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Online Training Series: Sustaining a Strong Local Tenant Organization

  • For public housing residents
  • Choose between the Tuesday Morning or Wednesday Evening series (see below)
  • Via Zoom

This five-part training series will help you build confidence and skills to manage a successful Local Tenant Organization (LTO). Starting and sustaining an LTO is a lot of work, but Mass Union, MKI and our network of fellow tenants are here to help! Whether you are a seasoned leader or just getting started, join us to share tips, tricks and encouragement. We’ll talk about:

  • Why to form a Local Tenant Organizations – and why not to!
  • Leadership do’s and don’ts
  • The rights and responsibilities of Local Tenant Organizations
  • How to reach and engage other tenants by overcoming fear
  • How to build power and voice to win changes at your Local Housing Authority

Please note that you can attend either the morning or evening series. The content will be the same.

Please contact Lisa Copeland to register at

These training series are being offered as part of our partnership with the Mel King Institute. Read more here.

Thank You to Our Sponsors!

Gold Sponsor

Bronze Sponsor

Resident Patrons
Sending 10+ Residents

Resident Sustainers
Sending 5+ Residents

Resident Sponsors
Sending 2+ Residents

Attleboro Housing Authority
Easthampton Housing Authority
Northampton Housing Authority
Cambridge Housing Authority
Watertown Housing Authority

Convention Agenda and Workshop Options

8:00 AM – 9:45 AM – Continental Breakfast (Ballroom Foyer)

8:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Convention Registration (Lobby)

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM – Morning Plenary (Salon DE)

  • Special Speaker: Ed Augustus, Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC)
  • Reports from the Personnel, Finance, Membership and Policy Committees
  • Mass Union Policy Agenda Priority Setting Exercise

12:00 PM – 1:15 PM – LUNCH (Courtyard)


Using Your Grievance Process
Spanish translation available | Traducción al español disponible

A grievance procedure is a process to resolve disputes between residents in public housing and a Housing Authority. It is a way to work out problems without having to go to court. As a tenant, you have a right to use the grievance procedure to oppose some action that a Housing Authority wants to take against you, or to hold your Housing Authority accountable for the way they have acted or not acted. Many residents are unaware of this right! Join us to review your grievance rights, the process for filing grievances, and how to troubleshoot barriers you may encounter in the process.

Presenters: Annette Duke, Staff Attorney, Mass Law Reform Institute; Lori Manzo, President, Revere City-Wide Tenant Council; Mac McCreight, Attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services

Tenant Perspectives on LHA Management Agreements

More and more, Housing Authorities are choosing to enter into management agreements with nearby LHAs in lieu of hiring their own Executive Directors. However, there is no provision for resident participation in the negotiation of such agreements, despite the fact that tenants are impacted by them. Mass Union believes this should change. Tenants have had both positive and negative experiences with management agreements. Join us to hear about both types of experiences, and to share your own perspective on this topic.

Moderator: Ben Echevarria, Mass Union Director of Organizing; Presenters: Judy O’Kulsky, President, Town Wide Belchertown Tenant Organization and Mass Union Network Leader; Maryanne Potrzuski, President, Winthrop Terrace Tenant Organization and Mass Union Board Member

“Ask the Attorneys”
Salon DE
Spanish translation available | Traducción al español disponible

Modeled on the popular session offered at each MassNAHRO Convention, this session will be a chance to ask Legal Aid attorneys your questions. Submit your questions in advance to, or in writing at the Convention (we will provide index cards). Please submit general questions that the whole group may learn from.

Moderator: Sarah Byrnes, Executive Director, Mass Union; Presenters: Laura Camara, Directing Attorney of Housing Advocacy, South Coastal Counties Legal Services; Susan Hegel, Attorney, Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services; Chhaya Kotwani, Staff Attorney, Housing Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services; Mary Lu Mendonca, Staff Attorney, Housing Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services



Local Tenant Organizations and Resident Participation

According to EOHLC, resident participation in decision-making at the Housing Authority is beneficial and should be encouraged. Join us for a review of your participation rights as well as tips for running a strong, impactful Local Tenant Organization (LTO). We’ll include tips for using the “Dot Exercise” to prioritize issues in a way that strengthens the LTO’s group cohesion.

Presenters: Ben Echevarria, Director of Organizing, Mass Union; Sue Kirby, President, Morency Tenants Organization and Mass Union Network Leader

Race, Class and Belonging
Spanish translation available | Traducción al español disponible

Public housing is beautifully diverse. Join this session to reflect and learn about the role race and class play in public housing and Local Tenant Organizations. We’ll focus on how to ensure that your tenant group is “radically inclusive” so that everyone feels like they belong, regardless of their race, language, religion, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, or any other factor.

