BHA wants to favor seniors’ housing

The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is seeking to accommodate the city’s growing need for affordable housing for its seniors, officials say, as they prepare to file a proposal with US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that would up its ratio to 80 percent elderly and 20 percent non-elderly disabled residents in sanctioned elderly-disabled housing developments.

“We’re hopeful that HUD will approve our new designated housing plan – the 80 percent-20 percent split [up from 70-30] will better meet the growing need for affordable housing for Boston’s seniors,” said Bill McGonagle, interim administrator at the BHA, in a statement.

Under the proposal, the shift would happen gradually as non-elderly disabled residents move out of 329 current units. The BHA will also make 330 vouchers available for non-elderly disabled public housing applicants who otherwise would not have received unit offers, according to the proposal.

“We offer the highest priority transfer available to non-elderly disabled folks living in elderly/disabled buildings that want to transfer to our family developments as a means to encourage non-elderly disabled folks to relocate,” McGonagle said, adding: “We do not force nor are we proposing to force anyone to move, except under eviction proceedings.”

At-Large City Councillor Ayanna Pressley and Dorchester District Councillor Frank Baker have written a formal letter of support for the ratio change to be unveiled at the council meeting next Wednesday when the council will vote at that meeting whether or not to support the move.

Pressley noted the ratio shift would bring Boston in line with the state standard as well as those used in other large cities around the country, and cited a 2011 incident in Brighton when a mentally ill man shot his elderly downstairs neighbor outside of a disabled-elderly housing development.

“We should be prioritizing those most vulnerable,” Pressley told the Reporter on Friday. “They should not be living in the same space and we need to tip the scales to the seniors. We need to address the policy formula and then once we get to that we can mitigate any adverse impacts from that.”

The BHA currently has 3,293 total units available for elderly and disabled residents and 36 federal elderly and disabled housing developments scattered throughout the city. The authority has tried to alter the formula on two other ocassions— in 1997 and 2007. But, HUD rebuffed their proposals in both instances.