Section 32. Upon the completion or acquisition of a housing project by a housing authority, it shall be maintained and operated by such authority. It is hereby declared to be the policy of this commonwealth that each housing authority shall manage and operate decent, safe and sanitary dwelling accommodations at the lowest possible cost, and that no housing authority shall manage and operate any such project for profit. To this end, an authority shall fix the rents for dwelling units in its projects in accordance with regulations issued by the department, so that no tenant shall be required to pay a rental of more than 32 percent of his income if heat, cooking fuel and electricity are provided by the authority, 30 percent of his income if one or more utility is provided, or 27 percent of his income if such utilities are not provided; provided however, that in calculating the amount of such rental, an authority may round the amount of such rental payment to the nearest whole dollar. In no instance shall a tenant household pay a rental fee of less than $5 per household, provided that exceptions to payment of such minimum rent shall be allowed in accordance with regulations issued by the department. An authority shall grant an exemption from application of the minimum monthly rent to any resident unable to pay such amount because of severe financial hardship, which shall include situations in which the family is awaiting an eligibility determination for an application for any federal, state, or local assistance program, the tenant would be evicted as a result of the imposition of the minimum rent requirements, the income of the tenant has decreased because of changed circumstances, including involuntary loss of employment, the occurrence of a death in the household, and such other severe financial hardship situations as may be determined by the housing authority. If a resident requests a hardship exemption and the authority reasonably determines the hardship to be of a temporary nature, an exemption shall not be granted during the 90 day period beginning upon the day in which the request for exemption is made to the authority. A resident may not be evicted during such 90 day period for nonpayment of rent. In such a case, if the resident thereafter demonstrates that the financial hardship is of a long-term nature, the authority shall retroactively exempt the resident from the applicability of the minimum rent requirements for such 90 day period. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 49 of chapter 271, the authority may impose a late penalty of $25 for failure to pay rent due. For the purpose of determining continued eligibility, pursuant to regulations of the department, the authority shall determine the appropriate unit size based on the composition of each tenant household. If a tenant is determined to be overhoused, such tenant shall be subject to transfer to a unit of appropriate size, as required by the lease. If an overhoused tenant household refuses a transfer to an available unit of appropriate size, the tenant shall be subject to a minimum rental fee of 150 percent of the tenant’s rent. Any deficiency in the budget of a housing authority caused by such reduced rental shall be paid by the commonwealth to the housing authority in an amount equal to the difference between the tenant’s rent and the prorated cost of operating that unit. The commonwealth, acting through the department, may make payments in advance on account of such deficiency in such amounts and at such times as it deems proper. The prorated cost of operations shall be computed on the basis of the operating budget of the housing authority as approved by the department with provisions for a full operating reserve. Said rentals together with all other available moneys, revenues, income and receipts of the authority, from whatever sources derived, and together with the requisite annual contribution, will be sufficient (a) to pay, as the same become due, the principal and interest on the bonds of the authority; (b) to meet the cost of insurance and the payments in lieu of taxes provided by section sixteen and to provide for maintaining, operating and using the projects and the administrative expenses of the authority; (c) to create, during not less than the twelve years immediately succeeding its issuance of any bonds, notes or other evidences of indebtedness, a reserve sufficient to meet the largest principal and interest payments which will be due on such bonds in any one year thereafter and to maintain such reserve; and (d) to provide such tenant services for residents of housing projects as the department may approve.
In calculating a household’s income for purposes of computing the rent due under the previous paragraph and for purposes of determining continued eligibility, a housing authority shall provide an income exclusion of not more than the amount earned for employment of 20 hours per week at the minimum wage, as determined by section 1 of chapter 151, for a person 62 years of age or older.
