About Office of Housing Stability
To prevent the involuntary displacement of Somerville residents who are in the process of eviction or at other risk of losing their housing; to rehouse the homeless and those needing to relocate; and to enact policies to combat displacement and enhance tenants’ rights.
Our Impact: One Client's Story
A Place to Call Home
Two years ago, Surinder, a recent widow and single mother, received notice that her landlord was raising the rent on the apartment she shared with her daughter and her mother. Surinder had lived in this home for 15 years, ever since she moved from India to Somerville to live with her husband. Between Surinder’s widow benefits and earnings from her job at Dunkin Donuts, this multigenerational family could no longer afford to live in their own home.
With the threat of eviction looming, Surinder reached out to the Office of Housing Stability. OHS director Ellen Shachter advocated with Surinder’s landlord and convinced him to let Surinder’s family extend their stay at their original rent while OHS assisted them in a search for affordable housing. Waitlists for affordable housing are long, so Surinder’s family eventually moved into a temporary home with a roommate. The rent was still too high long term, and they missed their privacy, but it bought them time to keep searching for affordable housing.
OHS helped Surinder navigate her application to the 100 Homes Program, a partnership between the City of Somerville and Somerville Community Corporation that creates and preserves affordable housing. Ellen ensured that Surinder’s family was placed on the priority waitlist because they had been displaced through no fault of their own.
Six months later, Surinder’s family moved into their new home. Although lower than market price, the rent still exceeded 50% of Surinder’s income. In order to make this apartment truly affordable, OHS helped Surinder apply for a section 8 voucher, which guaranteed that the family’s rent would not exceed 30% of their income.
Today, Surinder’s family lives together in a two-bedroom apartment in East Somerville, close to the Somerville Public Library, Foss Park, and many local businesses and restaurants. They are grateful to be part of this close-knit community. Surinder greets her neighbors by name, and her daughter has friends in the neighborhood. Surinder works locally at a Dunkin Donuts while her daughter attends the nearby middle school. The whole family has appreciated spending time together during the COVID-19 pandemic, enjoying the privacy of their own home and outdoor space at the nearby park. Surinder can relax knowing that she has an affordable and stable apartment that her daughter and her mother love. She is the happiest she has felt in a long time, since for the first time in almost two years, Surinder’s family has a permanent place to call home.
Citywide Mailer: "Know Your Rights & Resources During the Pandemic & Beyond"
Electronic version of the English version mailer available here.
Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Nepali coming soon.
Help keep Somerville affordable and inclusive! New SomerVIP Section 8 Voucher Incentive Program offers incentive payments to landlords and realtors. To apply click here, Para solicitar en espanol haga clique aqui , Para aplicar em português, por favor clique aqui
Housing Stabilization Act (HSNA)
The City of Somerville and its Office of Housing Stability (OHS) are excited to announce the passage of the new Housing Stability Notification Act (HSNA), effective December 26, 2019.
Who We Serve
The Office of Housing Stability (OHS) serves all Somerville residents, landlords, and property owners, regardless of income or language spoken.The OHS accepts referrals for all types of housing cases including: evictions (pre-court), housing search and applications, problems with subsidies, landlord/tenant issues/questions / and shelter access.
“As a City, and a community, we must apply the best strategies, the most effective policies, and the most impactful resources available to us to address the housing crisis facing Somerville and the region.."
Mayor Joseph Curtatone, June 2018
Referrals to OHS
Programs & Services
Accessing Affordable Housing
OHS Policy Initiatives
Meet Our Team
Anti-Displacement In The News
Referrals to OHS
If you or a client you are working with have a question or are in need of further assistance, please fill out the referral intake form completely. Currently, the Office of Housing Stability offers direct services with the following:
Programs & Services
Workshops and trainings
- Landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities
- Housing search
- Other topics on request
Development of new homelessness prevention resources including vendor contracts for:
- Legal services
- Housing search
- Tenant education and outreach
The Office of Housing Stability (OHS) is open Monday-Wednesday, 8:30-4:30; Thursday, 8:30-7:30, and Friday, 8:30-12:30. OHS serves all Somerville residents, landlords, and property owners, regardless of income or language spoken. The OHS accepts referrals for all types of housing cases including: evictions (pre-court), housing search and applications, problems with subsidies, landlord/tenant issues/questions, and shelter access. Make a Referral here.
