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Policy Update: Good Things are Happening

It’s the holiday season and we have good news to share. Mass Union recently met with Ben Stone, the head of the Division of Public Housing at EOHLC, along with two members of his staff. (EOHLC means the “Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities,” which is the new DHCD.) We are happy to report that EOHLC is planning some changes that will benefit tenants!

#1: Tenant Participation Funds

While we are still awaiting more details and confirmation, EOHLC has indicated that they will be raising the state tenant participation funding level to match the federal level of $25/unit/year. This is more than four times as much as the $6/unit/year state tenants are getting now!

#2: Tenant voice in Management Agreement decision-making

EOHLC is also working on a Public Housing Notice that will ensure that tenants have a voice when Local Housing Authorities (LHAs) are considering entering into “Management Agreements.”

What is a Management Agreement? Instead of hiring their own Executive Directors, some LHAs enter into a contract with another LHA to manage them. These are known as Management Agreements. As of now, LHAs can enter them without providing notice to tenants or seeking LTO input. We are working with EOHLC to ensure that tenants have a voice in this important decision-making.

Once there is more information to share, we will let you know. Please stay tuned!

Reminder: Other Policy Updates

Mass Union has nine policy areas that we are working on. Several are being addressed directly by EOHLC through regulations or guidance, as mentioned above. In addition, two of our priorities are addressed in the Affordable Homes Act, also known as the bond bill. Read our statement about the Affordable Homes Act here. We will be working on the bond bill throughout the spring and summer, until it is passed, to ensure that the full $1.6 billion is allocated for capital repairs in public housing, and tenants are guaranteed protections during redevelopment. We shall also joining with others to call for Access to Counsel be added to the bond bill so that low-income tenants facing eviction can have the legal representation they need.

Coming Up: Mass Union Meeting with the Division of Public Housing at EOHLC

Mass Union is excited to meet with Ben Stone, the head of the Division of Public Housing at EOHLC, next week. (EOHLC means the “Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, which is the new DHCD.) We have several agenda items we are planning to discuss, based on input from tenants across the state. Here is our agenda:

  1. The status of regulatory updates to rent and other topics that were begun before COVID
  2. Problems with the town tenant LHA board member appointment process
  3. Increasing state Tenant Participation Funding to $25/unit/year, in order to match federal housing
  4. Making sure tenants have a say in Housing Authority management agreements and mergers before they happen
  5. Highlighting and enforcing grievance regulations

Stay tuned for an update about the meeting later in December.

Other Policy Updates

  1. Mass Union has nine policy areas that we are working on. Two of them are addressed in the bond bill, which is officially called the Affordable Homes Act. Read our statement about the Affordable Homes Act here. We will be working on the bond bill throughout the spring, until it is passed, to ensure that the full $1.6 billion is allocated for capital repairs in public housing, and tenants are guaranteed protections during redevelopment.
  2. Last week, Mass Union board chair Dave Underhill sent this letter to Governor Healey and high-ranking members of her Administration, such as Secretary Augustus. We asked Governor Healey to provide $189 million for public housing in the FY25 operating subsidy, and to fund our other priorities.
  3. If you’ve read this far, consider joining Mass Union’s policy committee! We meet every other Friday to advance our policy agenda. Contact Ben if you are interested, ben@massunion.org.

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Webinar: Using your Grievance Process

Thursday December 7, 2023
10 AM – 11 AM

Presenters: Annette Duke, Mass Law Reform Institute, Mac McCreight, Greater Boston Legal Services, Lori Manzo, President of the Revere City-Wide Tenants Council

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.

We will send you the Zoom link after you register below. Thank you!

To Register, email Lisa by 5:00PM December 6 at:  Lisa@massunion.org

This webinar is being offered as part of our partnership with the Mel King Institute. Read more here.

