BHA Documents Come with a Hefty Price Tag, Spare Change News to Appeal

The Boston Housing Authority is asking for $6,200 for one year’s worth of Section 8 apartment inspection reports.

The BHA says that the request for reports from 2016 will produce 40,544 documents. BHA Chief of Staff Lydia Agro said that while producing the paper inspection reports detailing the specific violations would be burdensome and expensive, the agency stores information about how many inspections failed and how many passed electronically, making them easier to produce.

Our 2016 Housing Inspection Reports for our Housing Choice Voucher program apartments are manual reports that contain confidential information,” said Argo via email. “For that year, we estimate that we have between 35,000-45,000 reports. We would have to manually redact the confidential information on the reports in order to provide them to you and would not be able to do this within 10 days or without charging you as it would require substantial staff time to do this work.

“We do have some higher level electronic information for inspections for 2016 that would provide total number of inspections, how many inspections passed, how many did not, etc. but would not include the specific violations.”

Argo offered to provide the less detailed electronic report, but Spare Change News is still interested in the more detailed inspection documents.

Argo says that the BHA manages 14,200 vouchers including Tenant-Based Section 8, Project-Based Section 8 and  Moderate Rehabilitation units; she added that the large volume of documents produced in a single year is due largely to follow ups to initial inspections, and complaints that warrant unscheduled inspections.

“The BHA estimated the total number of inspection records to be between 35,000-45,000 for 2016 based on the following; we manage subsidy for approximately 14,200 vouchers… All units are inspected annually and most have at least one code violation annually so 14,200×2=28,400,” Agro said in an email. “There are anywhere from 1,000-2,000 relocations per year that typically result in the need for one-two inspections each which on the high side adds another 4,000. Factor in tenant complaints, resume payment inspections, landlord requests, city requests, residents who are not at home at the time of entry or do not allow entry and the follow up inspections for each of those,” Agro noted, adding that there are also units that require more than two inspections. “All together, these inspections result in approximately 40,000 inspection reports/attempts.”

Whatever the reason for the large volume of documents, $6,200 is a large enough price tag that it renders what should be public information essentially private, so we will be appealing the fee. While the information about how many units passed inspection and how many failed is appreciated, it doesn’t allow the public to examine the specifics of the inspection reports.






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