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UPDATED July 31: Capping months of bubbling discontent, all officers of the Menotomy Manor Tenant Association resigned recently, apparently rendering the association unable to function, reducing the voice of its hundreds of residents and causing consternation for the organization that oversees the property – the Arlington Housing Authority.

The recently formed tenants' group -- representing people living in the only AHA-affililated public housing site designated for low-income families rather than for elderly and/or disabled people -- had been in conflict with the board since January. MMTA leaders had particularly been at loggerheads with the AHA board concerning an agreement that the former had been asked to sign by June 1. At the April meeting, Jenn Davidson-Hernandez, then MMTA president, contended that the whole process regarding the memorandum had been “flawed” and mentioned other areas of disagreement with AHA.

The MMTA was founded in September 2021 -- the first time that the residents had had representation by a tenants’ association for nearly a decade.

Even whether the organization still exists seems to be in doubt.

AHA to consult with state agency

“According to their correspondence with us, they’ve disbanded the tenants’ association,” said  AHA board member Jo Anne Preston at this month’s AHA board meeting.

However, a colleague said that under the bylaws for the association, as written and approved by both the AHA and the state's Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, the officers themselves cannot unilaterally disband the organization.

“The only thing that can shut this down is [the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities]. They’re the only group. We can’t shut it down,” said AHA Board of Commissioners Chair Brian Connor at the July 19 AHA meeting. “The tenants’ association still exists. They just have no officers.”

If the association were to completely disband, according to Preston, it would be a difficult and time-consuming process to re-form it. So, now, the AHA board will bring the issue to the attention of the state-level authority and clarify the situation before proceeding with electing officers for the association.

The status remains murky until the AHA board can get in contact with the state entity. Together, they may be able to work on a solution that allows the organization to continue representing the 500-plus residents of the AHA’s largest and oldest housing development.

According to FindLaw, an online legal information database, tenants’ associations are organizations “made up of tenants who live in a certain building or development” and whose goals include “informing tenants of their rights under local, state and federal law” as well as “organizing and lobbying on behalf of tenants and tenants’ rights.”  In practice, they have a role somewhat analagous to that of labor unions and are often referred to as tenants’ unions.

 Asked some days ago by YourArlington to elaborate, AHA Executive Director Jack Nagle responded Monday, upon his return froma week's vacation, via email as follows:

“Before the Menotomy Manor Tenants Association members requested to step down/disband, the Arlington Housing Authority was in the process of seeking to make a determination concerning their compliance with EOHLC regulations and MMTA by-laws, which included MMTA use of funds that were provided by the AHA. The MMTA requested to disband before the review, which is still in progress, had been completed. While the MMTA cited frustrations related to communication and action, we feel that we have worked very hard to create good communication with the MMTA as well as with the other tenant associations. We've acted on this feedback by creating capital improvement projects and considering other changes that would benefit residents at those properties.”

Davidson-Hernandez also has, more recently, been asked for comment. 

Background on AHA

According to its website, the Arlington Housing Authority operates several housing assistance programs, which provide direct housing in government-owned developments or subsidized housing in privately owned dwellings for persons of low or very low income.

There are elderly housing units in five modern developments: the Robert Hauser Memorial Building, Drake Village, Chestnut Manor Winslow Towers and Gerard Cusack Terrace.

In addition, Menotomy Manor offers housing for families in both duplex and townhouse units.

Other subsidized housing plans are also available.

This information, as well as information about tenants’ associations for all of these developments except for the Robert Hauser Memorial Building, can be found on the Arlington Housing Authority’s website at https://arlingtonhousing.org/.

In other AHA business July 19:

The board voted to approve Connor to negotiate a three-year contract with Nagle for the latter to continue to serve as the AHA’s executive director. He has been in that position full time since December 2021 after having been interim executive director for nine months prior. His current contract ends Sept. 30.

The AHA board discussed updates to ongoing projects and funding, including the awarding of a nearly $1.2 million contract to Capeway Roofing Systems, Inc. for a roof replacement project for the Robert Hauser Memorial Building. The contract includes funding for both the base project of $900,000 to replace the main roof as well as two supporting bids, worth $230,100 and $24,600 respectively, to replace the roof over the front sitting area as well as the community room and the roof in the back of the building. “This is a complicated project, but we’ve had some really fruitful meetings with the antenna companies as well as the architect assigned to the project,” Nagle said. 

An additional contract of about $30,000 was approved for MacRitchie Engineering, Inc. to move forward with a project to upgrade Hauser’s exhaust fan and air handler system. The MacRitchie Engineering firm had recently performed a fire alarm system upgrade at the same building, and Nagle said he was “excited” to continue working with them.

Funding for several other minor projects was also approved in the meeting, including upgrades to the Drake Village Cottages fire suppression system, the placement of umbrellas near the cottages and Hauser Building as part of the AHA’s Creative Place Making Project and a $200,000 budget extension for an ongoing electrical panel upgrade project for Chestnut Manor.

The board recognized the Drake Village Tenants Association. Nagle later explained why this was necessary. “EOHLC Regulation 760 CMR 6.09 (2) (i) Transitional Rule for Existing LTO's indicates that 'The recognition of an LTO [local tenant organization] prior to March 9, 2018, shall continue in full force and effect until March 9, 2023, unless recognition is revoked as provided in 760 CMR 6.09(2)(g).' Due to this EOHLC regulation, the Drake Village Tenants Association had to request recognition by the AHA Board of Commissioners. They will not need to request recognition again for another five years.”

The AHA board adjourned after approving meeting minutes for various June meetings, including regular meeting minutes as well as minutes for annual plan and Housing Choice Voucher program hearings.


April 25, 2023: AHA board seeks improved communication, as Menotomy tenants decline to sign 


This news summary by YourArlington freelance writer Jake Bentzinger was published Sunday, July 30, 2023. It was updated Monday, July 31, 2023, with quotes from Arlington Housing Authority Executive Director Jack Nagle-- and also to note that YourArlington has reached out to Jenn Davidson-Hernandez, former president of the Menotomy Manor Tenants Association.

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