SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 28, 2014

Court slams agency for revoking jailed man's housing

Waiting list for vouchers in 'tens of thousands'

SALEM — When Melvin Furtick missed two scheduled meetings in 2011 to recertify his 30-year-old Section 8 housing voucher because he was in jail for assaulting and threatening his wife, the Boston Housing Authority began proceedings to take back the coveted certificate.

By the time Furtick, now 64, was paroled and returned to his Loring Towers apartment in Salem, the locks had been changed.

But yesterday, in a harshly worded decision, the state’s Appeals Court concluded that Furtick’s due process rights were ignored in the agency’s “rush to recapture Furtick’s Section 8 voucher,” and suggested that it had “lost sight of its mission.”

“The Boston Housing Authority terminated Furtick’s housing assistance benefits, a protected property interest, in violation of his due process rights,” wrote Justice Frederick Brown in the decision released yesterday. “Such a result cannot be countenanced by any court of law.”

The court upheld a Northeast Housing Court judge’s decision in 2012 ordering the voucher to be reinstated, a ruling the BHA had appealed.

While she was unable to comment on the decision, BHA spokeswoman Lydia Agro said that there are “tens of thousands” of applicants for housing subsidies on the agency’s waiting lists.

And the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program, colloquially known as Section 8, waiting list has been closed entirely since 2008 “due to lack of funding and inability to issue sufficient vouchers to meet the demand.”

When vouchers are given out, priority is given to people who are homeless, fleeing domestic violence or in other extreme circumstances.

The Appeals Court judge characterized Furtick as a “physically disabled, mentally ill senior citizen” diagnosed with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and physical ailments including asthma, arthritis and an immune disorder caused by a kidney transplant.

Furtick’s arrest in 2011 came after his wife called police to report that Furtick had warned her during an argument that “I shot you once, and I blew the house up, and the third time will be a charm,” according to a police report.

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