paystub in lieu of the two paystubs which are usually required. An offer letter with no accompanying paystub is not sufficient to establish eligibility and will not be accepted.
Are students eligible?
BPDA’s housing program preserves access to affordable opportunities by longstanding Boston residents and households intending to establish permanent residency in the City. To further these goals, and in light of existing options provided exclusively to post-secondary students by local colleges and universities, BPDA units are made available to students on a limited basis only.
I live in or am moving to Massachusetts but I work remotely for an employer outside of the greater Boston area, am I still eligible to apply for a BPDA unit?
A full-time student enrolled in a post-secondary educational program is not eligible for a BPDA unit unless the student:
- is a co-applicant with at least one household member who is not a full-time post-secondary student, and all household members intend to occupy the BPDA unit as their primary residence;
- is already an authorized current occupant of the BPDA unit in question at the time of full-time post-secondary school enrollment;
- is employed full-time;
- receives non-employment income primarily or solely from government benefits programs (e.g. SSI, SSDI, TANF, EAEDC, or similar); or
- has a subsidized housing voucher on which all co-applicants (if applicable) are listed as authorized residents, and all applicant household members intend to occupy the BPDA unit as their primary residence.
Students enrolled in a post-secondary educational program on a full-time basis during the regular academic year will be considered full-time students regardless of any part-time enrollment during optional terms such as winter break or summer sessions.
Can I still apply if someone in my household is not a US citizen?
If you are applying to lease a BPDA-restricted rental unit, citizenship or immigration status is not relevant to your household's eligibility. Non-citizens may apply regardless of residency status.
If you are applying to purchase a BPDA-restricted ownership unit, however, you must provide proof of long-term legal residency in the United States. Homeownership applicants are subject to the documentation requirements outlined in the City of Boston's policy on Verification of United States Residency for applicants to the Boston Home Center. Click here to see the policy. Note: BPDA requires documentation as described in the policy's sections numbered one (1) and two (2). Mortgage financing approval alone, as described in section three (3) of the City's policy, is not sufficient to establish eligibility to purchase a BPDA-restricted unit.
Please also note that regardless of citizenship or residency status, applicants for all types of BPDA-restricted units are required to provide official tax documents from the IRS as part of the eligibility certification process.
Yes. As noted above, the BPDA's program is intended primarily to preserve affordable housing opportunities for longstanding local residents and those who intend to make Boston their permanent home, including those who permanently work remotely for employers outside of the greater Boston area. Applicants who work remotely must provide a letter from their employer stating that the remote work is intended to continue indefinitely in addition to providing the two most recent, consecutive paystubs from the remote employer.
I have a rental voucher (e.g., Section 8, Housing Choice, VASH, or MRVP). Can I apply for a BPDA income-restricted rental unit?
Yes, voucher holders are encouraged to apply for BPDA income-restricted rental units. Voucher-holders must still meet BPDA eligibility requirements independent of any requirements imposed by the voucher-issuing agency. Additionally, the apartment must meet the standards set by HUD and/or the State of Massachusetts, as well as the agency managing your voucher.
Will my housing voucher be counted as income for the purposes of determining eligibility for an income-restricted IDP rental unit?
No; however, the value of the voucher will be assessed with regard to the applicant/voucher-holder’s ability to pay total monthly rent. If the voucher and the required tenant contribution are not sufficient to pay total monthly rent, a voucher-holder may be denied an opportunity to rent a BPDA income-restricted unit for being unable to demonstrate and ability to pay rent. Additionally, voucher-holders are not subject to income floors (i.e. income minimums that are required to be imposed under agreements with the BPDA) provided that the value of the voucher along with the required tenant contribution will pay for the total rent.
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 income restricted/affordable home. For units targeted to households at or below 80% of Area Median Income, 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, HSA 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 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 no more than $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.
I would like to appeal a decision regarding income or asset eligibility. How do I appeal?
The BPDA determination of income eligibility is based on material provided by each household, is administrative in nature, and therefore final when made. Applicants may seek an informal hearing on factual disputes by mailing a written request to BPDA Housing Compliance, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201. Please note hearings will be held only upon recommendation of BPDA’s General Counsel so not all requests will result in appeals.
