Six tips for accessing local affordable housing resources

Kristin Bell is a Housing Specialist at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services

The cost of housing in Cambridge and Somerville keeps going up, and Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES) is increasingly hearing requests to help older adults meet housing challenges.

Cost is a major factor. But demand for accessible housing is also on the rise: nationwide, there are 10,000 people turning 65 every day. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take toward staying in the community of your choice as you age:

Think ahead Affordable and accessible housing is limited, and there are usually waiting lists. It is a good idea to be proactive and submit applications before a critical need arises. With that plan of action, you will be well ahead of the game.

Call SCES There are many different avenues for pursuing affordable housing. SCES maintains lists of different programs and agencies to utilize while looking for housing.

Anyone in Somerville or Cambridge can call the SCES Aging Information Department from Monday to Friday, 9 AM -5PM to speak with an Elder Care Advisor, who can go over these resources. If ongoing help is needed, an advisor can provide an in-person consultation.

Consider State and Federal housing In general, the two housing authorities are the best places to obtain   applications for federal and state-aided housing for older adults and people with disabilities.

In Cambridge, the Multi-Service Center (located below the Cambridge Housing Authority) is a wonderful resource that can provide assistance with signing up for all the affordable options in the area. If someone wishes to live in Somerville, the Somerville Housing Authority is a great resource for getting on the waitlist in Somerville. Also, within the mayor’s office there is the Office of Housing Stability, which is a valuable addition to the City and its constituents.

Join a waitlist for privately managed housing In addition to the state and federally funded buildings, there are privately managed subsidized properties in both communities. SCES maintains a list of these properties. If you go this route, you’ll need to contact each to see if the waitlist is open and accepting applications. If so, the property will send you an application. Please note that with all waitlists it is important to update the housing manager yearly, if you wish to remain on the list.

Seek inclusionary housing Both cities have inclusionary housing apartments, which are established as part of new development. Both cities have offices that help with the application process. In Cambridge, it is the Community Development Department and in Somerville, there is an Office of Strategic Planning and Development.  It is worth noting that sometimes the income requirements are higher than other affordable programs.

One final takeaway Get those applications out there early and often is important. The more one applies, the better the chances of finding an affordable and accessible apartment.


Kristin Bell is a Housing Specialist at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SCES), a private, non-profit agency that helps older adults maintain health and well-being in the setting of their choice. For more information about SCES, visit or call 617-628-2601.