Need special assistance?
Individuals with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication, written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, in order to access the programs and activities of the City of Somerville or to attend meetings, should contact Nency Salamoun, at 617-625-6600 x2323 or [email protected].
Need eviction help now?
Did you receive a Notice to Quit, a Summary Process Complaint, and/or other housing-related court date?
Are you at risk for eviction?
- Call the Office of Housing Stability (OHS) for information, referrals and advocacy, 617-625-6600, Ext. 2581. No income limits. All languages accommodated.
- Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, 617-603-1700,
- De Novo, 617-661-1010
- If you make less than 125% of the federal poverty level call CAAS for the homelessness prevention program, 617-623-7370 or [email protected]
Are you homeless and need help finding shelter or transitional or permanent supportive housing?
If you have already been evicted from your unit or otherwise become homeless and you are living on the streets, in a car or other place unfit for human habitation and need assistance please contact:
Somerville Homeless Coalition, 617-623-6111 and ask for coordinated entry.
If you are homeless or about to be homeless and you live with a child age twenty-one or younger you may be eligible for shelter through the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Emergency Assistance Shelter Program.
Current income guidelines as of June, 2019 are here. Note: these change periodically so you need to check for current limits.
See here for rules about Emergency Assistance Shelter. Since eligibility can be complicated please contact the Office of Housing Stability, 617-625-6600, Ext. 2581 for assistance.
If you are not a City of Somerville resident and would like to find local housing resources, use the local DHCD resource finder tool.
Information & Tenancy Preservation
Tenants’ rights and responsibilities
City of Somerville The Tenant's Helper: A Handbook for Renters: TenantHandbook 2018.pdf
Tenant screening – rights when you are applying for housing
Security Deposits and/or last month’s rent
Massachusetts General Laws about landlord's use of security deposit for repairs: Mass. Gen. Laws Chapter 186 § Section 15B
Legal handbook that goes through what repairs can be covered by your security deposit. The pages that contain this information are, pg.4, pg.11 and pg. 12
Template you can use to ask for a Security Deposit
What type of tenancy do I have?
Guide to Different Types of Tenancy
Before you Move Out
Know Your Rights
Eviction Court Proceedings
Eviction court forms
Accessing Affordable Housing
Affordable housing is generally considered to be rental or owner-occupied housing in which total housing costs are between 30% and 40% of a household’s gross income. In order to apply for affordable housing programs, households must be income eligible. Income eligibility may vary depending on the type of affordable housing. Many affordable housing programs base income eligibility on Area Median Income (AMI) standards. You can find an AMI chart below. Generally, there are two kinds of affordable rental housing: “flat” or “shallow” subsidies and “deep” subsidies.
Flat or shallow subsidies refer to affordable housing programs in which the rent is fixed below market rate but does not fluctuate with the household’s income, meaning the rent amount stays the same regardless of any income changes. These opportunities are typically available for low-to-moderate income households.
Deep subsidies refer to affordable housing programs in which the rent is calculated as a percentage of the tenants' income, usually around 30%, meaning the rent can go up or down if the tenants’ income fluctuates. Deep subsidies are typically available for extremely low, very low, and low-income households and are most generally found in public housing or voucher-based programs such as the Section 8 program.
Accessing affordable housing in Somerville
How do I determine my income eligibility?
Different affordable housing programs have different income eligibility restrictions, usually based on Area Median Income (AMI) standards determined by The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The four main AMI categories are:
- Moderate Income: a household whose income is between 81% and 95% of the AMI
- Low Income: a household whose income is between 51% and 80% of the AMI
- Very Low Income: a household whose income is between 31% and 50% of the AMI
- Extremely Low Income: a household whose income is at or below 30% of the AMI
If you are not sure what the income eligibility is for any given program, be sure to review the application or contact the housing provider for more information. For affordable housing programs that use HOME income limits, please view the income guidelines here. For the Somerville Housing Authority income guidelines for state and federal public housing and the Section 8 program, please see the next section for guideline links.
