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Homeless after a natural disaster? You may have priority for public or subsidized housing

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September, 2021

Do you need housing because of a natural disaster?

If you are homeless because of a natural disaster, you may have first or high priority for some government-assisted housing. A priority can help you move up a waiting list and get reduced rent or subsidized housing more quickly.

What is government-assisted housing?

There are three basic types of state and federal government-assisted housing:

  • Public housing owned and managed by a public housing authority.
  • Vouchers you can use on the private market.
  • Multifamily subsidized housing that is privately-owned.

In what public or subsidized housing will I have a high priority if I have been displaced because of a natural disaster?

Ask the public housing authority where you are applying if it has a priority for victims of natural disasters.

You will have:

See Who has priority in Housing.

How do I apply for public housing?

Apply for state and federal public housing at a housing authority in a community where you want to live. See list of housing authorities with phone numbers. See a list of Public Housing Authorities with their addresses and telephone numbers.

How do I apply for a voucher?

For an MRVP or Section 8 voucher, apply at a housing authority that has a voucher program.  Or apply for several housing authorities at the MassNAHRO Section 8 Waiting List. You can also apply at a regional housing admin agency. You can use a Section 8 voucher anywhere in the state.

How do I apply for housing subsidized by MassHousing?

Identify the community where you want to live and apply directly at the subsidized housing developments in those communities. Or use HUD's online Affordable Apartment Search to find subsidized apartments in Massachusetts.

Use the Housing Navigator to find an apartment. See the list of MassHousing vacancies.

Where do I have priority if I was displaced from a HUD subsidized multifamily development?

If you were a resident of federally funded HUD multifamily housing damaged by a natural disaster, and if you are otherwise eligible, you must be given first preference in other HUD multifamily housing. You can ask for either temporary or permanent admission depending on your circumstances. See a list of federally subsidized multifamily housing or call Joe McNealy at the Boston HUD office, 617-994-8222.

Where can I get more information about applying for housing?

For more information about how to apply for rental housing programs, see Legal Tactics: Finding Public and Subsidized Housing.


1 760 CMR 5.09 (1)(a)(2)&(3).

2See the MassHousing Tenant Selection Plan

3 See the HUD handbook explaining these rules

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