Latest News

Vacant Unit Victory

The state’s waitlist for public housing has climbed to an astonishing 184,000 people. The state manages 43,000 units of public housing but only about 3,000 units turn over per year. Massachusetts is also experiencing a shelter crisis and housing advocates have identified the need for 190,000 more affordable homes. In other words, housing is desperately needed.

Meanwhile, 2,300 public housing apartments are sitting vacant or offline, as reported in great detail by WBUR.

In a recent meeting with the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC; formerly DHCD), Mass Union and its members brought the issue of vacant units to the attention of key staff. Our partners have also been highlighting this issue and our attorney, Annette Duke, was interviewed on WBUR about this topic.

These efforts have resulted in new action by the state. On September 22, EOHLC announced a new initiative that will provide money and technical assistance to LHAs in order to get more units back online. EOHLC is making a 90-push to assist in reoccupying units.

Mass Union’s Executive Director, Sarah Byrnes said “Our members, who are public housing residents, are frustrated to see vacant unused apartments. They know that these these apartments are desperately needed and they were able to bring this issue to key decision-makers.”

“Mass Union would like to thank EOHLC for taking action to restore vacant units for occupancy,” added Byrnes. “We applaud this initiative and look forward to ensuring that the new funds and assistance effectively accomplish the goal of bringing units back online and housing people who need it.”

Media Coverage

Listen to Mass Union’s attorney Annette Duke on WBUR talk about the vacant unit crisis and how public housing can help.

Read WBUR’s full report on vacant units here and find out how many units are offline in your community with an interactive map: “Mass. has a huge waitlist for state-funded housing. So why are there 2,300 vacant units?”

September 29: Group Dynamics Training

Friday, September 29, 9:30am – 4:30pm
Lawrence Community Works, 4 Union Street 1st Floor, Lawrence MA
Lunch and refreshments included

This training is being offered by the Mel King Institute and is free for public housing residents! To register, contact Amanda Kahan at

Teamwork is vital in the contemporary workplace.  Even with the help of modern technology, soft skills of human communication are essential glue that gets the job done – especially when settings are rich with diversity and require high levels of interaction. The “Group Styles” framework provides a simple, powerful lens for reading group dynamics and individual behavior.  Most importantly, it offers practical ways to understand and adapt ones own behavior in order to help groups succeed. In the training, everyone will identify their own dominant Style through a group process.  We will explore ways we have learned these behavioral habits.  Then, building on understanding of everyone’s strengths, we will then all see how we can adapt our behavior in order to improve teamwork overall. Lunch and refreshments included.

Read more about our partnership with the Mel King Institute here.

October 19: Webinar: How to Start a Local Tenant Organization

Thursday, October 19, 10am – 11am
Via Zoom

Many residents want to have a voice in the management of their Housing Authorities. The good news is that they can! The most effective way to have your voice heard is to start a Local Tenant Organization. This may seem overwhelming, but we are here to help! Hundreds of tenants have already done this successfully. Join us to learn the fundamentals about starting a Local Tenant Organization

November 8: Conflict Resolution Training

Wednesday, November 8, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Via Zoom – Link will be sent after you register

This training is being offered by the Mel King Institute and is free for public housing residents! To register, contact Amanda Kahan at

This workshop geared for community residents focuses on improving conflict skills and how to communicate effectively in difficult situations. You’ll build community by having a shared language with which to deal with conflict challenges. We train by combining presentations with experiential learning – you’ll have fun! We’ve found that those skills related to effective conflict management are best learned by practice.

Read more about our partnership with the Mel King Institute here.

Meet Ben Echevarria! Our new Director of Organizing

Benjamin Echevarria is the new Director of Organizing for the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants! Welcome aboard Ben!

Ben can be reached at or through our main office line. Ben will be focusing on helping start, sustain and strengthen Local Tenant Organizations, as well as advancing Mass Union’s policy agenda at the statehouse.

