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Overview of different Housing Programs and Agencies, Part 2

BPDA (Boston Planning & Development Agency)

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) is the planning and economic development agency for the City of Boston. The BPDA plays a far-reaching role in shaping the City.
The BPDA is unlike every other housing program we work with – they do not use the HUD guidelines as a basis, since they have no intersection with HUD, in terms of funding or oversight. They are a quasi-public entity who makes the guidelines for their program internally.
The BPDA also does not publish or make public most of their guidelines, so accordingly the process for getting a BPDA file certified frequently changes and is rarely clear. As the guidelines change quite often, set-in-stone policy differences are hard to come by. However, here are a few, as of October 2019, that are good to know:
1. We (SEB Housing) do not create the BPDA affidavit. The BPDA affidavit is created by the BPDA and must be used for all of their programs. We supplement it with a “Documentation Requirements Guide” because the affidavit itself does not explain its own guidelines or documentation requirements, and is (in general) extremely difficult for most households to complete correctly due to an obtuse structure, incomplete or inaccurate questions, and blind spots or over-generalization in the text of the affidavit. The BPDA also requires that they receive the original copy of the affidavit as it is a notarized document, so all applicants will have to submit the original (not copied, not faxed, not scanned) affidavit to us by mail or drop-off. Please note, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the BPDA has temporarily suspended the notarization requirement, and as such affidavits are now accepted via email and fax – the BPDA is issuing new guidance on a semi-frequent basis during this pandemic, so be sure to check with the Processor in charge if you have any questions on new questions or policies you see in place.

2. The BPDA allows households to own homes but counts the full appraised value of the home as an asset – NOT the equity. This makes most households ineligible due to being over the asset limit (see #3).

3. All BPDA units have an asset limit. For most projects, this is $75,000 (this can change based on the AMI limits, so make sure to reference the information packet) and counts all assets except for retirement account that have been open for longer than six months. Also, if all members of the household are over 65, the asset limit is raised to $250,000 and counts all assets, including retirements. Again, these figures can change based on the asset limit.

4. All BPDA rents are fixed – utility allowances are not taken into account. The rents are published by the BPDA every year, usually between April-June.

5. The BPDA has vastly different documentation requirements – almost every category is different, so if questions come up about why something is being asked for, please speak with the Processor on why if there is any question.

6. Households must be certified by the BPDA prior to initial move-in, so SEB Housing must send the files (which we help the applicant complete) to the BPDA for formal certification. Typically, renewals do not need to be sent to the BPDA but in some circumstances they will need to be.

7. Unborn children do not count as household members.

8. Many sources of income do NOT count as income for the BPDA’s purposes – unemployment, periodic payments or recurring gifts, unreported tips, etc. This is also constantly changing and inconsistently enforced, so check with a Processor on this.

9. The BPDA has a prohibition on certain kinds of full-time students – see the affidavit for more details.

10. The BDPA does not count certain household members as a part of the household for income eligibility purposes – see the affidavit for more details.

11. The BPDA currently has a “guarantor” policy which is poorly defined, but in essence this allows the BPDA to reject any household that is receiving monetary contributions from a third party that is not employment or fixed income benefit related. For example, if a household receives $200/mo from a parent, the BPDA will not count that as income, but might decide that this household’s parent is a guarantor, thus making the household ineligible. The BPDA purposefully does not wish to define or lay out the exact guidelines for their guarantor policy as they want to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
City of Somerville

The Housing Division of the City of Somerville ensures that Somerville remains an affordable, sustainable, and livable community. They do this by obtaining and managing funds for affordable housing developments. They also work to improve the quality of housing in the City–not just the quantity–to ensure that all Somerville residents are safe and content.
City of Somerville housing programs are not technically 40B but share quite a bit in common. Similar to the BPDA, the City is constantly changing or revising its policies – though in Somerville’s case, this is because their program is relatively young, and hasn’t had as much cause to cement their program. Typically housing programs or lotteries for Somerville properties are hard to implement and begin, but once they have begun move relatively efficiently (with some caveats).
The primary differences are 1.) Like MHP, Somerville has a restriction against full-time students. 2.) Like the BPDA, Somerville does not count unborn children as household members unless they are in their third trimester. 3.) Many of their documentation requirements are different, and still changing. If a Processor asks for paperwork that seems unusual, they are doing it for a good reason! 4.) Now, the City needs to give approval on ALL applications, new and renewal. That means that every file is sent to the City of Somerville for approval. In the past this has taken up to and beyond three months – however now it appears to be about a month.
For all the programs listed here, the guidelines change and our understanding and implementation of them changes as well. This is not intended as a detailed guide on the programs, but a general overview of the differences. Please see the information packets, applications, and additional documentation for each development for further information on the programs.

Monitoring Agents

For homeownership developments, MassHousing outsources the review/certification work to a third party. Those third parties are groups who have been pre-approved by MassHousing to carry out that task and are called Monitoring Agents. Typically Monitoring Agents are non-profit housing advocacy groups. Some Monitoring Agents include NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, MetroWest Collaborative Development and Community Teamwork.

Monitoring Agents report back to MassHousing, and SEB Housing works directly with Monitoring Agents on certifying household/buyer applications for MassHousing homeownership developments.