I work for the City of Boston, or someone in my family does. Can I still apply?
Yes. If you or an immediate family member is currently an employee of the City of Boston or has been within the last 12 months, you may apply, but please note the employee must fill out a Disclosure of Appearance of Conflict of Interest form. This form then must be filed with the City Clerk’s Office on the 6th Floor of City Hall. You must obtain a stamped copy from the Clerk's Office and provide it to the marketing agent handling your application. If the agent does not have the form or does not know how it is to be completed, they should contact the BPDA directly.
The form can be downloaded here, and additional instructions are here. Note: clicking on the form link will not open a new window displaying the document; it will download the document directly to your computer. Check your downloads folder.
Please also note this form is not needed to participate in a housing lottery. It is required only after an applicant has been selected (via lottery or releasing of existing units, or as the buyer of a resale property) to move forward with the BPDA's income certification process.
What does "immediate family member" mean?
"Immediate family" is defined as it is in the Massachusetts Conflict of Interest Law (M.G.L. c. 268A) and means an applicant's spouse and their parents, children, or siblings.
Can BPDA employees or their family members apply?
No. If you or an immediate family member works for the Boston Planning & Development Agency, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC), or the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, you are not eligible to rent or purchase a property monitored by the BPDA.
I work for a company that owns or manages a building with affordable units, or my family member does. Can I apply?
A building's owner and immediate family members thereof, including the owner's agents and employees and immediate family members thereof, are prohibited from buying or renting BPDA-restricted units in any building owned or managed by the owner or owner's immediate family members, including the owner's agents and employees and immediate family members thereof.
An exception to this policy may apply for employees whose job duties do not include participation in any of the owner’s responsibilities under the restriction including, but not limited to, the following activities: leasing, advertising, and/or marketing of the BPDA units; household eligibility certifications and/or recertifications; billing or collection of rents and fees charged to tenants; and other management or service functions directly related to the administration of the BPDA units. To request an exception, applicants may submit a written request to: Director of Compliance, BPDA, One City Hall Square, Boston, MA 02201. Requests must include supporting documentation from the employer verifying the scope of the applicant employee’s current job responsibilities; if the applicant is approved, updated supporting documentation must be provided thereafter annually prior to renewal.
What can I expect as an owner or renter of a unit in this program?
For frequently asked questions related to living in a unit, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions for Existing Tenants & Owners.
D. Eligibility Questions: Homeownership
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.
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 co-buyers 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.
E. Eligibility Questions: Rentals
Can a friend or family member co-sign a lease?
No, cosigners and guarantors on a lease are not permitted. Guarantors include persons who are not members of the applicant household but who make regular and/or substantial monetary contributions to members of the household.
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. For example, a landlord may require that no more than 1/3 of a household's income go towards their rent. The BPDA does not prevent developments from having rules like this as long as they are applicable to all tenants in the building. The leasing agent, must however, take into account a rental voucher such as a Housing Choice/Section 8 voucher or an MRVP voucher in determining a household’s ability to pay the rent.
I have a rental voucher (e.g., Section 8, Housing Choice, VASH, or MRVP). Can I apply for a BPDA apartment?
Yes. The apartment must still meet the standards set by HUD and/or the State of Massachusetts, as well as the agency managing your voucher. In addition, the landlord/leasing agent will still need to confirm your eligibility for the unit, based on BPDA eligibility guidelines.
E. Purchasing a Condominium
Where can I get a mortgage? Are there certain banks that are better than others?
The BPDA does not require you to get a mortgage from a specific lender. However, certain banks in the Boston area are more familiar with affordable housing programs than others. Ask your lender if they are familiar with the BPDA income-restricted/affordable housing program. In addition, you may qualify for a first-time homebuyer program offered through the City of Boston’s Home Center. Through this program, there are specific lenders who provide specialized mortgage products and are familiar with income-restricted/affordable units.
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. To register for one of these classes, visit the Home Center’s website or call 617.635.4663 (617.635.HOME).
Do I need to hire an attorney?
We recommend prospective buyers hire a closing attorney to review all documents and represent the buyer’s interests at closing. Often, the bank or lending institution will have an attorney at the closing who will act on the buyer’s behalf at the closing, but it is still useful for you to have your own attorney.
