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The Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled (CORD) is an independent living center which has been aggressively working since 1984 to advance the independence, productivity, and integration of people with disabilities into mainstream society.

This FAQ contains information on housing that can help you to live independently.

Please contact CORD at (508) 775-8300 (V/TTY) with any questions.

CORD is part of the Massachusetts Access Housing Registry, which is a free program that matches people with disabilities with vacant accessible housing throughout Massachusetts. The registry catalogs accessible or adaptable units and tracks their availability. Mass. Access links people with disabilities with owners and managers of accessible housing and includes information about state and federally assisted housing, public housing, and private market-rate housing.

Located at independent living centers throughout the state, the registry distributes current vacancy information on a daily basis. Any person with a disability, family member, or advocate can obtain housing information through Mass. Access regardless of age, income, or type of disability.

CORD will provide you with information on current vacancies, the application process, tenant rights, civil rights, home modifications, and technical support.

The Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) is state subsidized housing rental assistance for people with disabilities. Although it is referenced as a “transitional program,” there is no set time limit for participation in the program; however, once a person is leased up under the AHVP they must continue to look for permanent housing to “transition” into. Tenants are required to document their efforts to locate other non-AHVP subsidized housing. Other suitable housing may include Section 8 certificate/voucher programs, MRVP/Section 8 Project-Based Assistance, MHFA developments, or private housing if you can afford to rent without a subsidy.

AHVP can be used in neighboring communities of the town that provided the voucher. For example, if you received your voucher in Falmouth, you may use it in Barnstable. AHVP vouchers are for single households, not families, and can be applied to apartments or houses.

Section 8 Project-Based Certificate Assistance is attached to the unit and cannot move with the consumer. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rules apply. Tenants pay 30% of their household income toward rent.

The Section 8 Certificate Program and the Section 8 Voucher Program are the most well-known housing programs. Consumers apply directly to a local housing authority or non-profit agency (such as the Housing Assistance Corp.) for these certificates or vouchers. If you are eligible, you must find a landlord who will accept this subsidy and you will be given 120 days to find a unit (house or apartment). You will pay 30% of your household income toward rent. Some Section 8s are mobile, meaning you can use them anywhere in the United States. To find out if your Section 8 is mobile, ask the administering agency.

CORD can help you to understand the type of housing subsidy you have. The subsidies differ, as do the laws that protect you in public housing.

What is REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION? Under state and federal Fair Housing laws, reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, or practices that allows a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy dwelling units (including public and common areas). The accommodations cannot impose an undue hardship on the owner or alter the main function or purpose of the housing.

Examples of reasonable accommodations in housing are:

  • Sending housing applications to consumers who, because of their disabilities, cannot pick them up in person as required by the local housing authority.
  • Designating an accessible parking spot closer to your unit because you cannot travel the distance because of your disability.
  • Allowing an exemption from a “no pets” policy to allow your companion or service animal to live with you in the unit.
  • Providing a first floor unit because your disability makes climbing stairs difficult.
  • Granting an extension of the 120-day search time for a Section 8 because wheelchair accessible units are difficult to locate. The housing authority is also responsible for assisting with the search for a wheelchair accessible unit.
  • Allowing ramps or other modifications that are needed because of your mobility impairment. In some instances, the landlord may be responsible for paying for modifications.
  • Allowing the installation of visual signaling devices which are necessary because you are deaf or hard of hearing. Again, in some instance, the landlord may be responsible for paying for these devices.

Contact CORD at (508) 775-8300 or 1-800-541-0282 if you have questions regarding reasonable accommodations in housing.

Apply to the local housing authority first. Many housing authorities give priority to local residents. Applicants who are homeless should apply to the housing authority of the town from which they were displaced and to the housing authority in the town where they are sheltered. They should receive a residency preference from one or the other

Ask the right questions. Ask the housing authority which programs are available and fill out applications for those you are interested in. Applicants who are homeless, or those about to become homeless, should ask for an emergency application. Ask how the housing authority prioritizes its federal preferences. Do they use local and ranking preferences? All housing agencies are required by law to post this information in their reception areas. Applicants should ask if the housing authority knows of other housing agencies that are accepting applications. If necessary, ask the housing authority to mail applications for all of the rental assistance programs. Housing authorities must mail applications for state public housing, but they do not have to mail applications for federal programs.

Look at the original cause of homelessness when filling out applications. While people in shelters qualify for federal preference under the substandard housing category, many may qualify for additional preferences based on the original cause of displacement.

Apply to as many housing agencies as possible. Each housing authority keeps its own waiting lists for the rental assistance and public housing programs that they run. The more lists that you can get your name on, the greater your chances of getting rental assistance. It is a matter of being on the right list at the right time. For a complete listing of all the local housing authorities and the nine regional nonprofit housing authorities, call the Department of Housing and Community Development at (617) 727-3240. For local housing authorities, call the independent living center in your area.

Apply for units in private subsidized developments. These units are similar to public housing because the tenant pays a percentage of his/her income for rent. The subsidy is called “project-based” because it always stays with the unit. You apply for this subsidy at the management company that runs the development where the units are located. For a listing of these developments, contact the Mass. Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) at (617) 854-1000 and ask for the Housing List and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at (617) 565-5105 for the Listing of HUD-FHA Multifamily Housing.

More and more people are looking to home ownership as a housing resource. It’s not just for families anymore. Individuals with disabilities along with low-income families have access to federal and local programs that will house them for life at affordable rates.

  • Home buyer counseling workshops are available to help you decide if home ownership is right for you
  • Down payment/closing cost assistance
  • Soft-second mortgage programs
  • Individual counseling sessions
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Federal grants for home modifications
  • Fannie Mae’s Home Path and Consumer Resource Center

Barnstable Housing Authority
(508) 771-7222

(508) 771-0885

Cape Clearinghouse for Affordable Home Buyers
(508) 771-5400 ext. 244

Community Action Committee (CAC)
(508) 771-1727

Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)
(617) 727-3240

(617) 565-5105

Housing Assistance Corp. (HAC)
(508) 771-5400

Mass. Access Housing Registry (at CORD)

Landlords must allow you to make reasonable accommodations to ensure full use of your apartment. Telling you that you can’t install grab bars and ramps is against the law. You can fight back.

If you suspect unfair housing practices, contact HUD.

Equal Housing Opportunity — Fair Housing is the Law!
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
1-800-927-9275 TDD

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