Where can I apply for affordable housing in Somerville?
Somerville Housing Authority
Somerville Housing Authority provides subsidized housing for eligible low and moderate-income families and elderly. To determine if you are income eligible for the federal public housing program, view the guidelines here. To determine if you are income eligible for state public housing, view the guidelines here. For the Section 8 income guidelines, click here. Please note there are different immigration eligibility criteria for state and federal housing programs, including public housing. Certain federal housing programs require certain types of recognized immigration status. Eligibility for state public housing does not include any immigration restrictions; households may apply regardless of immigration status.
Federal Public Housing
State Public Housing
- Family State Public Housing Application
The state public housing application is now called the Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Public-Housing (CHAMP). You can now apply for state public housing through the CHAMP website. You can select all housing authorities you are interested in applying to but it is recommended that you only apply to towns and cities you are willing to live in. To apply for state public housing, you can visit the CHAMP website to apply online or download a hard copy of the application here.
- Elderly/Disabled State Public Housing Application
Centralized Section 8
- Apply for the Centralized Section 8 waiting list here.
Somerville Housing Authority offers emergency status for eligible households applying for public housing who are homeless or at risk of homelessness due to certain reasons. The eligibility criteria for emergency status slightly differ between state and federal public housing, please see below.
The conditions for emergency status are:
State Public Housing Emergency Priority
Federal Public Housing Emergency Preference
A – Displaced by Natural Forces, such as a fire, earthquake, or flood
1A – Displaced from federally subsidized units by Hurricane Katrina
1B – Displaced by Fire or Natural Forces, such as a fire, earthquake, or flood
B – Displaced by Public Action, such as the building of a low rent public housing project, urban renewal project, or public sum clearance
2 – Displaced by Public Action/SHA Action
3 – Displaced due to Code Enforcement
C – Displaced by Landlord Action, such as no-fault eviction
4A – Displaced due to No Fault Eviction **
D – Displaced by Acute Medical Emergency
4C – Displaced due to Medical Emergency
E – Displaced by Abusive Situation
4B – Displaced due to Domestic Violence
** For federal public housing, no-fault evictions can include some evictions for nonpayment of rent where there was a loss of income, marital separation, or other no-fault reason the tenant was unable to pay their rent. See the Somerville Housing Authority Admissions and Continued Occupancy Plan for the exact definition of no-fault eviction.
In order to apply for emergency status, an applicant must provide proof of homelessness, impending homelessness, or health or safety risk in a current unit, and required documentation to prove emergency status. The Emergency Application for Federal Public Housing can be found here. Households can apply for State Public Housing with Emergency Priority through the online Common Housing Application for Massachusetts Public-Housing, found here.
For more information about Somerville Housing Authority, please visit the website here or contact SHA at:
30 Memorial Road
Somerville, MA 02145
Phone: (617) 625-1152
City of Somerville’s Inclusionary Housing Programs
The City of Somerville’s Inclusionary Programs include rental and homeownership units for applicants at various income levels. Each development has different income criteria for available units.
Inclusionary rental units have shallow subsidies, meaning the rents are below market but do not fluctuate when income increases or decreases. There are minimum and maximum income requirements for inclusionary units. Where an applicant has a voucher, however, the minimum income rules do not apply. To get on the list to receive notice of opportunities to apply for inclusionary units sign up here.
For homeownership you will need to get a mortgage pre-approval and attend a first-time homebuyers education program. For more information on the inclusionary affordable homeownership program and resources for first-time buyers, please see the City of Somerville’s Inclusionary Housing Program website and click on the "Resources for First-Time Buyers" tab.
