To the editor:
I have 44 years of experience in working at or with local housing authorities in the Pacific Northwest. I also teach Fundamentals for Housing Authority Commissioners and Ethics for Commissioners.
I have been following the Massachusetts governor’s proposal to “solve” the type of problem found with the Chelsea Housing Authority. While I believe that the proposal is well-intentioned, and while on occasion some problems can be solved by introducing a larger organization (regionalization would probably help low-income households find housing without applying to multiple housing authorities all over Massachusetts), I also believe that the governor is making a serious mistake with his idea.
First of all, the critics of the plan are right about local control being best. The reason that Chelsea had the problem in the first place was a breakdown of that local control.
However, creation of a larger, likely-to-be-unresponsive-to-local-needs bureaucracy will not necessarily bring ethical conduct to this field of endeavor. The larger organizations are likely to reduce the all-important aspect of customer service and create other large bureaucracy-type problems. The Chicago Housing Authority might be a prime example of that.
When you have a problem such as found in Chelsea, it is a product of those holding the responsibility for oversight failing to apply due diligence and their fiduciary duty. The solution is not always easy, but it is relatively simple. You remove the offenders and find new oversight to make sure that the program/agency is properly administered and managed. If one employee at your news organization was found to be incompetent, you would not fire everyone and give the reporting responsibilities to a newspaper in Boston, would you?
Pacific NW Regional Council
National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials