'Housing Navigator' tool hopes to be one-stop-shop for affordable housing listings

'Housing Navigator' tool hopes to be one-stop-shop for affordable housing listings

BOSTON — Finding affordable housing in Boston can seem nearly impossible.

The last time Massachusetts had a comprehensive guide to affordable housing units for rent was in 1986. Michael Dukakis was governor and of course, it was not online, it was in a book.

Now 33 years later, a group of nonprofits is ready to change that.

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It may look like just a website, but Jennifer Gilbert says it's filling a massive void in the state. Currently, you can't find affordable unit listings in one spot, like Apartments.com or Redfin.

"It's totally shocking, I know people are often surprised. One of the things I spend a lot of time doing is convincing people that this tool does not already exist," said Gilbert, Executive Director of the Kuehn Foundation and President of the "Housing Navigator."

The tool, "the Housing Navigator" will be a one-stop-shop for affordable housing listings where renters can search the state's entire inventory, as well as learn about local lotteries.

"I think we're all aware there's not enough affordable housing in the Greater Boston area," said Gibert.

They hope to roll out the website by next fall. It will be compatible with smartphones and will also have an eligibility calculator.

"One of the things we heard very much from the renter's side was this needs to be mobile-friendly," said Gilbert. "In Boston, a family of four would be eligible all the way up to over $118,000 a year of income — and I think sometimes people are surprised by that."

In an era where we can find almost everything online, it might seem like such a simple solution to a widespread problem. So, what took so long?

"What took so long is I think it's hard to collect all the data. You know, a great thing Mass. does is support affordable housing in a lot of different ways and in a lot of different communities but there's not one place that funds it all, so the way that you put together a site like this is you've gotta go figure out first of all - where it all is," said Gilbert.

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