SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 1, 2014

Our view: Appeals Court ruling makes a victim of taxpayers

The state Appeals Court last week ruled the Boston Housing Authority couldn’t revoke the Section 8 housing voucher of tenant Melvin Furtick, who missed two meetings with the authority because he was in jail after assaulting and threatening his wife.

It’s the latest in a series of higher court rulings that leave regular citizens scratching their heads. Who knew that “I was in jail” could be added to the list of excuses when one misses a meeting or a deadline?

Furtick, now 64, had been living at Loring Towers in Salem before heading to jail in 2011. He missed BHA appointments in November and December of 2011 and didn’t receive notices of proceedings to terminate his Section 8 voucher. He wasn’t out of town on business. He wasn’t visiting relatives. He was behind bars.

In the eyes of the Appeals Court, however, Furtick is the victim.

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

In the Appeals Court decision, Brown went so far as to suggest the BHA was “in a rush to recapture Furtick’s Section 8 voucher” and said the authority had “lost sight of its mission.”

Wrong. The BHA may be the only party in this embarrassing mess with a clear head. There is a waiting list of tens of thousands of people hoping to get a Section 8 voucher, the federally funded subsidy for low-income tenants.

So many people are trying to get a voucher, BHA spokeswoman Lydia Agro told reporter Julie Manganis, that the waiting list was cut off in 2008 “due to lack of funding and inability to issue sufficient vouchers to meet the demand.”

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