25 Investigates: Thousands of Boston seniors could be on affordable housing waitlist for years

BOSTON — Boston’s housing crisis is having a major impact on the city’s most vulnerable populations; senior citizens and people with disabilities.

25 Investigates pulled the numbers and learned that more than 12,000 of them are on the waitlist for affordable housing and they could be waiting years.


Louise Peatfield is a lifelong East Boston resident. The 65-year-old has lived in the same apartment on Meridian Street for five decades.

The owner of her building is selling. The landlord notified Peatfield last summer. Now, the clock is ticking for her to find a place she can afford to live in.

"All I can do is keep putting in applications," Peatfield told Boston 25 News Anchor, Kerry Kavanaugh.

She started that process nearly a year ago.

Peatfield showed Kavanaugh 14 applications she’s submitted to housing agencies in Boston and in other communities. Peatfield says she suffers from chronic health issues and is running out of places to turn to.

"They tell me it will be another five or ten years," Peatfield said. "I say, I don’t have five or ten months, five or ten weeks. I could be homeless at any time."


25 Investigates checked with the Boston Housing Authority and found that there are currently 47,000 applicants for all BHA affordable housing programs.

12,230 are elderly or disabled applicants.

And, BHA says the wait time can be from six months to years.

"They’re doing the best they can to find an advocate, to find organizations, to get on the applications only to be told that these are just feudal exercises," says Andres Del Castillo with the advocacy group City Life. Del Castillo has been working on Peatfield’s case.

"The word that comes to mind is crisis," said Del Castillo. "We don’t have enough housing available for them, we need to preserve them in the housing they are in."

Del Castillo says while Boston is building more affordable housing, something needs to be done to help thousands of residents who are in need now.

"This issue is enormous. It’s one of the biggest issues facing my community right now," said State Representative Adrian Madaro (D- East Boston).

Madaro says his constituents are waiting years for affordable housing, even if they obtain a housing voucher.

"The value of the housing voucher has not gone up with the cost of living and the cost of rent which has skyrocketed. And also, the demand has increased so much while the supply has not," Madaro said.

While he’s proposing some legislative fixes to address that, he fears too many long-time East Boston residents will be forced out.


The City of Boston says this issue is a top priority for Mayor Marty Walsh who has increased his staff to help seniors at risk of losing housing.

There are currently 12,700 units of affordable housing set aside for seniors in Boston with an additional 700 units under construction.

Mayor Walsh has also proposed some legislative solutions at the state level. The goal is to protect senior tenants, 75 or older, with regulations that would limit rent increases at five percent. This protection would, in theory, prevent landlords from using large rent increases to get around just cause protections, according to Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development.

"There’s way too many people out there already and that list isn’t going to get smaller," Peatfield said. "I’m pretty stuck."

After learning about Louise Peatfield’s situation, the city will be taking a closer look at her case as well. Boston 25 News will continue to follow what happens with her housing situation.