Here We Go Again: More Abuses at Housing Authorities

Several months back, the egregious abuses at the Chelsea Housing Authority showed the weaknesses in oversight of municipal housing authorities. The fact that it got away with that abuse for so long, even after federal and state audits, should give one pause.

Now, the Medford Housing Authority is under scrutiny. This time, its not the executive director’s salary that’s in question. Rather, it’s his habit of hiring underqualified political favorites and widespread ‘irregularities’ in contracting. Not to mention the allegations of improper usage of funds by other employees.

And, once again, we have the troubling specter of the entity that’s supposed to provide oversight — the Board of Directors — unable or unwilling to do its job properly. This account from the Globe article doesn’t exactly brim with confidence:

“You could never get a straight answer from him,’’ Luongo said, recalling that Covelle told the commissioners they had nothing to worry about when some members asked about the contracts that are now the subject of the audit.

Taxpayers are told that each municipality needs an individual housing authority to best serve local needs, and these local authorities need millions in state funds on a yearly basis to care for their housing assets. Yet, there are multiple points of failure in the oversight process — politicized boards that don’t exercise proper fiduciary responsibility and that they’re insulated from scrutiny, being chief among them.

It’s time to do a root-and-branch review of how we manage public housing in this state: Are so many entities really necessary? Should they be constituted as independent authorities? Should they be governed differently? And how can we use the carrot of state funds (that are already flowing) to mandate correct management practices?


Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.