By Marie Hadel
In 1998, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that Authorities of Public Housing throughout the US would be required to include resident participation as part of their annual plan evaluation process. Many public housing groups decided to to follow these rules by creating resident advisory boards and resident advisors. This sounds good, but what does it actually mean?
Simply, a Resident Advisory Board is a group that consists of residents of the housing authority that advises officials within the authority on things the authority does, such as the annual plan. Such boards provide the people who live within the authority with a place for sharing information with the PHA.
This is because sometimes being a part of public housing can seem like being part of a great bureaucratic machine that doesn’t care one whit about who you are or what you need. Resident advisory boards can keep that feeling at bay by giving residents a way to play an active role in what happens in the place where they live and allowing them to build a social support network, as well as making sure that their voices are heard.
In the Boston Housing Authority, for example, the Resident Advisory Board is filled with representatives who are elected by their peers to serve on the board and they serve with technical assistance from Greater Boston Legal Services, the Committee for Boston Public Housing and the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, Inc. These representatives meet through a series of regular meetings to review everything from policy, practices, and program goals and work with the authority to develop five-year and annual plans.
In the New York City Housing Authority in addition to a RAB, most of the developments have their own tenant associations, resident councils, and tenant councils. In addition they have a Resident Association executive board and a citywide council of presidents which provides advice to senior NYCHA staff on problems affecting those who live in individual NYCHA housing developments. Their advice includes issues at the local, state, and federal government levels.
But NYCHA even takes this mandate a step further, and has a NYCHA Resident Board Member. This resident serves on the NYCHA Board of Directors alongside the NYCHA Chairman and votes on everything that NYCHA Board members would normally handle, including contracts, resolutions, policies, motions, rules and regulations. They are given a small amount of money for this service, and are required to be active and involved in both the NYCHA board and their own community.
Right now, the NYCHA Resident Board Member is Victor A. González. Victor A. González has been a part of in NYCHA for more than 50 years, and is currently a part of the Rabbi Stephen Wise Towers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. González has been active in his own development since 2003, where he was a resident leader and advocate, as well as a president of the Wise Towers Residents Association since 2003 and an alternative member of NYCHA’s Resident Advisory Board.
In addition to his experience on various NYCHA organizations, Victor A. González served for five years in the U.S. Air Force after which he was honorably discharged and spent 33 years working for UPS as an international Team Leader in Customer Service in 2005. Since then, González has served on various community organizations and resident groups.
It is wonderful that the NYCHA Board has a resident advisor like Victor A. Gonzales, as this is a great way to make sure that officials are aware of the needs of the people who they serve, and that the public housing authority always has what is best for the people living in their developments in mind.
Marie Hadel is intensely interested in New York- and spends way too much time on Twitter. She used the following references for her piece: