The Worcester Housing Authority provides housing to more than 7,000 families. We work hard to ensure that our families have safe and sanitary housing and offer other services to help improve the quality of their lives. However, a few residents try to take advantage of the state and federal rules that provide the funding for their programs.
An unauthorized occupant is anyone living in an apartment subsidized by the federal or state government that is not included on the lease as a member of the household. These programs include state and federal public housing, as well as, state and federal voucher programs.
For the purposes of this program, an unauthorized occupant is anyone who stays in an apartment in excess of guest provisions as outlined by the rules and regulations of the program together with the lease agreement signed by the Head of Household.
Rationale for the program
Crime had been a serious problem in many WHA communities. In certain WHA communities crime had become so out of control that the local fire department refused to respond to a call without a police escort. By many professional accounts, crime, in several WHA developments, was a serious and growing problem.
It has been well known that unauthorized occupants have lived illegally in taxpayer-subsidized apartments in Worcester. These unauthorized occupants create several serious issues for the WHA.
1. Unauthorized occupants add to the number of people living in a household and often create overcrowding and other unsafe living conditions.
2. Unauthorized occupants, who earn income, are cheating taxpayers and participating, along with the Head of Household, in fraud against the government.
3. Unauthorized occupants have not gone through the normal tenant screening process and may present a danger to the other residents in the community. In fact, many individuals who have been found to be unauthorized occupants would not be admitted into WHA housing as a result of a serious criminal history.
4. The WHA has no means to control the behavior of an unauthorized occupant who violates community rules, federal or state standards.
5. Statistically, the WHA knows that the majority of police calls to its communities are a result of individuals who are not residents authorized to live in WHA apartments (either live somewhere else or are unauthorized occupants of WHA apartments).
As a part of this program, the WHA must rely on the help, advice and support of a number of community partners including but not limited to:
- Worcester Police Department
- HUD field agents
In the past, the size of the unauthorized occupant problem has been considered too daunting for the WHA to craft a meaningful response. While individual instances were investigated, the WHA did not have the staff, management capability or institutional resolve to tackle the problem. To respond, an initial test was conducted at 40 Belmont Street Apartments, then extended to the rest of the developments.
The result is a program that includes the assistance and support of residents, staff, the WPD and HUD field agents:
1. Remind and educate residents as to the importance of placing all individuals living in their household on their lease with the WHA.
2. Motivate residents to add any unauthorized occupants to their current lease.
3. Identify unauthorized residents who have not been added to the lease and not permit them to live in the apartment.
4. Take lease enforcement action as might be deemed appropriate on a case-by-case basis.
The WHA addresses ongoing unauthorized residents by:
1. New residents are notified relative to guest provisions of their lease and of the UOP program during their initial orientation program.
2. Meeting with tenant associations, discussing the programs, and asking for their advice and assistance.
3. Gather information from residents and other sources.
4. Conduct "knock and talk" visiting only those apartments where information suggests unauthorized occupant living in that apartment.