100 Homes Program
The 100 Homes program is a joint initiative of the City of Somerville and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). Under this program SCC purchases buildings available on the open market with the hope of stabilizing tenants in place and making units available to those in need of affordable housing. The 100 Homes units have shallow subsidies, meaning the rents are below market but do not fluctuate when income increases or decreases. There are minimum and maximum income requirements for these programs. Where an applicant has a voucher, however, the minimum income rules do not apply. Apply here for the 100 Homes Program.
Privately owned non-profit or for-profit multi-family housing:
In addition to the aforementioned affordable and subsidized housing programs, there are other privately owned non-profit and for-profit multi-family housing developments throughout the City of Somerville. The list below includes the contact information and addresses for such opportunities.
Clarendon Hill Towers – 617- 625-7150
Management company: FHRC Management Corp
Mailing address: 1372 Broadway, Somerville, MA 02144
Details: “deep” subsidies; one, two, and three bedrooms
Application: Download here: Clarendon Hill Towers Application copy.pdf
Cobble Hill Apartments -- 617-625-8920
Management company: CMJ Management Company
Mailing address: 84 Washington Street, Somerville, MA 02143
Details: “deep” subsidies; one and two bedrooms
Burton F. Faulkner Tower – 617- 628-2119
Mailing address: 25 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143
Details: “deep” subsidies; elderly or disabled; one and two bedrooms
Application: Download here: Burton F. Faulkner Tower Application.pdf
Kent Street Apartments – 617 628-0499
Management company: The Community Builders, Inc.
Mailing address: 32 Kent Street, Somerville, MA 02145
Details: “shallow” subsidies (flat rent); studio, one, two, and three bedrooms
Mt. Pleasant Apartments – 617- 623-5810
Management company: Peabody Properties
Mailing address: 70 Perkins Street, Somerville, MA 02145
Details: elderly or disabled; one and two bedrooms
Mt. Vernon I, II, III – 781-391-0700
Management company: High Street Property Management Corp.
Mailing address: 92 High Street, Suite 22 Medford, MA 02155
Details: “deep” subsidies; one bedrooms
Application not available
219-225 Pearl Street – 781-395-1600
Management company: The 219 Pearl St. Realty Trust
Mailing address: 219 Pearl Street, Somerville, MA 02145
Details: “deep” subsidies and market rate; two and three bedrooms
Application not available
Pearl Street Park – 617- 625-8780
Management company: E.P. Management Corporation
Mailing address: 240 Pearl Street, Somerville, MA 02145
Details: “deep” subsidies; elderly or disabled; one bedrooms
Application: Download here: Pearl Street Park Application copy.pdf
Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) Portfolio – 617- 591-0577
Management company: Wingate Companies
Mailing address: 7 Memorial Road, Somerville, MA 02145
Application: For most SCC properties, you may apply through Wingate Companies, however, some require you to apply through the Somerville Housing Authority. You may contact Wingate Companies to ask how to apply to one or more of the SCC properties.
- 33 Bow Street—16 affordable and two market rate units; two, three, and four bedrooms
- 75 Cross Street—eight affordable units; for formerly homeless households; one and two bedrooms
- 109 Gilman Street – six affordable units; three bedrooms; two units for formerly homeless
- Linden Street Apartment – 42 affordable units; one, two and three bedrooms
- Saint Polycarp Village – 24 affordable units; one, two and three bedrooms; four units for Department of Mental Health (DMH) clients; two units for chronically homeless
- Saint Polycarp Village 2 — 29 affordable units; one, two, and three bedrooms
- Saint Polycarp Village 3 – 31 affordable units; one, two, and three bedrooms
- Sewall Place – 13 affordable units; single room occupancy (SRO); 13 for formerly homeless
- Walnut Street Apartments – 12 affordable units; one and two bedrooms
- Union Square Apartments 181 Washington Street – 35 affordable units; one, two, and three bedrooms
Affordable housing programs may have other eligibility criteria, such as: credit requirements, Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) restrictions, or immigration status requirements. Although housing programs may advertise eligibility criteria, it is important to note that fair housing laws protect all of us from discrimination based on: race, color, national origin, religion, gender identity, military status, age (except minors), sexual orientation, family status (e.g. have children), source of income (e.g. Section 8), disability, marital status, and ancestry.
