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January 29, 2013

Housing authority reform faces local pushback


A legislative battle

The governor is calling for regional housing authorities (RHAs) to take over for local housing authorities (LHAs) in July 2014.

“This bill will simplify and professionalize our public housing system, improving transparency and accountability,” said Patrick in a statement. “We owe the residents and the public no less.”

The six RHAs would be charged with providing fiscal and operational management for all public housing in the state. DHCD would continue its regulatory role over the RHAs.

Each authority would consist of one executive director, a nine-member governing board and support staff. Current housing authority staff members would have the opportunity to transition to positions within the RHAs.

Calling on-site staffing a “fundamental building block of any property management” operation, DHCD’s Heyer said local site managers, custodial and maintenance staff would remain.

RHA boards would consist of two tenant and one union representatives and six housing professionals. Of the six board members with backgrounds or experience in housing, three will be direct appointments by the governor and three will be nominated by mayors, town managers, boards of selectmen or city councils in the region.

Heyer said cities and towns would retain control over land use and significant redevelopment decisions including change of use, ownership or the financing structure of an existing building or vacant land.

Local input would also be sought annually for planning capital and operating expenditures and tenant participation activities.

“We’re keeping these decisions very local and in the hands of local communities,” said Heyer.

Under the RHA system, Heyer said the state is projecting cost savings and efficiency through the centralization of functions like information technology, human resources, administration, accounting, procurement, and regional technical assistance.

The statewide association representing LHAs rejected Patrick’s housing plan on the same day it was announced.

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