What is a “Homestead” and how do I get it?
A Homestead protects up to the first $500,000 of your home value from seizure and attachments related to non-mortgage debts. Owner-occupant homeowners can file a Declaration of Homestead with the state. Your or the mortgage lender’s attorney can file this for you when you purchase the home. For more information, go to the web site for the Massachusetts Secretary of State.
Existing Tenants & Owners
This section provides answers to the most commonly asked questions you might have about living in your new home, as well as about what happens when you decide to move. This sections provides answers specifically for:
This section provides answers to frequently asked questions about renting an income restricted/affordable unit.
How long is my lease?
The lease term of a BPDA apartment must be no less than one year, unless by mutual agreement between the tenant and the landlord. The lease term cannot be for longer than one year.
How much will my rent change each year?
Landlords can increase your rent once per year, and cannot exceed the maximum rent allowed for a unit of your size and at the maximum Area Median Income established for your unit. The BPDA revises the rents once a year, generally in April, and can be found at the BPDA’s web page on income, rent, and sales price limits. The amount your rent will change varies from year to year, and depends on changes in the Area Median Income, not overall inflation or changes in the rents of unrestricted/market rate units.
How long can I stay in the unit? If I get a promotion or make more money after I rent the unit, will I have to move out?
You must be re-certified for eligibility annually to remain in your BPDA unit after the first lease term. Each year, your landlord must collect updated income and asset documents from all members of your household - just like when you originally applied for the unit. The landlord then determines whether your household is still eligible to occupy the unit and if so, may renew your lease, if appropriate. Typically the recertification takes place 60-90 days prior to lease end. Landlords submit annual reports to BPDA summarizing the documentation provided by each household.
Many households' incomes increase while living in BPDA units, and in some cases these increases may put a household over the unit's initial maximum income limit. BPDA guidelines allow for moderate increases while still preserving the units for middle-income households. In most BPDA apartments, you can remain eligible as long as your income does not exceed a "renewal limit" which is set at the Area Median Income (AMI) 40 percentage points higher than the initial maximum AMI. For example, if you live in a unit designated at 70% AMI, your household income may grow until it surpasses 110% of AMI before you become ineligible for the unit. Restrictions vary depending on the specific building, however, so your specific renewal limit may be different. Check with your landlord if you have questions.
Once your household's income exceeds the renewal limit, the landlord is no longer authorized to renew your lease. You will be required to vacate at the end of your lease term so your landlord can re-rent the apartment to a new eligible household. Landlords can also terminate tenancy or decline to renew a lease if the household violates the lease or building rules, or for other good cause. A household's failure to provide annual recertification information means they cannot be recertified as eligible; this will result in non-renewal of the lease, at minimum, and may render the household ineligible for BPDA units in the future.
What happens if my household composition changes?
In BPDA rental units, eligibility is specific to each household: only individuals named in the original application may occupy the unit. Any tenant wishing to add a new occupant (whether as an additional roommate or to replace a departing current roommate) must be certified by BPDA as a new household *before* the new person can be permitted to move in. The only exception to this policy is for children under the age of 18 born to or adopted by previously-certified household members.
If you anticipate any changes to who occupies your BPDA unit, please contact your building’s leasing agent well in advance to begin the eligibility certification process. Unauthorized household members are strictly prohibited and will lead to sanctions for both the tenant and the landlord.
Can I rent out or sub-lease the apartment? What about Airbnb?
No. Tenants are not permitted to rent or sublease BPDA units for any length of time, including through short-term rental services such as AirBnb. Only certified members of eligible households may occupy these units. BPDA units provide moderate/middle income households with opportunities to live and work in the city. Unauthorized rental or subleasing would also violate the tenant's lease, and the property's owner has the right to end the tenancy for lease violations.
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 the resident of an income restricted/affordable unit is renting out their unit. Renters of such units must live in the unit as their primary residence. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential and the BPDA will investigate the claim.
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 action will be taken to bring the affordable unit back into compliance with the program. For rental units, the property owner has the right to begin eviction proceedings for lease violations.
Once you are an owner of an income-restricted unit, certain rules and responsibilities apply, related to:
Living in the Unit
Selling the Unit
Refinancing the Unit
Where can I find the documents I need?
