Resident Council: A Voice for Public Housing Tenants

Resident participation is vital in offering residents a way to build working relationships with the housing agency, and create a positive living environment in Public Housing. One form resident participation can take is the resident council. These groups play a part in improving the quality of life for Public Housing communities and bring a wide variety of issues to the attention of PHA from safety and unit to pet and eviction policies. A resident council is a group of Public Housing residents who organize by holding elections for officers and adopting by-laws that serve as a roadmap for how the council will conduct its business. The council’s democratically elected board must consist of five board members who have been elected by the voting membership.

Public Housing residents can serve on resident councils if they are:
   1) heads of household (of any age) or
   2) a household members whose name is on the lease and at least 18 years old.

Council members must be in good standing. They also have to meet any additional requirements that are written into the resident council bylaws. PHAs must acknowledge a duly elected resident council as the one voice of the residents and support its tenant participation activities. Whenever possible, the housing authority should make sure to meet with a new council whenever one is elected. Also, communication should not stop with this initial session. The PHA must encourage a flow of information and address outstanding issues or concerns through meeting and other means of communication. Finally, the relationship between the PHA and the resident council should be formalized in a written Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which is updated every three years. HUD provides housing agencies with money for tenant participation activities. PHAs then make these funds to properly elected resident councils and jurisdiction-wide councils. The PHA and its resident council must work together and decide how the funds will be used for tenant participation activities.  Tenant participation funds may be used to support training activities, meetings, resident organization and other related activities such as: neighborhood cleanup, crime watch, outreach programs, resident training, and household training.

Residents should be actively involved in the PHA’s decision-making process since the residents have firsthand knowledge of what is needed in their respective communities. By developing a productive working relationship, the residents and PHA can flourish together.