Having recently completed my first year, of two years, as president of the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, I thought I might provide an update of what we are doing. First, the RHN has two full-time staff in Boston and represents 11 agencies, covering all corners of the state. All of the agencies, as the name suggests, have major activities in the affordable housing area. Not all the agencies are exclusively involved in housing.
The executive director of the RHN is Maureen Fitzgerald who, being located in Boston, is able to participate in the activities of many housing-related organizations that meet to plan and exchange ideas in Boston. The Network office also provides a meeting place in Boston and a place to stop and use the phone or work in between appointments or meetings. The work of the organization can be almost summed up with the following three activities: program development, relationship building and funding.
The RHN has various subcommittees, including an executive committee, a finance committee, and committees on rental assistance, housing consumer education (co-chaired by Cheryl Kramer of HAC), legislative outeach and family self-sufficiency, as well as the newly forming housing development committee. Each committee is chaired or co-chaired by a member of the board. Each of the 11 member agencies has two voting seats on the board. For HAC, I am one and Cindi Maule, director of the leased housing department, is the other.
During the past year RHN has worked on a lot of things. The major activities have been correcting a cash-flow deficit in RHN’s budget and working closely with the Mass. Department of Housing and Community Development in developing and improving the HomeBase program, which aims to help all of the approximately 1,700 families in motels across the state being paid for by DHCD to secure decent, stable and affordable housing. We also have been working with the community action committees to help design and fund a statewide case-management system for households coming out of motels. Members are continually updating public policy and advocacy goals and carrying them out. We hold an annual legislative day and a major housing conference generally every other year.
This past year the agencies that manage a Section 8 program all worked hard to respond to a request for proposals to continue operating this program. Because there are nearly 20,000 units in the RHN agencies’ portfolio, a lot of time was spent developing statewide consistency in employing best practices, including plans to improve our statewide technical capacities. Sharing skills, resources, ideas, staff and time are valued in all areas, but never more than when planning the improvement of a major statewide program such as section 8, which is administered by a majority of the members of the group.
My year wasn’t what I hoped it would be. With so many capable people directing agencies in the network and with so much going on at HAC, I opted out of more Boston-based meetings than I had expected. This year, though, I hope to attend the board meetings of a majority of the RHN members to let them know how RHN is helping their agencies.