Right here! More information about these documents can be found in the FAQs and answers below.
A. Living in the Unit
Do I have to pay condo fees?
Yes. All units in a condominium must pay fees, including the income restricted/affordable units. Many BPDA units are assigned a lesser “percentage interest” than the market-rate units in their condominiums, so fees may be lower. Ask the marketing agent/seller what the estimated monthly condo fee is when you apply. In addition, ask what costs are covered by the condominium fee so that have a better understanding of your total housing costs. For example, in some cases, the condominium fee also covers heat or hot water.
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. Please direct any and all property tax questions or concerns to the City of Boston Assessing Department at 617.635.4287.
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.
How many years do the restrictions last?
Restrictions on the affordable units vary, but typically are effective for 50 years from the date the unit was created.
If I get a promotion or make more money after I purchase the unit will I have to move out?
No. After purchasing a BPDA unit, your income and assets can increase. An owner does not need to maintain eligibility under the unit’s income limit after initial purchase.
Can I refinance my current mortgage?
Yes, under most circumstances owners can refinance their current mortgage. If you own a BPDA unit and are interested in refinancing, please complete and submit the Refinance Request Form along with a copy of your mortgage preapproval or loan commitment letter. See the form for additional instructions. You can also have your loan officer contact the BPDA directly at 617.918.4373 or [email protected].
You must contact the BPDA prior to refinancing and before taking out any other new loans, such as home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), against the unit.
Why do I need to notify BPDA when I refinance?
Generally a unit owner who is refinancing or taking out a HELOC will need two documents from the BPDA: 1) a mortgage subordination, and 2) a certificate.
The BPDA holds mortgages on most restricted ownership units. These are performance mortgages, not associated with any loans, but are intended to secure the units' affordability restrictions. Your lender mostly likely will want all other mortgages on the unit to be discharged or subordinated to their new mortgage. Although the BPDA will not discharge our mortgage as long as you continue to own the unit, in most cases we will agree to provide a subordination for a refinance.
Additionally, the unit owner typically must obtain a certificate from the BPDA for any refinance. This document verifies that the refinance complies with the unit's restrictions, and certifies the unit's current Maximum Resale Price. The certificate must be recorded along with the subordination at the Registry of Deeds.
To request the subordination and certificate, please use the Refinance Request Form. The BPDA does not charge a fee for providing these documents. Please also note, however, that the BPDA is not responsible for recording the documents or for paying any fees charged by the Registry to record.
How much will I be able to refinance my property for?
Typically owners may refinance for up to 95% of the maximum resale price of their unit. If you are simply refinancing your current mortgage to get a better rate, BPDA is likely to provide approval as long as your original bank mortgage was taken out in compliance with the unit's restrictions. If you want to take out additional debt against the unit, such as through a HELOC, the BPDA may need to see documentation of your current mortgage balance before we can approve the request. Please see our Refinance Request Form for further information.
What happens if who lives in my unit changes?
BPDA ownership units must be owner-occupied at all times, but we do not regulate who is in the owner’s household after a unit is purchased. Other household members may come and go provided that the owner maintains his/her/their principal place of residence at the BPDA unit, and provided that the owner does not rent out any part of the unit in violation of its restrictions.
What happens if I get married and want to put my spouse on the deed?
Adding or removing a person’s name from a deed is a change of ownership, and owners must follow the same procedures they would use to resell their unit. You and your spouse must be approved as eligible to buy the unit together. Depending on the circumstances, BPDA may approve a request for a waiver of income certification. Please contact the BPDA directly for more information at 617.918.4373 or [email protected].
What happens if co-owners get divorced?
Adding or removing a person’s name from a deed is a change of ownership, so owners must follow the same procedures they would use to resell their unit. If one spouse will retain ownership after the divorce, s/he must first be approved as eligible to buy the unit. Depending on the circumstances, BPDA may approve a request for a waiver of income certification. Please contact the BPDA directly for more information at 617.918.4373 or [email protected].
Can I rent out the unit? What about Airbnb?