In the operation or management of state-aided low-rent housing projects an authority shall at all times observe the following requirements with respect to rentals and tenant selection:— (a) It shall rent or lease the dwelling accommodations therein only at rentals within the financial reach of persons and families of low income. (b) It shall rent or lease to a tenant dwelling accommodations consisting of the least number of rooms which it deems necessary to provide safe and sanitary accommodations to the proposed occupants thereof, without overcrowding. (c) It shall not accept as a tenant any person or persons whose net annual income at the time of admission, less an exemption of one hundred dollars for each minor member of the family other than the head of the family and his spouse, exceeds five times the annual rental, including the value or cost to them of water, electricity, gas, other heating and cooking fuels and other utilities, of the dwellings to be furnished such person or persons. For the sole purpose of determining eligibility for continued occupancy, it may allow, from the net income of any family, an exemption for each minor member of the family (other than the head of the family and his spouse) of either (1) one hundred dollars, or (2) all or any part of the annual income of such minor. For the purpose of this section, a minor shall mean a person less than eighteen years of age or a full-time student between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one years of age. (d) It shall not accept as a tenant in any project any person who is not a citizen of the United States; provided, however, that aliens who have served honorably in the armed forces of the United States, and who have been honorably discharged therefrom, shall be admitted to occupancy if they have made application for such citizenship; and provided, further, that aliens who have reached the age of sixty-five and who are eligible to receive old age assistance under chapter one hundred and eighteen A shall be admitted to occupancy. (e) There shall be no discrimination or segregation; provided, that if the number of qualified applicants for dwelling accommodations exceed the dwelling units available, preference shall be given to inhabitants of the city or town in which the project is located, and to the families who occupied the dwellings eliminated by demolition, condemnation and effective closing as part of the project as far as is reasonably practicable without segregation or discrimination against persons living in other substandard areas within the same city or town. For all purposes of this chapter no person shall, because of race, color, creed, religion, blindness or physical handicap, be subjected to any discrimination or segregation. No inhabitant of the city or town or no person employed in the city or town in which the project is located shall be refused eligibility to a waiting list or occupancy based solely upon the grounds of a residency prerequisite. (f) As between applicants equally in need and eligible for occupancy of the dwelling and at the rent involved, preference shall be given in the selection of tenants in the following order:— (1) to families or eligible persons which are to be displaced by any low-rent housing project or by a public slum clearance or urban renewal project initiated after January first, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, or other public improvement, or which were so displaced within three years prior to making application to such housing authority for admission to any low-rent housing; and as among such families first preference shall be given to families of disabled veterans whose disability has been determined by the veterans’ administration to be service-connected, and second preference shall be given to families of deceased veterans whose death has been determined by the veterans’ administration to be service-connected, and third preference shall be given to families of other veterans; and (2) to families of other veterans, and as among such families first preference shall be given to families of disabled veterans whose disability has been determined by the veterans’ administration to be service-connected, and second preference shall be given to families of deceased veterans whose death has been determined by the veterans’ administration to be service-connected; and (3) to persons and families displaced by other public action including, without limitation, enforcement of the minimum standards of fitness for human habitation established by the state sanitary code and other local ordinances, by-laws, rules or regulations. (g) It shall not establish any requirement that applicants who have been displaced by any such public action be residents of the city or town in which the project is located, but may establish a requirement that any such applicant be a resident of the commonwealth for a period of six months prior to becoming a tenant. (h) It shall take steps necessary to maximize the utilization of handicap-accessible units by a person whose disability requires the accessibility features of the particular unit, including, but not limited to, (1) assuring that timely and appropriate information regarding the availability of handicap-accessible units reaches persons who may be interested in and eligible for such units, (2) except in an emergency, making available a vacant handicap-accessible unit to a person whose disability requires the accessibility features of the particular unit even though another person not requiring the accessibility features of the particular unit would otherwise be offered the unit according to the tenant selection criteria established pursuant to this chapter.
In computing the rental for the purpose of this section, there shall be included therein the average annual cost, as determined by the authority, to occupants of heat, water, electricity, gas, cooking range and other necessary services or facilities, whether or not the charge for such services and facilities is in fact included in the rental.
In determining net income for the purpose of tenant eligibility with respect to a low-rent housing project financed by the commonwealth or by any city, town or other political subdivision thereof or administered by a housing authority under the provisions of this chapter or as agent for any municipality, the housing authority is authorized, where it finds such action equitable and in the public interest, to exclude amounts or portions thereof paid by the United States government or the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions to the tenant for disability occurring in connection with military service. In determining the net income for the purpose of computing the rent of a totally unemployable disabled veteran, a housing authority is authorized to exclude amounts of disability compensation paid by the United States government for disability occurring in connection with military service in excess of eighteen hundred dollars in any year, but such authorization shall apply only in state-aided projects and while such projects are receiving state financial assistance, as provided in sections thirty-five and thirty-six.
