GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNS LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE OVERSIGHT, EFFICIENCY OF LOCAL HOUSING AUTHORITIES
Bill Increases Tenant Involvement, Strengthens the Commonwealth's Public Housing System
Governor Deval Patrick signs H.4374, An Act Relative to Local Housing Authorities, which will professionalize and modernize the operations and financial management of the Commonwealth's housing authorities. (Photo: Eric Haynes : Governor's Office)
BOSTON – Wednesday, August 6, 2014 – Governor Deval Patrick today signed H.4374, “An Act Relative to Local Housing Authorities,” which will professionalize and modernize the operations and financial management of the Commonwealth’s housing authorities. Building on the Patrick Administration’s unprecedented commitment to public housing, the legislation will strengthen the governance structure of the housing authority system in order to protect the safety net that public housing provides for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable families, seniors and persons with disabilities.
“Our state’s public housing infrastructure depends on the effectiveness and efficiency of our local housing authorities,” said Governor Patrick. “Through this new legislation, we will hold these housing authorities to the highest standards to better serve our residents.”
The legislation significantly increases the transparency among Local Housing Authorities (LHAs), provides the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) with the tools necessary to monitor LHAs operations and hold them accountable, increases efficiencies and economies of scale for delivery of services to tenants, increases staffing and assistance in the field and incentivizes LHAs to creative innovative practices to improve the lives of residents.
The bill establishes a performance-based monitoring program to provide uniform assessment standards for evaluating LHA operations, and establishes new guidelines for designating a LHA as “chronically poor performing.” The bill also creates the position of Chief Administrative and Financial Officer (CAFO) to oversee troubled LHAs, and establishes capital assistance teams to allow LHAs to work collaboratively and provide capital, maintenance and repair planning and technical assistance to LHAs. DHCD would appoint a CAFO for each LHA designated as “chronically poor performing.”
In an effort to ensure transparency and accountability in LHA leadership, the legislation establishes new guidelines for Executive Director contracts, including the authority for DHCD to review all contracts and terms for compensation and to strike provisions that do not conform to the guidelines. The bill also gives DHCD the authority to terminate the employment of an LHA executive director.
“This legislation strengthens accountability, increases oversight and encourages innovation in public housing across the state,” said Senate President Therese Murray. “Public housing is relied upon by so many residents in the Commonwealth, including low and moderate-income families, the elderly, veterans and people with disabilities. In order to ensure an effective system, and continue growing housing options, we must make sure that our local housing authorities are operating according to the interests and well-being of their tenants.”
“Providing secure housing is a crucial step to helping families across the Commonwealth enjoy safe and fulfilling lives,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “By streamlining efficiencies, requiring more transparency and increasing oversight we will improve our housing authorities and build a stronger foundation for the public housing system in the future.”
"I want to commend Governor Patrick for signing ‘An Act Relative to Local Housing Authorities,’ and for initiating this reform in 2011 with the creation of the Public Housing Reform Commission, " said Senator James Eldridge. "The bill sends a message loud and clear that we need more accountability and transparency in our local housing authorities, that both housing authorities staff and board members need to be more responsive to tenants needs, and that every housing authority needs to step up and both empower tenants, and build more public housing, to truly meet the needs of low-income families, senior citizens and the disabled."
“I’d like to thank Governor Patrick for signing this bill into law and Senate and House leadership for supporting it, recognizing the importance of maintaining local connections between our housing authorities and their residents,” said Senator Marc R. Pacheco. “I was proud to sponsor legislation as part of this effort to increase transparency and cooperation within our public housing system, which provides a lifeline for thousands of families across the Commonwealth.”
Since 2008, the Patrick Administration has taken action to protect and strengthen the safety net that state-aided public housing’s 45,600 units provides for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable families, senior and people with disabilities. These initiatives are a part of a broader strategy being implemented to reform the state’s public housing system. Other reforms have included requiring local housing authorities to provide DHCD with the salaries of the five highest-paid management staff and setting a maximum salary for local housing authority executive directors, require greater reporting of financial information and instituting a vacant unit initiative.
“By increasing transparency and giving local housing authorities the tools and techniques to be successful, we are ensuring that this vital resource is available for our seniors, veterans and neighbors that live in public housing for years to come,” said Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary for the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Maintaining and strengthening the state’s public housing system is part of the Patrick Administration’s comprehensive effort to provide quality housing to everyone in the Commonwealth. This includes maintaining the nation’s strongest emergency housing services, while increasing investments in homelessness prevention and permanent housing solutions and creating new housing in areas near public transportation that is attractive and accessible to families and individuals.