No. BPDA unit owners are not permitted to rent or sublease all or part of their units for any length of time, including through short-term rental services such as AirBnb. Units must be owner-occupied, and only owners and their household members may occupy these units. BPDA units provide middle-income households with opportunities to live and work in the city. The units are not intended to be investment properties. In addition, many condominium associations also prohibit rental to non-owners.
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 the resident of an income restricted/affordable unit is renting out their unit. Owners or renters of such units must live in the unit as their primary residence. All correspondence will be kept confidential to the extent permitted by law. BPDA will investigate the claim and take appropriate action.
What happens if I move out of the property?
The BPDA requires that the property remain owner occupied. If you choose to move, you will need to sell the unit. If the BPDA determines that the property is not owner occupied, the BPDA will ask you to sell the unit, and may take legal action. Penalties may include a forced sale of the property with all or a portion of the proceeds going to the BPDA.
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 action will be taken to bring the affordable unit back into compliance with the program. For homeowners, the BPDA will take legal action, and penalties may include a forced sale of the property with all or a portion of the proceeds going to the BPDA.
B. Selling the Unit
I want to sell my affordable unit, what do I do?
Once you decide to sell your income-restricted/affordable unit, you must notify the BPDA with a letter or Notice of 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. After BPDA receives your Notice of Intent to Sell and all relevant attachments, we will provide you with all of the information necessary to identify an eligible buyer for your unit.
How much can I resell my affordable unit for?
When newly-created BPDA units are sold for the first time, they must comply with annual sales price limits published elsewhere on our website. These figures do not apply to resales of existing units, however. At resale, each unit has a “maximum resale price” (MRP) determined using a formula contained in the deed restriction for that specific unit. Usually the MRP is based on the initial purchase price of the unit increased by 3-5% compounded annually, with additional increases for capital improvements made to the unit. Some units’ MRP formulas may include allowances for broker fees and other incidentals. Owners wishing to resell their unit should keep in mind that the "maximum resale price" is not a guaranteed sale price; it simply sets an upper limit on the amount for which the unit may be sold.
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 or are participating in certain specialized first time homebuyer mortgages, you may need to own the property for a certain number of years before you sell in order to avoid any penalties.
Can the BPDA help me find a buyer for my unit?
No. The unit's owner is solely responsible for finding an eligible purchaser. BPDA cannot assist with marketing units for resale. Once the owner has submitted their notice of intent to sell, BPDA staff provides the seller or seller’s broker with the paperwork necessary to confirm a prospective buyer’s eligibility.
This section provides answers to questions frequently asked by developers related to the Inclusionary Development Policy.
BPDA Requirements and Approval
Marketing Income Restricted/Affordable Units
Where can I find the documents I need?
Right here! The most important documents you may want to review are:
A. BPDA Requirements and Approval
How many affordable units does my project need?
As stated in the December 10, 2015 Inclusionary Development Policy (“IDP”), projects of 10 units of more, filing in 2016 or later, either financed by the City, on property owned by the City, or requiring zoning relief, are required to designate 13% of their total units as IDP units.
If the units required include a fractional unit of 0.5 or above, then the IPD units required is rounded up. If the fractional units is less than 0.5, then a contribution is required for this partial unit. Creating IDP units off-site of the proposed development or contributing to the IDP Fund in lieu of building units on-site may also sometimes be an option. See the 2015 Inclusionary Development Policy for details.
Inclusionary Development requirements may be higher in certain areas of the city where added affordability has been linked to the rezoning of these areas, such as in areas known as a Strategic Planning Area (“SPA”).
How much rent will I receive from IDP rental units?
Unless otherwise stated in the Zoning Code or planning guidelines, IDP rental units are for households earning less than or equal to 70% of the Area Median Income (“AMI”) at the time the units are marketed. Maximum incomes and rents change very slightly each year (sometime in the spring) and the latest chart can be found on the BPDA website.
For how much will I be able to sell the IDP condominium units?
Unless otherwise stated in the Zoning Code or planning guidelines, at least half of the IDP ownership units are for households earning less than or equal to 80% of Area Median Income (“AMI”), The remainder of units are for households earning greater than 80% of AMI but not more than 100% of AMI, all at the time the units are marketed. Income and sales prices change very slightly each year (sometime in the spring) and the latest chart can be found on the BPDA website.
Where in the project will IDP units be located?