If you believe you are being or have been discriminated against, you may file a Fair Housing Complaint with the City of Somerville’s Fair Housing Commission. To make a complaint, visit the Fair Housing Commission website and click on the “Report Discrimination” tab, here. For more information on your rights and responsibilities, contact the Somerville Fair Housing Commission at 617-625-6600, x2500.
OHS Policy Initiatives
The City of Somerville and its Office of Housing Stability (OHS) are excited to announce passage of a new Condominium Conversion Ordinance with enhanced tenant protections. See here. This new Ordinance takes effect July 31, 2019.
The City of Somerville and its Office of Housing Stability are working hard on passage of the following:
- A real estate transfer fee to raise funds for the development of affordable housing
- A right to legal counsel and homelessness prevention services in eviction cases
- The right to seal certain court documents relative to eviction
Real Estate Transfer Fee
- When a City or Town wants to pass an ordinance relating to the generation of fees for affordable housing there are two ways this can be done. Both require getting permission from the Massachusetts State Legislature since cities and towns have limited rights under the Massachusetts Constitution. The City of Somerville estimates that the passage of a real estate transfer fee could raise approximately $6 million per year based on recent sales data for affordable housing
- Home Rule Legislation: The first method is for the Somerville City Council to pass an ordinance and to ask the State of Massachusetts for authorization to enact a transfer fee. The City of Somerville passed an order to seek Home Rule legislation for a real estate transfer fee on May 25, 2018. Under this home rule legislation there would be a 1% fee paid by the buyer of a real estate transaction and a 1% fee paid by the seller of a real estate transaction. All owner occupant buyers and sellers would be exempt.
- H2423 https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H2423 lead sponsors are Mike Connolly and Denise Provost
- Enabling legislation: The second method is for a legislator to introduce “enabling legislation” which, if passed, allows all cities and towns to enact real estate transfer fees. Representative Mike Connolly and Senator Boncore have introcuded this legislation.
Right to Counsel
- Statewide, approximately 92% of tenants are unrepresented in eviction actions. While OHS will be gathering and interpreting Somerville-specific data over the next year, we estimate that at least 90% of Somerville landlords are represented. In recognition of the fact that in many cases eviction can have an even more destabilizing effect than criminal charges, housing advocates are working on passage of a bill granting low income tenants the right to counsel in eviction cases. This follows the path of New York City, Newark, N.J., and San Francisco, which have passed right to counsel legislation. In addition to right to counsel, we are advocating for a right to homelessness prevention services upon service of a notice to quit. OHS is on the Advisory Group for this initiative and we will soon be meeting with additional stakeholders and legislators about proposed amendments. The main right to counsel bills now filed are: S.913 and H.3456 (Sen. DiDomenico and Rep .Tyler) and H. 1537 (Rep. Rogers and Rep. Day). For more information see: http://www.massrtc.org
Sealing of Eviction Information And ProhibitionOf Naming a Minor In Eviction Case
An Act Promoting Housing Opportunity and Mobility through Eviction Sealing” - HOMES Bill
- Currently, as soon as an eviction case is filed in Court, regardless of whether the case is for fault or no-fault and prior to any hearings before a judge and regardless of outcome, this eviction information is available to the public online. Landlords often search eviction records themselves or hire screening services to do so. This can be devastating for those looking for new housing. In addition, landlords and/or their attorneys often name minor children in eviction cases, and these children then have a court record of eviction regardless of age and despite not being a party to the tenancy.
- For more information on how publicly available eviction court record information the is harming tenants and exacerbating the housing crisis, visit Evicted for Life Report released by Massschusetts Law Reform Institute.
- S.824 and H.3566 would:
- Seal eviction data unless there is a judgment in the case finding the tenant at fault
- Seal all eviction data after three years or sooner by motion for good cause
- Make it illegal to name minors in an eviction complain.
