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Governor's Proposal All But Abolishes Newton Housing Authority; What Do You Think?

Doing away with local housing boards is Gov. Patrick's idea for slashing public housing cost and corruption. Do you think that's a good idea?

The Newton Housing Authority, one of 240 public housing authorities across Massachusetts, would all but vanish as part of a proposal from Gov. Deval Patrick to streamline public housing management operations.

The purpose of local housing authorities is to manage and maintain subsidized housing and, often, to advocate for affordable housing for lower-income residents.

The administration reportedly estimates the consolidation would save more than $10 million a year in salaries and administrative costs.

According to the Boston Globe, while Gov. Patrick's proposal would centralize public housing management into six regional ­offices, a small number of managers and maintenance workers would remain at local housing author­ities.

And, says the Globe, cutting local boards would would do away with the need for more than 1,000 politically appointed commissioners.

A press release from the governor's says this about local input:

Underscoring the critical role that local communities play in supporting public housing, the legislation allows communities to 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. RHAs will also be required to seek local input into an annual plan that outlines projected capital and operating expenditures and tenant participation activities. 

The consolidation move comes in the wake of troubling corruption scandals uncovered by the Globe, which were partly possible because holding hundreds of separate housing authorities accountable is a management challenge.

Last summer,  the highest recognition level given by HUD.

What we know so far of the governor's proposal sounds like a move toward more accountable, efficient government. But would it also mean less local say and control over public housing in Newton? Does that matter to you? What could and should change if control is transferred to regional offices?

Dan Fahey January 11, 2013 at 11:48 AM
It's clear more oversight is needed in this arena, but this approach toward diminished local control may be too big a price to pay. Bring on the oversight but retain true local control.
Jay Walter January 11, 2013 at 01:10 PM
While there are obvious savings in consolidating the housing authorities I am very doubtful that it would serve the needs of those in the housing very well. With state instead of local control, it is hard to imagine the management of the local properties would not be adversely affected. Also I believe the local boards have a much better understanding of where and how new public housing should be approached. Basically, while I applaud the Governor's goals I don't think this is a good idea.
Deb Crossley, Alderman at Large January 11, 2013 at 10:58 PM
Newton has a terrific record of accomplishment in developing and managing affordable housing - which is under increasing pressure to perform using fewer resources. I share Jay and Dan's concerns about centralizing oversight of a business that requires a personal touch and understanding of local conditions. It seems to me there is often insufficient staff on the ground to serve the need. How could fewer staff in fewer locations address the same needs?
Dan Fahey January 12, 2013 at 01:31 AM
And before we go too far down any road to reforms, how about first ferreting out the housing authority miscreants and dealing with them, rather than painting all housing authorities with the same broad brush? Punishing the good authorities for the [hopefully] few bad apples seems wrongheaded. That's what good state oversight of the authorities could accomplish, without eviscerating the numerous housing authorities that function well.

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