IDP units should be spread out evenly throughout the proposed project, excluding the penthouse floor. IDP units should not be stacked or concentrated on the same floors and should have comparable square footage as the units in the rest of the development.
What types of units should IDP units be?
The number of IDP studios, one-bedrooms, two-bedrooms, etc. should match proportionally the number of market rate units at each bedroom count. The BPDA is also asking that some of the five percent of units designated as ADA (Group 2 accessible) units also be IDP units.
Are IDP units required to be the same as the market rate units?
Yes, the BPDA requires that all IDP units be comparable in design and quality to the market rate units unless otherwise specified. The BPDA may approve a deviation from this standard as it relates to certain finishes and appliances for condominiums only when a Developer demonstrates a substantially superior affordable housing outcome.
At what point in the process does the developer and the BPDA agree on how a development will meet its IDP obligation?
During the Article 80 review process, the developer and BPDA staff will finalize how the developer will meet its IDP obligations, and will be spelled out in the recommendation memo submitted to the BPDA Board for approval. When possible, the actual locations of the units will also be decided at this time. The exact locations and unit numbers of the IDP units are then outlined in an Affordable Housing Agreement (homeownership units) or an Affordable Rental Housing Agreement and Restriction (rental units). The affordable housing agreement must be completed before a building permit can be issued.
B. Marketing Income Restricted/Affordable Units
What are the steps in the marketing process?
Before a new income restricted unit can be marketed, the developer and/or their marketing agent must work with the Mayor’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity (OFHE) to create an Affirmative Fair Marketing Plan. This plan outlines the steps you will need to take in order to assure that the marketing of the units is fair and transparent. This plan must be approved by OFHE and the BPDA.
This plan will spell out specific steps including where and how to advertise, when, where, and how to make applications available, and how to complete the lottery.
OFHE will hold a lottery with the marketing agent, and will sort the list for any preferences (Boston resident, household size, disability, etc.). More information on lottery preferences can be found here.
The marketing agent then will contact potential renters/buyers according to their position in the lottery and collect the Affidavit of Eligibility and any necessary supporting documentation.
After the marketing agent reviews the eligibility documentation, the paperwork can be submitted to BPDA Housing Compliance staff, who will completed the eligibility screening process. If the household is certified, the marketing agent can then sign a lease and/or move forward with the sale of the unit.
When should I complete the affirmative fair marketing plan?
In some cases, developers are required to complete the Affirmative Fair Marketing Plan at the same time the affordable housing agreement is completed. For most developers, this is not required, but no units can be marketed before the marketing plan has been approved. It is recommended that the developer contact the Mayor’s Office of Fair Housing and Equity as early as possible to complete this process, so there are no delays in marketing the income restricted units.
When should I start the marketing of income restricted/affordable units?
Income restricted/affordable units cannot be marketed more than six (6) months before the units are to be occupied. Many developers market three- to four-months before the units are to be occupied.
Property Managers & Agents
This section provides answers to questions frequently asked by managers and agents of buildings with income restricted/affordable units monitored by the BPDA.
Where can I find the documents I need?
Right here! More information about these documents can be found in the FAQs and answers below.
How do I certify the income of a new tenant?
Each household applying for an income restricted unit must complete an Affidavit of Eligibility. The building manager or leasing agent must collect the affidavit, along with any supporting documents, and send it to BPDA Housing Compliance for review. If the certification package is not complete, delays in processing will occur.
As of April 1, 2020, BPDA only accepts certification files via our online submission system. Please do not send certification files or materials via mail or email. If you have a certification file that is complete and ready to send, please fill out the form here. You then will receive an email from a BPDA staff member inviting you to upload your documents to a secure folder. These submissions will be processed via Box, a secure document sharing platform which makes accounts available to users at no cost. You must complete a new form for each individual file.
It is recommended that you and your staff receive training from BPDA representatives about the certification process and other program requirements. To schedule a training, call 617-918-4306.
What kind of tenant screening am I allowed to complete?
BPDA does not prohibit you from using credit histories, criminal record histories (CORI), and other standard tenant selection screening processes when filling an income-restricted unit. However, these screening processes must be applied equally to all prospective tenants, whether they are in a market-rate or an income-restricted unit. We recommend that managers maintain some flexibility in using the screening tools, in recognition of lower-income households may face more challenges in terms of their credit history, or are less likely to have a credit history.