Moderator: Danielle Connolly, Vice President, Stoneham Housing Resident Union and Mass Union Board Member; Presenters: Maria Fernandes-Dominique, Trainer and Facilitator; Sonia Andujar, Trainer and Facilitator and Mass Union Treasurer; Tiana Lawrence, Trainer and Facilitator

Redevelopment of Public Housing
Salon DE
Spanish translation available | Traducción al español disponible

Due to decades of deferred maintenance, public housing is in tough shape. While Mass Union continues to fight for adequate public investment in housing, “redevelopment” of public housing is also happening – sometimes in partnership with private, for-profit developers. In some cases, ownership moves to a new entity. Join this session with attorneys and residents to learn about Mass Union’s “Bill of Rights for Redevelopment,” which outlines how residents must have a voice in the whole redevelopment process and how they can retain all their rights post-development.

Moderator: Sarah Byrnes, Executive Director, Mass Union; Presenters: Shannon Bailey, President, Lee Fort Terrace LTO; Annette Duke, Staff Attorney, Mass Law Reform Institute; Susan Hegel, Attorney, Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services; Chhaya Kotwani, Staff Attorney, Housing Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services; Mary Lu Mendonca, Staff Attorney, Housing Unit, Greater Boston Legal Services

4:15 – 5:00 PM – Closing Plenary and Raffles (Salon DE)



Mass Union Speaks at Housing Bond Bill Release Event

Mass Union Board Member Nicole Beckles gave remarks at the release of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s new Housing Bond Bill, called the Affordable Homes Act. Mass Union is encouraged by news about the bill and looks forward to reading it in full. See photos and statement below. Congratulations to Nicole and Mass Union!

Statement on the bill’s release: The Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants wishes to thank the Healey-Driscoll Administration and Secretary Augustus for the proposed bond bill’s significant investment in public housing. For decades, public housing has been drastically underfunded. Mass Union has members across the state live with deplorable, unsafe conditions, including leaks, mold, asbestos, and more. Many residents are losing hope that things will change. But today we are grateful to the Healey Administration for taking a huge first step with this investment, for listening to tenants, and for including important tenant protections in the bill.

See more photos and video on our Facebook group!

Mass Union Meeting with Housing Secretary Ed Augustus

On September 27, members of the Mass Union board, staff and affiliates met with the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing, Ed Augustus. We spoke about seven of our policy priorities. The Secretary heard us out and we are excited to continue working together to address our concerns about capital repair needs (such as mold, asbestos, leaks, etc.) and to ensure that tenants have a voice in all the decisions that impact them. Please contact Mass Union’s Director of Organizing Ben Echevarria for more information or to get involved:

Mass Union to the Boston Globe: Tenants who live public housing problems 24/7 urge state to act

Vice Chair Dave Underhill receiving the Bill King award at the Spring 2023 Convention

Mass Union Vice-Chair Dave Underhill published a Letter to the Editor today in the Boston Globe. Dave said:

The chronically broken elevator at an apartment building in the South End isn’t an isolated story (“She needed a lift, but she was let down,” Metro, Sept. 25). We at the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants know stories like these because we experience these conditions every day. As the Globe’s Sept. 22 editorial pointed out, big problems plague our state’s public housing.

We tenants live these problems 24/7. In state housing, pests, leaks, broken infrastructure, unsafe fire systems, backed-up plumbing and sewage systems, and decades-old appliances are the norm. Fire alarms go off for days at a time. Mold is visible on walls. Asbestos goes unaddressed. The health and safety of the residents are being compromised, and too many units are close to unlivable. Stopgap measures are merely expensive bandages on a gushing wound.

Advocates estimate that we need 190,000 more units of affordable housing to address the housing crisis in Massachusetts. The last thing we need is to jeopardize the state’s existing 43,000 units of public housing by continuing to ignore the dangerous backlog of capital needs.

As the voice of public housing tenants in Massachusetts, we urge the administration to prioritize both the production and preservation of low-income housing, including public housing, to ensure that everyone in the state can live in a safe and affordable home.

See the letter here, along with a letter from our friends at the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). Congratulations to Dave and Mass Union!

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.

This webinar is for residents of public housing only, and is offered through our partnership with the Mel King Institute.

To register, email