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Housed In Cambridge Online Guide

The Human Rights Commission works interdepartmentally with the Community Development Department, the Office of the Housing Liaison, and the Department of Human Services Programs. Together, these departments developed an online guide to help residents navigate Cambridge housing and service providers, and the resources they offer. The information is organized around six key themes:  affordable housing, emergency housing, housing rights, legal and mediation services, safe & healthy homes, and financial assistance.     

This online guide was adapted from the information presented at the Fair and Affordable Housing Open House, a one-day event hosted annually from 2016-2019 that convened dozens of City agencies and non-profit housing providers together to share information about their housing-related programs and services.

Click here to view the Housed In Cambridge online guideA glossary of terms used in the guide can be found below.


  • AMI - This is Area Median Income, the midpoint income of households in a specified geographic area. i.e, half the households earn more and half earn less than AMI.
  • CORI - Criminal Offenders Record Information is a database maintained by the Massachusetts Office of the Commissioner of Probation (OCP).
  • Extremely Low Income - Defined by HUD as a household earning at or below 30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Fair Market Rent (FMR) - Fair Market Rent is the average rent required to obtain privately owned, existing, decent, safe, and sanitary housing of a modest nature with suitable amenities. HUD determines this standard as an average for each U.S. metropolitan area. However local Housing Authorities may now opt to use "Small Area FMR," HUD's average calculated for each U.S. zip code.
  • HAP Contract - HAP is Housing Assistance Payment. The Housing Authority signs a contract with each landlord to provide rental assistance on behalf of Section 8 voucher tenants.
  • Inclusionary Zoning - A zoning ordinance requiring developers to include affordable housing in exchange for a density bonus. Cambridge's ordinance now requires private projects to set aside 20% of units. The City's Community Development Dept. has oversight of inclusionary.
  • Leased Housing - Privately owned units leased to low and moderate-income HCV Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8). A Federally funded voucher, administered locally by a Housing Authority, households. The tenant may directly lease the unit, or a Housing Authority may lease the unit and sublet it to a low-income family, elderly, and disabled eligible tenant.
  • Middle Income - There is no standard Federal definition of middle income; it is generally households earning between 80 and 120%of Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Minimum Rent - Tenants in public housing or Section 8 voucher housing must pay rent, even if they have no income. The local Housing Authority may have some discretion as to the minimum amount they must pay.
  • Mobile Voucher - This rent subsidy is provided to an individual. It is also known as a Housing Choice Voucher. These vouchers can be used for any housing meeting quality standards, regardless of location. Mobile vouchers are issued by the CHA, DHCD, MBHP, and other municipal Housing Authorities.
  • Moderate Income - Households earning between 60 and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI). Sometimes defined to include up to 95% AMI.
  • PBV - Project-Based Voucher. A Section 8 subsidy allocated by a Housing Authority to specific units, rather than to specific tenants.
  • Protected Classes - Groups who are protected against negative discrimination under Federal or State law. Federally protected classes include race, skin color, religion or creed, national origin or ancestry, sex, age, physical or mental disability, veteran status, and citizenship. Massachusetts also includes age, gender identity, and tenancy applicants with vouchers.
  • Recert - Recertification. Reexamination of family income, composition, and expenses incurred by households in Section 8 voucher and public housing/RAD programs. They may be annual or every other year. For RAD tenants, the IRS requires a separate "tax credit recert."
  • SRO - Single-Room Occupancy. This type of housing has individual bedrooms with shared common facilities, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Tax Credit Unit - A unit of affordable housing where the owner gets a tax credit, passed on to investors as their ownership interest in a limited partnership. The tax credit reduces the tax liability of the limited partners each year, usually for 10 years.
  • Utility Allowance - Amount that a Housing Authority discounts from the rent to compensate a household for its payment of utility expenses not included in the contract rent.
*Descriptions created by Alliance of Cambridge Tenants


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