In addition, the BPDA, in cooperation with the City of Boston Office of Fair Housing and Equity, is reviewing guidelines intended to improve access to housing who have CORI records.
Can I set a minimum income limit for a unit?
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. You can set your own minimum-income standard for tenants provided that the standard applies to all tenants in the building. A landlord may require that no more than 1/3 of a household's income go towards their rent, for example. Additionally, the leasing agent must take into account a rental voucher such as Section 8 or MRVP in determining a household’s ability to pay the rent.
Are there special rules for tenants in BPDA units?
In general, landlords may require tenants in income-restricted units to follow the same rules and policies as tenants in market-rate units. The main difference is that income-restricted units are subject to BPDA's rent and income limits. There are some additional exceptions, however. For example, leases for BPDA units must require tenants to provide documentation needed to establish continued eligibility prior to lease renewal. Landlords must give no less than 30 days' notice prior to a proposed termination date in almost all circumstances, including for non-payment of rent. Additional rules may apply depending on the BPDA restrictions on a particular building. If you have questions about whether a policy is permissible, please contact the BPDA.
Once initial marketing is completed, must I keep a waiting list?
While you are not required to maintain a wait list, it is advised. For most managers, the initial lottery list serves as the start of that wait list. Having such a list will shorten the time it takes to identify a new tenant when a vacancy becomes available.
How often must I recertify tenant incomes?
Annually, the landlord must recertify the incomes for each household and submit a report to the BPDA with an update on existing tenants. The recertification should be completed before renewing the tenant’s lease. Usually the tenant’s income can be greater upon renewal than the initial maximum income limit, as most BPDA units allow an existing household's income to increase to an Area Median Income (AMI) up to 40 percentage points higher than the initial maximum AMI. For example, if the initial maximum AMI was set at 70% of AMI, the tenant’s income could grow until it surpasses 110% of AMI. At this time, you would not be able to renew the tenant’s lease, and must re-rent the apartment to an eligible household. Please check the Affordable Rental Housing Agreement and Restriction for details.
When am I allowed to increase the rent, and by how much?
Landlords can increase the rent once per year, and cannot exceed the maximum rent allowed for a unit size (by bedroom count) and at the maximum Area Median Income established for the unit. The BPDA revises the rents once a year, generally in April, and can be found at the BPDA’s web page on income, rent, and sales price limits. The amount the maximum rent will change varies from year to year, and depends on changes in the Area Median Income, not overall inflation or changes in the rents of unrestricted/market rate units.
What happens if who lives in an income restricted unit changes?
In BPDA rental units, eligibility is specific to each household. Before making any changes to the household (adding or removing someone, replacing a current roommate with a new person, etc.), the tenants must first be approved as eligible as if they were a new applicant. Exceptions to this policy are circumstances when a child under 18 is added to the household, such as through the birth of a child.
A tenant 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 the resident of an income restricted/affordable unit is renting out their unit. Renters of such units must live in the unit as their primary residence. All correspondence will be kept strictly confidential and the BPDA will investigate the claim. If it is found that a tenant is renting out the unit, the property owner has the right to begin eviction proceedings for this lease violation.
Can I evict a tenant “for cause”?
Individuals who violate the terms of their lease may be evicted, following the rules and regulations established for all rental units by the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Given that many tenants of income restricted units may have fewer choices to acquire other housing, you may want to consider reaching out to service providers that may be able to help the tenant avoid eviction. Such services/referrals include:
For general assistance and information about services that may be available to assist the tenant or address a landlord/tenant problem, visit the City of Boston Office of Housing Stability.
The Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) works with tenants, including families with children with disabilities, facing eviction as a result of behavior related to a disability (e.g. mental illness, mental retardation, substance abuse, aging related impairments). TPP functions as a neutral party to the landlord and tenant. In consultation with the Housing Court Department, TPP works with the property owner and tenant to determine whether the disability can be reasonably accommodated and the tenancy preserved.
If you think that hoarding is a problem for a tenant, contact Metro Boston Housing Partnership’s Hoarding and Sanitation Initiative to make a referral.