While anyone can apply for these units, when conducting lotteries for affordable/income-restricted units, the City takes many factors, called "preferences" into consideration to help allocate housing to those who need it most. Certain preferences have more weight than others, and they are listed by prioritization below. Preferences are only applicable when applying for an income-restricted unit through a lottery process. Preferences do not apply for unit re-sales or re-leasings after the project’s initial lottery list has been exhausted.
At the lottery, a number is pulled for every applicant. After the lottery, the list is sorted based on the preferences and the lottery number. For example, if a person’s name was pulled fifth (#5) in the lottery, but did not have a Boston residency preference, they actually may become the tenth (#10) person on the list after the residency preference is applied.
Ordering of Preferences
Applicants will be given preference by the number of applicable preferences that they meet as described here (not all preferences apply in every lottery):
Individuals requiring handicapped accessible units.
Urban Renewal displacee
Boston resident, household size of minimum one person per bedroom, and first-time homebuyer
Boston resident and household size of minimum one person per bedroom
Boston resident and first-time homebuyer
Boston resident only
Household size of minimum one person per bedroom and first-time homebuyer
Household size of minimum one person per bedroom only
First-time homebuyer only
None of the above
Further Details on Preferences
Preferences for persons with disabilities only apply to units that have been fully built-out as accessible, not adaptable units. Furthermore, the disability must match the built out features of a unit. For example, a person with mobility impairment would not get a preference for a unit designed for someone with a sensory impairment.
Urban Renewal Displacee
This preference applies to those persons displaced from a specific property and/or displaced from the relevant Urban Renewal Plan Area by clearance and redevelopment activities carried out by the Boston Planning and Development Authority. Required documentation includes proof of displacement by the BPDA from the relevant Urban Renewal Area during the official Urban Renewal Period (displacement notice and proof of residency during the Urban Renewal Period in the form of utility bills, voting record, bank statement, record of birth or any other official documents).
A Boston resident is any individual whose principal residence, where he or she permanently and normally eats, sleeps and maintains his or her normal personal and household effects, is in the City of Boston. Required documentation includes a minimum of two (2) utility bills from separate companies dated within 60 days of application from electric, oil, cable, gas, or telephone. If two utility bills cannot be provided, applicants must provide one document from each of the following categories: (A) current signed lease or official letter from a homeless shelter; and (B) a single utility bill, proof of voter registration, proof of renter's insurance, or an auto insurance policy listing where the car is “garaged." Additional documentation may be required.
Minimum Household Size
To determine if the household size meets the eligibility for the minimum household size preference, all persons who intend to occupy the housing unit as their primary residence, whether or not they are on the deed or lease, are counted. Legally married couples shall both be considered part of the household, even if separated. Children shall be considered part of the household if they spend more than 50% of the year (183 days, including partial days) in the residence. Everyone included on the deed or lease, whether or not they intend to occupy the unit, shall also considered part of the household.
The first-time homebuyer preference only applies to homeownership units, and is a buyer (including spouse, current or former) who has never owned a residential property. While there are first-time homebuyer mortgage and financial assistance programs that require the completion of a course, a course is not required to meet this preference.
BPDA Certified Artist
The BPDA Certified Artist preference only applies to units designated for the Artist Live/Work program. A person who has received a BPDA and/or City of Boston Artist Certification letter is eligible for this preference. Find more information and a full description of the artist certification process on the Artist Live/Work initiative pages.