Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CITY ADMINISTRATION: City Census and Public Housing

Question/Comment:  A resident says she was recently informed by the Elections Department that City Census forms are not mailed directly to households in buildings managed by the Somerville Housing Authority, and that Massachusetts General Law allows cities and towns to send forms to owners/managers of multi-unit buildings to be filled out by these owners/managers rather than renters.  The resident would like to know if there are buildings in the city besides public housing in which residents do not receive their own forms, and owners/managers are authorized/required to complete reports on all units in the buildings they own and/or manage.  She would also like to know what factors determine how and when this provision of state law is applied.

City Update 3/25/10:  The Election Department’s main goal in administering the City Census is to maintain accurate voter lists.  For this reason, forms are mailed directly to the Somerville Housing Authority (SHA) - as is allowed by Massachusetts General Law - because a central public administrative agency with information on residents is likely to provide accurate responses on a larger scale than individual residents, as not all individuals respond. The City also exercises this strategy in mailing Census Forms directly to the management of the two nursing homes and the two assisted living facilities within Somerville.  While this is effective within these organizations, it is unlikely to be the case for private landlords, who may not live in Somerville themselves, and may feel no obligation to return Census forms to the City’s Elections Department.  For this reason, City Census forms are sent to private renters individually; who the City feels are more likely to respond than private landlords.

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