Mass Union Holiday Roundtable

Thursday, December 21, 2023
10AM – 11AM

Join us to celebrate a year of transition and accomplishments! Mass Union has been busy working with our affiliates to build power for all so that we can make the changes we need to public housing. We’ll take a moment to reflect on our successes as well as the work still ahead. Bring your gratitude list and your “public housing holiday wish list” to share. We’ll throw in a little holiday trivia as well. Hope to see you there!

We will send you the Zoom link after you register below. Thank you!

Registration is now closed

This Roundtable is being offered as part of our partnership with the Mel King Institute. Read more here.

December 13: Resident Board Member Training

When: Wednesday, December 13, 2023, 10am-12pm
Register here: https://bit.ly/RMBT-dec13

This free two-hour virtual training is part of the Mel King Institute’s Public Housing Training Program. It is only open to residents who serve on the Board of their Local Housing Authority. As part of Mass Union’s partnership with MKI, Sarah Byrnes will be the trainer.

The training helps participants handle challenges unique to their particular role as both a resident and a Board Member. Participants learn about the role of the Board Member, take an in-depth look at budgets and capital improvement plans, and receive a free resource binder. They get a chance to network with each other to discuss experiences and share stories in order build confidence to perform their duties and contribute to a thriving Housing Authority.

Quotes from past participants and stakeholders:

  • “This Resident Board Member Training was the best I ever took. I have been talking all types of classes for 25 years now. My resource binder is now my Bible for questions and answers.” – Phyllis May, Resident Board Member, Framingham Housing Authority
  • “I enjoyed this training immensely. The role-playing activities brought the examples home to us and aided us in understanding Board and resident issues. I would recommend this course to anyone who is a Resident Board Member.” – Susan Stanek, Resident Board Member, Ludlow Housing Authority

Please email or call Emma Caviness if you have any questions, emmac@macdc.org, 617-379-5933.

Mass Union Statement on our Leadership

In May of 2023, in accordance with our bylaws, Mass Union held a Convention and board election. Because it is an odd-numbered year, the Directors (not Officers) were up for election. Twelve people ran for eight seats, representing the first time in recent memory that there were more interested parties than seats available. As a result, Mass Union attained its first full slate of Board Members in recent memory.

At the election, approximately 100 people were in attendance and witnessed a proper electoral procedure take place. Thirty-two affiliates participated and cast votes. The affiliates elected the following Directors who are still serving: Jessica Quinonez, Carol Roberts, Nicole Beckles, Maryanne Potrzuski, Bret Perkins, Sonia Andujar and Danielle Connolly. Sonia has since become Treasurer. She joins Dave Underhill and Donald Hamilton as Officers of the organization. At our Spring 2024 Convention, the affiliates will elect officers to the board from among the current board members. Please stay tuned for more information about the election, and see our bylaws here.

In January of 2023, the Mass Union board offered the position of Executive Director to Sarah Byrnes. Sarah began on March 1, succeeding Jack Cooper, who had been ED for 37 years. The board wishes to thank Sarah for her steadfast leadership during this time, and applaud the work she and her staff have accomplished.

We also wish to thank our affiliates and all the residents who participate in Mass Union in many ways, including our board election, spring and fall Conventions, and online events. We appreciate your time and your heroic commitment to your communities. Together, we are Mass Union. We look forward to many fruitful years of work together.

Sincerely,

The Mass Union Board of Directors and Officers

Special Meeting with EOHLC about the Bond Bill

To all public housing residents: please join us on Friday, November 17 at 11am for a special meeting about the Governor’s Bond Bill!

  • This bill proposes to provide $1.6 billion for capital repairs in state public housing.
  • It would also help ensure that residents are protected during redevelopment.

We’re very excited to discuss the bill with Eric Shupin from the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC).

Mass Union has nine policy agenda items and we are hopeful that the bond bill, once enacted, will help address some of them. Mass Union will be counting on our affiliates to help make that happen. You can read more about our policy agenda here.

We will send you the Zoom link after you register below. Thank you!

Registration now closed