In determining the net income of the tenant family for the purpose of computing the rent and determining eligibility for admission and continued occupancy, proceeds paid to such tenant family from policies of insurance shall be excluded from income.
The tenancy of a tenant of a housing authority shall not be terminated without cause and without reasons therefor given to said tenant in writing prior to such housing authority filing an action for summary process or seeking an injunction pursuant to section nineteen of chapter one hundred and thirty-nine. A tenant at his request shall be granted a hearing by a housing authority at least fifteen days prior to any such termination, except in the case of non-payment of rent, or if there is reason to believe that the tenant or a member of the tenant’s household has (1) unlawfully caused serious physical harm to another tenant or employee of the housing authority, or any other person lawfully on the premises of the housing authority, or (2) threatened to seriously physically harm another tenant or housing authority employee, or any person lawfully on the premises of the housing authority, or (3) destroyed, vandalized or stolen property of a tenant or the housing authority or any person lawfully on the premises of the housing authority which thereby creates or maintains a serious threat to the health or safety of a tenant or employee of the housing authority or any person lawfully on the premises of the housing authority, or (4) on or adjacent to housing property, possessed, carried, or illegally kept a weapon in violation of section ten of chapter two hundred and sixty-nine or possessed or used an explosive or incendiary device or has violated any other provisions of section one hundred and one, or has violated any other provision of sections one hundred and one, one hundred and two, one hundred and two A or one hundred and two B of chapter two hundred and sixty-six, or (5) on or adjacent to housing authority property, unlawfully possessed, sold, or possessed with intent to distribute a controlled substance as defined in classes A, B, or C of section thirty-one of chapter ninety-four C, or (6) engaged in other criminal conduct which seriously threatened or endangered the health or safety of another tenant, an employee of the housing authority or any other person lawfully on the premises of the housing authority, or (7) for any of the reasons set forth in section nineteen of chapter one hundred and thirty-nine, or (8) a guest of a tenant or of a household member engages in any such behavior listed in clauses (1) to (7), inclusive, where the tenant knew or should have known that there was a reasonable possibility that the guest would engage in misconduct. In the event the housing authority brings an action for summary process for possession of the premises, such action shall be accorded an expedited hearing and trial if any of the reasons set forth in clauses (1) to (8), inclusive, for termination of the tenancy are alleged. Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, including, but not limited to, the provisions of chapter two hundred and thirty-nine, if the court shall enter a judgment for possession in favor of the housing authority on account of one or more of the reasons specified in said clauses (1) to (8), the court’s judgment shall not be stayed pending any appeal unless the court makes written findings that there is a reasonable likelihood that the tenant will prevail on appeal; provided, however, that a motion for a stay pending appeal may be made to the appropriate appellate court or to a single justice, but the motion shall show that application to the lower court for the relief sought is not practicable, or that the lower court has denied an application, or has refused to afford the relief which the applicant requested, with the reasons given by the lower court for its action, if any. If judgment for possession in favor of the housing authority has not been stayed and is thereafter set aside and a judgment entered for the tenant, the tenant shall be housed in the next available unit of suitable size of the housing authority as determined by regulations of the department. A tenant shall not be awarded or receive any consequential or other damages or relief as a result of said judgment or initial eviction. Any regulation of any agency of the commonwealth or subdivision thereof, or any provision in any lease between the tenant and a housing authority contrary to the provisions of this paragraph, shall be void and against public policy.
A housing authority or its designee shall meet at reasonable times with tenant organizations to confer about complaints and grievances; provided, that if there is more than one tenant organization in any housing project, said authority or its designee shall not be obliged to meet with more than the two organizations in each project which represent, as the housing authority may determine, the largest number of tenants in that project. The housing authority shall inform the tenant organizations of its decisions on any matters presented.
