Expanding Choice in Housing Opportunities (ECHO)


What is ECHO?

ECHO (Expanding Choice in Housing Opportunities), is a program designed to help improve the housing search process for program eligible Boston Housing Authority families in Boston and Greater Boston. Once enrolled ECHO families are introduced to a suite of services including housing search counseling, access to the ECHO search tool, benefits from pre-existing landlord connections and a streamlined unit inspections process. As a program that also provides customized information on communities and affordable housing, ECHO helps overcome common barriers that Housing Choice Voucher families often face.


BHA voucher families report persistent barriers to realizing their housing goals and exercising true choice in the housing market, including a lack of information on different communities, high housing costs, scarce rental units and lack of accessible transit. ECHO is designed to reduce those barriers, putting more communities in Boston and the wider region within reach of voucher families.

Who is eligible for ECHO?

Current BHA voucher holders who are:
•    In good standing with the Boston Housing Authority and their landlord.
•    Have a child 12 years old or younger currently living in the household
•    A family interested in moving to a communities in Boston and Greater Boston that have traditionally been difficult for voucher holders to access.

What does ECHO provide?

Dedicated ECHO staff will support families throughout the housing search process and into their tenancy while also cultivating new relationships with landlords and piloting administrative processes to encourage their participation in the voucher program.
Tenants will receive:
•    One-on-one counseling services
•    Information on neighborhoods that meet families’ expressed needs and preferences
•    Enhanced housing search assistance
•    Trainings to support successful lease-up and tenancy
•    Post-move support with connecting to important social services and overcoming the challenges of moving to a new place

ECHO Participation Requirements

Communication w/ coordinators - Weekly check-ins with ECHO Coordinators are required. Acknowledgment of receipt of new unit leads sent by Coordinators, responsiveness to potential new landlords during the search period and working jointly with coordinators to find available units.

Resource Utilization - Attending all ECHO workshops and trainings. Enrolling in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program (FSS)

Paperwork/ Documentation – Submit all income eligibility information to assigned Leasing Officer as requested in a timely manner during lease up process. Submit a 30 day notice in writing to current landlord immediately after enrolling in ECHO Program.

What resources are available to search for housing?

A key part of a successful housing search is to use many different methods and resources to ensure that you find units that meet your goals. This includes searching for units in areas that you or your friends and family may not currently be familiar with. The ECHO Staff are here to support you in researching communities in Boston and Greater Boston, so there are a lot of options to explore! Keep an open mind about new areas as you compare possible homes with your housing goals.
BHA suggests several resources to assist you in finding a unit:
•    Online classified ad sites (Craigslist, rent.com, Zillow, Trulia, GoSection8)
•    Apartment Listings Submitted to BHA by Current Landlords Leasing to Voucher Holders
•    MetroHousing Boston
•    Boston Metrolist
•    BHA ECHO Search Tool

How do I choose a neighborhood that is right for me?

You are the best person to decide what neighborhood is best for you. As a BHA voucher holder, you can choose to rent an apartment anywhere in the State of Massachusetts or anywhere in the country (see more information on this in the section titled “Can I Lease an Apartment Anywhere?”).

Every neighborhood you’re interested in will offer something different to your family, so before embarking on your housing search, creating a list of goals for your new home can help you make decisions about neighborhoods and units you will encounter. Searching for housing will often require you to make trade-offs: an apartment that’s close to your work may be more expensive or an apartment nearby a family member may not give you as good access to highly rated schools as an apartment elsewhere. Some neighborhoods have lower crime rates than others, some are closer to stores and parks, and some give you access to better schools and jobs.

Choosing among these tradeoffs is a personal choice. However, where you live can significantly affect your and your family’s access to different opportunities and your economic and health outcomes later in life. This is especially important if you are a family with young children.

Finding units that meet your goals may mean searching outside of neighborhoods or towns that you are currently familiar with. To be sure you are finding potential units outside of areas you or your family and friends already know of, use a range of different search resources to expand your choices.

Questions about the Neighborhood to Ask and Where to Look for Answers

•    How good are the schools?
•    How safe is the neighborhood?
•    How close is public transportation?
•    How close is it to your job?
•    Will I be close enough to family and friends?  
•    Is it easy to park in the neighborhood?
•    Are there playgrounds nearby?
•    Can you easily get to a grocery store nearby?
•    Are there churches you can join in the area?
•    How close are the medical services that your family needs?


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