The 2017 MassNAHRO Annual Conference was another superior event, similar to that held last year in Falmouth. Over 350 delegates attended 20 sessions, workshops and roundtables that addressed a wide range of timely public housing topics. Many focused on changes in the state housing rules, regulations and new programs. The keynote speaker was the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, Senator Joseph Boncore of Winthrop. Chairman Boncore stated his experiences on the Board of the Winthrop Housing Authority encouraged him for run for the Senate to address local affordable housing issues and availability. He stated his full support for public housing, for providing key services to the residents, and for implementing the new public housing law effectively. He proposed redrafting the section of the law authorizing the election of tenants by tenants in town housing authorities, citing the problems that ensued when DHCD failed to issue the regulations prescribing local tenant election procedures. He committed also to filing budget amendments to increase both operating subsidy and funding for reforms.
On Monday DHCD presented a recap of the enhancements over the last three years that improved state-aided public housing. Works in progress and future plans were not addressed as Associate Director for Public Housing and Rental Assistance Sarah Glassman indicated she would be leaving DHCD at the end of June. Due to DHCD budget constraints, the popular DHCD resource room was open for one day only. MassNAHRO presented Associate Director Glassman with a small token of appreciation for her commitment to preserving public housing and for all positive changes done under her leadership at DHCD, some achieved only after hard debate.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Development was represented by the Deputy Director of the Office of Public Housing for New England Robert Cwieka, and Maura O’Brien, Public Housing Division Director. National NAHRO President Steve Merritt of Norwood gave a riveting speech Monday evening on the challenges of a new administration in Washington, and the hard implications for all federal housing and development programs nationally under new HUD Secretary Ben Carson.
Thanks to the assistance and cooperation of both DHCD and HUD, the 2017 conference offered a tremendous amount of information while exploring timely topics impacting all local housing officials and their residents. Also, congratulations to the MassNAHRO Professional Development/Member Services Committee, chaired by Connie Desbiens, for another outstanding agenda. The innovative stress reduction session Tuesday was a smash hit with delegates dancing around the ballroom while searching for a theme song for their offices. In another highlight, over $37,000 in scholarships were awarded to deserving students. Funds were raised through the golf tournament, the 50/50 raffle, the silent auction, and the musical entertainment Monday evening, the Back in Time Band, with all proceeds going the Past Presidents Memorial Scholarship Fund. Other Association activities included the Annual Election, Outstanding Agency Awards and Individual Achievement Awards. A great job was done by Donna Brown-Rego first time as Acting Executive Director, most ably assisted by Jennifer Polito and Michael Lazdowsky. Thank you to all the sponsors, exhibitors, patrons, and delegates for their constant support of MassNAHRO.