Social Housing Tenants Can Manage Themselves, Despite Govt Seal Of Disapproval

A typical red brick wall of an American public housing building
boston public housing photo by sid is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Does Boston public housing have competent management? There's evidence that tenants themselves might do as well or better.

As regular as the sun rising in the morning, governments find the management of social housing to be incompetent. CEO of Toronto Community Housing Corporation? It may soon be your turn for the job, because it is a regular revolving door of executives who are are apparently not up to scratch.1

New York City’s $40+ billion dollar repair bill? Caused by decades of management that is not up to scratch.2

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) newish RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration) plan to pass public housing management to the private sector? Oh, no! Already reports of management not up to scratch.3

And from the U.K., news about a private sector management service, designed to relieve private sector owners to go about their profiteering without suffering management woes.4 Inevitably, this management service will be dismissed by some local government or other for not being up to scratch.

Finally, the rare-as-hen’s-teeth tenant management of the Mildred C. Hailey Apartments in Boston. Sigh! It wasn’t up to scratch either.

For governments, finding mismanagement in public housing is such an enormously convenient way of ducking the blame for decades of underfunding. Since these days, as underfunding tends only to get worse and worse, blaming housing management just gets better and better.

Since it would seem that all social housing management of any stripe will inevitably be tarred and feathered and run out of town, perhaps the last of these examples is worthy of a serious second look. Tenant management of public housing is rare, but a recent story in the Boston Globe suggests that for considerable periods in the past it has been very successful. It comes with all kinds of fringe benefits for the health of the social housing community.

And if, from time to time, its management doesn’t measure up to scratch, so what? Neither does any other method so far discovered.

Read more in the Boston Globe: What legislators can learn from a Boston public housing development


  1. Try:  TCHC’s revolving door of CEOs
  2. Try: NYCHA problems stem from poor management
  3. Try: The Promise and Peril of HUD’s RAD Program
  4. Try: Scottish social enterprise lettings agency Homes for Good welcomes Big Issue Invest as new partner in GBP3m deal