Dysfunction, you say? Try the BMHA - The Buffalo News
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Dysfunction, you say? Try the BMHA

A taxpayer-funded bureaucracy whose actions have an enormous effect on the lives of thousands.

Regulations mandating that those most affected have a seat at the table and meaningful input.

Complaints that the agency thumbs its nose at those rules – and at residents – while doing whatever it wants.

Sound like the Buffalo Public Schools’ relationship with the parent group forcing it to change? Guess again.

This time it’s the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, where tenant leaders complain the agency is shutting them out when developing a $56 million budget and management policies.

“We have been talking to them since 2010 about ‘please follow the regulations,’ ” said Sam Smith, chairman of Jurisdiction-Wide Resident Council of Buffalo, referring to the year when the League of Women Voters certified its elections.

Despite that and Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations calling for the authority to recognize the council as a full partner, council leaders say they have been shut out.

And just like school officials, BMHA leaders profess bafflement.

“I’m surprised to hear that,” said David Rodriguez, general counsel, who said that the authority officially recognized the council last year and that “resident participation is very important to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.”

Resident Council leaders would be surprised to hear that, accusing the BMHA of dealing only with a handpicked group that won’t make waves.

The crux of the dispute is a Resident Advisory Board, which is supposed to have input on the $56 million annual plan being put together now for submission to HUD. Rodriguez acknowledges that the authority has been dealing with a different residents board, which he said predated the current administration. He said he didn’t know how it was originally selected.

He calls the Resident Council “the new kid on the block” and says the authority can’t “discount” the old board because “HUD requires participation from as many residents as possible.”

But that’s not what the regulations say. HUD makes clear that once there’s a legitimate resident council in place, the Housing Authority “must appoint this group or its representatives as the Resident Advisory Board.”

What do the tenant leaders want? They want the $650,000 the BMHA pays the city for police services devoted instead to a security force dedicated solely to protecting tenants. They want managers returned to each complex so that problems can be dealt with expeditiously, instead of ignored by overstretched managers overseeing multiple sites. They want input into tenant job training.

“We’re the residents, we know what’s happening” in the complexes, said Yvonne Martinez, tenant president at Lakeview Homes.

Rodriguez says that the BMHA is trying to “negotiate” with the Resident Council but that it hasn’t responded. But what’s to negotiate, given the clear HUD directive?

Just as the state is forcing the school district to deal with parents, HUD needs to make the BMHA work with the Resident Council. Then taxpayers need to figure out why so much public money must be spent compelling Buffalo bureaucracies to follow the rules.

email: rwatson@buffnews.com

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