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Organization of public housing authorities offers up its own reform plan

The organization that represents public housing authorities in the state has proposed its own legislation seeking reform of the system without wiping out local control.

The plan, to be filed by the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, would encourage regional collaboration on administrative functions in areas such as waiting lists, apartment or house vacancies, buying and capital improvements.

The organization is rejecting Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposal to eliminate local housing authorities and their boards in favor of six regional agencies, which it says was not recommended by a special commission established by the governor last year.

“It would be unwise to eliminate local control over public housing in our communities and turn this responsibility over to a state bureaucracy,” Executive Director Thomas J. Connelly Jr. said in a statement. “The closer government is to the people, the better it works.”

The association’s plan includes an assessment and evaluation tool that would make it possible to identify troubled housing authorities and direct corrective action and technical assistance accordingly. Additionally, all authorities with state units would be subject to mandatory independent audits annually.

The plan calls for the association to take over administration of waiting lists for all state-subsidized units, similar to how Section 8 federal housing is awarded. It also proposes a regional approach through which small housing authorities could contract with larger authorities to fill vacancies within the required 60-day timeframe.

The plan also proposes hiring additional procurement experts at larger authorities to assist smaller authorities.

Connelly said the organization’s plan is more efficient and cost-effective than a plan to create new, large government agencies.

“Just as important, it would protect local control and decision-making by the people who best know the needs of their community,” he said.


Mixed response to proposed overhaul of public housing

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — Local housing authority chiefs this week criticized a proposal to place all public housing under state control as too drastic, saying it would hurt the ground-level services for low-income and elderly residents in the region. However, some tenants interviewed Friday said they welcome reforms after years of broken promises and tensions with local housing authority leadership. Gov. Deval …

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