Suffolk County a county in Massachusetts

Market Overview

Suffolk County is a county in Massachusetts. The population of Suffolk County, according to the 2010 Census, is 722,023. The total number of households in the county is 292,767. The average household size for Suffolk County is 2.06. The total number of renter households in the county is 189,547 which means that 64.7% of households are renter households.

Suffolk County’s Federally assisted affordable rental housing stock includes properties financed through the following programs:

Section 8 197 18,530
LIHTC 228 17,405
Section 202 61 3,204
Section 811 21 217
Public Housing 96 10,950
Total 432 40,674
Note: The total does not necessarily equal the sum of each program as some properties may participate in multiple funding programs.

The average number of units per property for affordable rentals in Suffolk County is 94.20. The largest Federally assisted affordable rental community in the county is Harbor Point at 1391 units and the smallest is Boston Community Services at 2 unit(s). 69 apartment properties provide housing for seniors containing 4,173 units. Of the 40,674 units, 32,720 units include some form of rental assistance (like Section 8) to make rent more affordable for very low income families.

Cities with Federally Assisted Projects in Suffolk County

Boston 165 18,274
Roxbury 58 4,710
Chelsea 24 1,353
Brighton 9 1,343
East Boston 13 1,336
Jamaica Plain 20 1,183
Charlestown 7 903
Allston 10 858
Revere 10 754
Roslindale 7 628
Dorchester Center 6 512
Roxbury Crossing 7 455
Hyde Park 4 402
South Boston 5 331
Mattapan 6 310
West Roxbury 3 72
Dorchestr Ctr 1 40
Dorchester And Mattapan 1 30

Federally Assisted Units By Property

Name Total Units
† This Property is Federally Assisted though Unit Counts are not available from HUD.

Rental Assistance for Tenants in Suffolk County

Rental assistance is a type of housing subsidy that pays for a portion of a renter’s monthly housing costs, including rent and tenant paid utilities. This housing assistance can come in the form of Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, project-based Section 8 contracts, public housing, USDA Rental Assistance (in Section 515 properties) as well as HUD Section 202 and 811 properties.

In Suffolk County, there are 337 affordable housing properties providing rental assistance to 32,720 very low income households.

To qualify for most rental assistance programs a renter must earn no more than 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). In some cases, rental assistance is reserved for renters earning 30% or less of the AMI. In Suffolk County, to qualify for Section 8 assistance, a renter household containing four persons must earn $49,050 or less. For some targeted rental assistance programs, a renter household of four can’t earn more than $29,450.

It’s important to remember that in many rental assistance programs there are minimum rent regulations requiring assistance recipients to make a minimum payment of between $25 and $50 per month no matter how low their income.

HUD Assistance Income Limits


Income Limits

All affordable housing programs provided by or through the government have maximum income limits to qualify for assistance. These income limits are typically derived from the Area Median Income (AMI), the theoretical family income of the average household in a given geography.

The AMI is updated each year for each geographical area taking into consideration numerous economic indicators. The geographical areas used for establishing the AMI are either Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA’s) or counties.

Suffolk County is in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH HUD Metro FMR Area MSA. The 2016 Area Median Income for a family of four in Suffolk County is $98,100.

The income limits used for Section 8, public housing, Low Income Housing Tax Credits. the HOME program and other Federal programs all are derived from the HUD defined AMI.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit Income Limits


Fair Market Rents (FMR)

HUD establishes a Fair Market Rent each year for each Metropolitan Statistical Area in the country. This rent standard is used to establish Payment Standards for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, maximum rents in HOME financed rental projects and initial rents for Section 8 project based assistance. HUD establishes FMR’s for 530 MSA’s and 2,045 counties nationwide each fiscal year.

The FMR is largely a statistical derivative of the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) 5 year estimates for 2 bedroom median rent.

Calculating the maximum allowable rents under various subsidy programs is complex and each program has slightly different rules. In the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and Project Based Assistance programs, maximum rents a landlord may charge include any tenant paid utility costs.

This utility allowance includes all necessary utilities like water/sewer, trash, heat, electricity or gas. Cable television, telephone, Internet and other non-essential utilities are excluded from this allowance.