In the operation or management of state-aided low rent housing projects, an authority shall not, if the tenant, in a unit consisting of two bedrooms or less, is a veteran or a widow or widower of a veteran or is a Gold Star Mother and has lived in the residency for at least the last eight consecutive years, deny such a tenant continued occupancy at such residence provided that the rent is not more than three months in arrears.
In determining the net income and assets of an applicant or tenant for the purpose of computing rent, or determining eligibility for admission, or determining eligibility for continued occupancy, information provided by such applicant or tenant shall be given under the pains and penalties of perjury. Such information, as provided by such applicant or tenant, shall be subject to verification by the housing authority.
In addition to determining whether an applicant is eligible for public housing and whether such applicant is eligible for a particular housing program, each housing authority shall screen all applicants and household members for qualification pursuant to regulations adopted under this paragraph and the following paragraph. The department shall adopt regulations which shall require disqualification of an applicant for housing developed pursuant to sections thirty-four, thirty-nine and forty for reasons, absent outweighing mitigating circumstances, including the following:
(a) The applicant or a household member has disturbed a neighbor or neighbors in a prior residence by behavior, which if repeated by a tenant in public housing, would substantially interfere with the rights of other tenants to peaceful enjoyment of their units.
(b) The applicant or a household member has caused damage or destruction of property at a prior residence, and such damage or destruction, if repeated by a tenant in public housing, would have a material adverse effect on the housing development or any unit in such development.
(c) The applicant or a household member has displayed living habits or poor housekeeping at a prior residence, and such living habits or poor housekeeping, if repeated by a tenant in public housing, would pose a substantial threat to the health or safety of the tenant or other tenants or would adversely affect the decent, safe and sanitary condition of all or part of the housing.
(d) The applicant or a household member in the past has engaged in criminal activity, or activity in violation of section four of chapter one hundred and fifty-one B, which if repeated by a tenant in public housing, would interfere with or threaten the rights of other tenants to be secure in their persons or in their property or with the rights of other tenants to the peaceful enjoyment of their units and the common areas of the housing development.
(e) The applicant or any household member who will be assuming part of the rent obligation has a history of non-payment of rent and such non-payment, if repeated by a tenant in public housing, would cause monetary loss; provided, however, that if the tenant paid at least fifty percent of his household’s monthly income for rent each month during a tenancy but was unable to pay the full rent, an eviction for non-payment of the balance of the rent shall not disqualify such individual from public housing pursuant to this paragraph.
(f) The applicant or a household member has a history of failure to meet material lease terms or the equivalent at one or more prior residences, and such failure if repeated by a tenant of public housing, would be detrimental to the housing authority or to the health, safety, security or peaceful enjoyment of other tenants.
(g) The applicant has failed to provide information reasonably necessary for the housing authority to process the applicant’s application.
(h) The applicant has misrepresented or falsified any information required to be submitted as part of the applicant’s application, and the applicant fails to establish that the misrepresentation or falsification was unintentional.
(i) The applicant or any household member does not intend to occupy public housing, if offered, as his primary residence.
The regulations shall also provide that prior to disqualifying an applicant for any of the reasons for disqualification set forth above, the housing authority shall permit the applicant to show whether there are mitigating circumstances, which may include a showing of rehabilitation or rehabilitating efforts, sufficient so that when the potentially disqualifying conduct is weighed against the mitigating circumstances, the housing authority is reasonably certain that the applicant will not engage in any similar conduct in the future. In making this determination, the housing authority shall consider all relevant circumstances, including the severity of the potentially disqualifying conduct, the amount of time which has elapsed since the occurrence of such conduct, the degree of danger, if any, to the health, safety and security of others or to the security of the property of others or to the physical conditions of the housing development and its common areas if the conduct recurred, the disruption and inconvenience which recurrence would cause the housing authority, and the likelihood that the applicant’s behavior in the future will be substantially improved. The greater the degree of danger, if any, to the health, safety and security of others or to the security of property of others or the physical condition of the housing, the greater must be the strength of the showing that a recurrence of behavior, which would have been disqualifying, will not occur in the future.
Nothing stated herein shall give rise to enforceable legal rights in any party or an enforceable entitlement to any form of housing and further, nothing stated herein shall be construed as giving rise to such enforceable legal rights or such enforceable entitlement.