NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 12, 2013

Critics: Overreaction, 'power shift' in Patrick's housing proposal

(Continued)

Colleen Doherty, the executive director of the Taunton Housing Authority, said NAHRO will be presenting a reform proposal that encourages smaller, understaffed authorities to contract and partner with larger housing boards for help with procurement services, vacant unit turnover and capital improvements.

Doherty also said NAHRO supports the establishment of an accreditation system for housing authorities, annual independent audits of local housing authorities that are already required, and the administration of a statewide waiting list for state public housing, similar to how Section 8 federal housing is awarded. She said some funding would be required to facilitate the partnerships, but that it would be “well spent.”

Merritt, Doherty and Leco, who held a press conference on Thursday, said government works best when it’s close to the public, suggesting Patrick’s plan to regionalize housing oversight will create a disconnect between bureaucrats and the people served. The three officials stand to lose their jobs, or be reassigned, under Patrick’s plan.

“What you heard today is the status quo is OK,” said Matthew Sheaff, a spokesman for the DHCD, in response to the local housing officials rejecting Patrick’s plan.

Asked about critics suggesting his plan would usurp local control, Patrick said, “You would have enjoyed some of the conversations we have had about that very thing.”

“Part of the delight of this commonwealth is that we have 351 cities and towns with their own individual character, their own town centers, their own feel, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing. But on a whole host of levels, and this isn’t the only one, we aren’t acting in a way that captures the maximum efficiency in the delivery of public services and the stewardship of public investment,” Patrick said.

Patrick continued, “It isn’t about being disrespectful of local engagement and authority. That is important and we have tried to strike that balance here.”

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