In Project Based Section 8 properties, the owner sets the utility allowance after conducting a utility cost analysis. The amount of the allowance is reviewed and approved by HUD. The utility allowance is different for each size dwelling unit.

In the Housing Choice Voucher program, utility allowances are set by the Public Housing Authority (PHA) that administers the program. The PHA sets the allowance based on reasonable utility costs for similar types and sizes of housing units to the unit the voucher holder is renting.

In Section 8 Project Based apartment communities, the maximum rent a tenant may pay is set by the landlord and approved by HUD each year. Initially, the rent charged by the apartment property is limited to the FMR for the area. In some instances, HUD may approve an initial rent of up to 120% of the FMR for the area. Owners may request and HUD may approve annual contract rent increases based on an Annual Adjustment Factor (AAF) determined by local housing and utility costs changes Though contract rents are seldom exactly the same amount as the Fair Market Rent for the area and each Project Based apartment property will have its own contract rent, the FMR can be used as an approximate guide of what maximum contract rents might be.

The amount a Section 8 Project Based tenant will pay is 30% of their adjusted income.

In the Housing Choice Voucher program, the maximum amount the housing authority will pay a landlord is established each year for similar types and sizes of units and is called a Payment Standard. Each housing authority sets its own Payment Standard and usually sets the amount at between 90% and 110% of the Fair Market Rent for the area.

The amount a voucher holder pays for rent, often referred to as a Tenant Contribution, is equal to 30% of their income. If the rental the tenant selects has rent higher than the housing authority Payment Standard, a tenant may pay up to 40% of their income to make up the difference. At least initially, the tenant would not be allowed to pay more than 40% of their income and would have to find a different rental that has a qualifying rent amount.

In Suffolk County, under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the might pay a landlord with a two bedroom apartment to rent about $1,691 minus the utility allowance. Likewise, a renter in Suffolk County with a Section 8 voucher looking to rent a 3 bedroom apartment must find a rental that rents for about $2,116 per month (including the utility allowance). Any amount more than that, the voucher holder could pay the difference as long as they aren’t paying more than 40% of their income. (Note: These rent amounts are approximate since the housing authority’s Payment Standard is likely to be slightly different than HUD’s published FMR. These FMR’s should only be used as a guide. Check with the for their actual HCV Payment Standard.)

2017 Fair Market Rents

$1,194 $1,372 $1,691 $2,116 $2,331

Fair Market Rent Percentage Change Since 1988

The affordable housing industry has long used the FMR as barometer for local rents. Though the geographic areas FMR’s are based on are broad and there are often wide variations in neighborhood rents throughout an MSA, in general, the FMR is one of the best quick tools one can use to judge housing costs in a place.

We took a look at historic FMR’s in Suffolk County and found that they have risen an average of 2.74% year over year. The first year in our sample is 1985 when the two bedroom FMR was $533. That same 2 bedroom apartment rent had increased to $1444 by 2013. In 2002 the two bedroom FMR in Suffolk County saw it’s largest single year increase going up by 27.68%.

It’s also interesting to look at the FMR compared to the Consumer Price Index’s housing index to understand how Suffolk County rents have fluctuated in comparison to the rest of the Nation. The consumer price index grew an average of -0.89% year over year. The two bedroom FMR in Suffolk County has grown faster than the CPI indicating faster than average rent growth in the market.

The largest single year of 2 bedroom FMR growth was in 2002 at 27.68% while the smallest year of growth was 2005 with a 10.78% decrease.




Average Household Size


Total Renters


Renter Households


Total Households

High Renter
(100th percentile)

Renters or Owners


% of Renter Households


Median Rent


Median Family Income


Renters Overburdened


Households in 60-80% AMI Range


Federally Assisted Units


Federally Assisted Projects


Tax Credit Projects/Units


Section 8 Projects/Units


Section 202 Projects/Units


Section 811 Projects/Units


Senior Projects/Units


Units with Project Based Rent Subsidy


Average Units Per Property


Gross Rent Paid By All Renters


Renters with No Vehicle


Renters Below Poverty Level


Renters Who Taxi, Bike, or Walk to Work


Renters Who Use Public Transit to Work


Renters With Children


Vacant Units For Rent


Vacancy Rate


Units With Utilities Included In Rent