Ben previously served as Executive Director of The Welcome Project, an organization dedicated to building the collective power of immigrants to shape community decisions. A pastor and a longtime leader in the Latino community, Ben’s work in the social justice movement has led him to organize and advocate for those whose voice isn’t being heard. At The Welcome Project, Ben led the organization to fight to ensure immigrants were part of the fabric of their community. Ben was a Trustee for Cambridge HealthAlliance, a Treasurer for Community Works, and Co-Chair of Tisch College Research Center at Tufts University. His leadership on equity and equality has earned him the recognition of the State House of Representatives, being named one of Somerville’s top 40 leaders by Scout Magazine, and One of the “100 Most Influential People on the Latino Community” by El Planeta Newspaper. After finishing culinary school Ben worked for several chefs before launching his own catering company. His passion for cooking led him to intern for the PBS cooking show Simply Ming Season 1. He has also worked as a test cook for several cookbooks. Ben continues to cook but mostly for friends and family.

Mel King Institute and Mass Union Partnership



Collaborating to enhance Resident Leadership

The Mel King Institute and Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants are excited to announce a training partnership designed to enhance residents’ leadership capacities. Since 2016, the Mel King Institute has been running the Public Housing Training Program (PHTP), providing training for tenants so that they can more meaningfully participate in the decision-making that impacts their lives. This very highly-regarded program has been a component of MKI’s larger work to provide education for professionals and community leaders in the Community Development field.

The Public Housing Training Program (PHTP) has always operated in close collaboration with its partner organizations: the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants, MassNAHRO, DHCD (now EOHLC), Mass Law Reform, and the Mass Housing Partnership. In March of 2023 Sarah Byrnes, previously the Director of the PHTP at Mel King, transitioned to become the Executive Director at the Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants. Mass Union provides a full array of support for tenants and tenant organizations. Training is an integral part of this mission, making a stronger collaboration between Mel King and Mass Union a natural next step in the evolution of the program.

Over the next six months our two organizations will partner to produce trainings for Resident Leaders and Resident Board Members, including webinars, our online training series, and in-person events. This partnership will make use of Mass Union’s 50+ years of history supporting tenants, as well as MKI’s renowned commitment to providing excellent training. We are jointly committed to ensuring continuity in the design and delivery of the trainings in order to maximize tenants’ leadership development so that they can accomplish their goals for their communities. Please keep an eye on our websites for additional details. Thank you!

August 17: LTO Support Session in Quincy

Mass Union is very excited to head down to Quincy on August 17, 2023, for a Local Tenant Organization (LTO) Support Session! All public housing residents are welcome. We will focus on the following:

  • Building power through strength in numbers (Spaghetti Power!)
  • LTO bylaws
  • Prioritizing issues
  • Listening skills

Whether you are trying to start an LTO or simply looking to refresh your knowledge, please join us. Here are the details:

LTO Support Session
Thursday, August 17, 10am-3pm
Quincy Housing Authority
80 Clay Street, Quincy, 02170

Breakfast and lunch will be provided – please plan to arrive by 9:30
Stay tuned for information about parking
Cantonese-English Interpretation will be provided

 — Registration is now closed — 

August 10 Zoom Roundtable: Stewardship & Success in Public Housing LTOs

SCROLL DOWN TO REGISTER. Contact us for support at 617.825.9750.

Thursday, August 10, 10am-11am
Zoom information will be provided after you register

Join Mass Union on August 10 to share your Stewardship and Success Stories! While there are many challenges for Local Tenant Organizations in public housing, there has also been a lot of success and stewardship. Residents live on the property 24/7 and often take important steps to care for the buildings and the community. Residents:

When residents work together, they can accomplish all this and more. LTOs have won:

  • Better maintenance and sanitation
  • New kitchens and bathrooms
  • Respectful treatment
  • And more!

Join us to lift up and celebrate these and other successes!

— Registration is now closed —