- See Fact Sheet for more information about this bill. Contact Ellen Shachter if your organization would like to be a sponsor
Meet Our Team
781.307.3307 (work cell)
617.625.6600 ext. 2580
Yo hablo español
617.625.6600, ext. 2591
617.625.6600, ext. 2590
Francelia Itzayana Liévanos Barragán
Housing Intake Specialist
617.625.6600, ext. 2581
Yo hablo español
Housing Counselor & Communication Liaison
617.625.6600, ext. 2582
Yo hablo español, eu falo portuguêse
Housing Case Manager & Landlord Outreach Coordinator
617.625.6600, ext. 2583
Yo hablo español
Anti-Displacement In The News
The following articles and reports contain interesting information about housing, homelessness, gentrification and anti-displacement strategies. Posting of these articles and reports is NOT an indication that the City of Somerville or the Somerville Office of Housing Stability (OHS) endorse any particular strategy discussed. Articles appear here for informational and educational purposes.
Right to counsel in eviction cases
- Article from Curbed Boston about the Movement for Right to Counsel in Massachusetts:
- Right to Counsel in Massachusetts website (fact sheets, legislative bills, campaign information)
- HUD enforces tenant's right to organize:
- New York passes a rule to eliminate broker's fees: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/05/nyregion/nyc-landlord-rental-broker-fees.html
- Article on the increasing automotizing of evictions in major U.S. cities: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2020/02/tenant-rights-rent-eviction-landlords-management-systems/606868/
Rent levels and rent controls
Article from Curbed Boston about high rents in Greater Boston
- Report on Rent Stabilization Initiatives nationwide
- Article from the New York Times covering the New York State Legislators support for stronger tenant protections
- Huffington Post article on the unaffordability of housing nationwide
- WBUR story on the 2019 "Out of Reach" report ranking Massachusetts as the fourth most expensive rental market
- City of Berlin in Germany freezes rents for 5 years: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/world/europe/berlin-gentrification-rent.html
Production of affordable housing
- Report on the needs and challenges around Middle Income Housing
- Strategies for using Medicaid dollars to pay for housing
- Aritcle on equity and inclusion in mixed income communities
- Boston Globe article on the lack of families living in multi-bedroom apartments: https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/02/03/business/report-fewer-families-are-living-bostons-multi-bedroom-homes/
- Report by the Interagency Council on Homelessness on Family Homelessness
- Report on evidence based solutions to homelessness prevention
- Study finds that Massachusetts is the top state for economic insecurity for elders: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/11/19/massachusetts-tops-nation-new-index-economic-insecurity-for-elders-living-alone/y0K2iU60Nbi7xhcPncazeP/story.html
- How the City of Somerville fights Eviction with Information: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/globelocal/2020/02/20/somerville-helps-tenants-fight-eviction-with-information/fJRSPRiC0zddOMXHBAM9KO/story.html
- Study showing that black renter households pay more for rent in the same neighborhoods as others
- Strategies for closing the economic divide in housing – report from N.Y. regional roundtable on strategies for housing inclusion and affordability
- How to overcome barriers to acceptance of Section 8 vouchers in Massachusetts
- What drives landlord participation in the Section 8 voucher program
- MassLandlord newsletters on a wide range of current Massachusetts housing policy issues
“An Act promoting Housing Opportunity and mobility through eviction sealing”
Transfer Fee Act
- City of Boston proposes 2 percent tax to increase affordable housing stock: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2019/12/09/compromise-plan-may-give-boston-tax-larger-real-estate-sales/HG3WAvvAk2Jq9R7myUyj1O/story.html
Homes Act legislation (sealing of eviction records)
Text of bill: https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S824
Housing issues related to Zoning
The state of Zoning of multi-family housing in Boston
National housing data
New report on national Housing trends broken down by state
- Joint Center for Housing Studies releases 2020 report on "America's Rental Housing": https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/americas-rental-housing-2020
LGBTQ+ housing issues
New report on national Housing trends broken down by state
Condo Conversion Ordinance
Local realtor Rona Fischman shares her views on the new condo ordinance