September 15, 2006
By: Joseph Holstead, Associate Analyst
You asked for summaries of the statutes that (1) authorize the creation of a housing authority, (2) specify its purpose, and (3) detail its governance through commissioners and establishes their powers, responsibilities, and how they are chosen and removed. This report has been updated by OLR Report 2021-R-0117.
State law establishes a housing authority in every municipality where there is a need. A municipality must find that there is a specific need for a housing authority and authorize its existence, which allows the housing authority to operate. The law provides the housing authority with various powers, including the power to enter into contracts; make and repeal bylaws, rules, and regulations; and investigate housing conditions and the ways to improve those conditions in its area of operation. The housing authority’s powers are vested in a locally appointed board of commissioners.
The board of commissioners governs the authority. The law requires the board to include at least one member who is a tenant of housing the authority operates. The law specifies how commissioners are appointed, their responsibilities, and how and why they may be removed from office.
The law also requires housing authorities to assume financial liability for its commissioners and employees in certain legal situations and establishes provisions to avoid conflicts of interest.
We have attached copies of CGS §§ 8-40 to 8-44 for your reference.
State law establishes a housing authority in every municipality where there is a need. Before the housing authority can operate and exercise its powers, the municipality must declare by resolution that there is a need for the authority, after making one of three findings. Specifically, the municipality must find that (1) there are unsanitary or unsafe occupied apartments or homes in the municipality, (2) there is a shortage of affordable safe or sanitary housing available to low-income families there, or (3) such a shortage exists for moderate-income families. The statute additionally outlines how municipalities determine if housing is unsanitary or unsafe. The municipality may consider (1) overcrowding; (2) the percentage of land coverage; (3) the light, air, space, and access available to housing tenants; (4) room size and arrangement; (5) sanitary facilities; and (6) fire hazards and other potential hazards.
The law also allows two or more municipalities’ governing bodies to create a regional housing authority. Regional authorities act through a board of commissioners composed of two representatives, appointed for four years terms, from each municipality involved (CGS § 8-40).
When a municipality’ governing body (other than in towns with the town meeting form of government) adopts a resolution to establish a housing authority, it must promptly notify the chief executive officer (CGS § 8-41).
A housing authority is a quasi-public agency having all the powers necessary under the law to provide safe, sanitary affordable housing. The law vests its powers in its commissioners. For example, an authority has the power through its commissioners to promote the creation and preservation of housing for low-and moderate-income people. A housing authority may do so, either directly or through an agency or instrumentality designated or appointed by the authority, by providing developers with loans or grants.
The housing authority also has the power to:
1. sue and be sued, have perpetual succession, and enter into contracts;
2. make and repeal bylaws, rules, and regulations;
3. (a) prepare, carry out, acquire, lease, and operate housing projects and (b) investigate housing conditions and the ways to improve those conditions in its area of operations;
4. construct, reconstruct, improve, alter, or repair, either directly or indirectly by offering loans or assistance to developers, any housing project or any part of a project;
5. demolish, subject to requirements of the law, any dwellings, houses, accommodations, lands, buildings, structures, or facilities included in any housing project;
6. establish and revise rents or charges;
7. (a) own, hold, and improve real or personal property; (b) buy, lease, obtain options on it; or (c) acquire, by gift, grant, bequest, devise or otherwise, any property, but only after a public hearing that was advertised as required under the law;
8. insure any of its real or personal property or operations against any risks or hazards;
9. invest any funds held in reserves or trust funds, or any funds not required for immediate disbursements;
10. (a) determine where slum areas exist or where there is a shortage of decent and safe housing for low- and moderate-income families; and (b) cooperate with the municipality or the state, or its political subdivisions, to take action to address these problems;
An authority may delegate any of its powers and duties to one or more of its agents or employees.
To ensure fairness, the law establishes the bidding process for construction work on housing projects and requires that all bidding and contracting must be completed in compliance with the state and federal laws. Under the law, “housing project construction work" means the construction, reconstruction, improvement, alteration, or repair of a housing project or a part of it (CGS § 8-44).
board of Commissioners
Appointment and Make-up
A municipality’s chief executive officer or a town’s governing body appoints its housing authority commissioners. The law stipulates that municipalities with housing authorities operating (1) less than 3,000 units have five commissioners and (2) more than 3,000 units have seven. Commissioners must be residents of the municipality where the housing authority is located. A commissioner cannot hold public office in the municipality while he serves his term as a commissioner.
Municipalities or towns with five-member commissions must have at least one tenant as a commissioner. Seven-member commissions must have at least two tenant members. But a tenant commissioner may not vote on any matter concerning the establishment or revision of rent amounts in any housing that the authority owns or manages. Tenant commissioners must have lived in housing authority housing for more than one year in order to serve.
The law requires municipal or town appointing authorities to notify tenant organizations before appointing a commissioner, if the organizations indicate that they want to be notified about these matters. In such cases, the appointing authorities must consider the tenant organizations' suggestions.
The law sets commissioners’ service terms. The municipality or town must designate its first commissioners to serve terms from one to five years. For municipalities with five commissioners, only one commissioner’s term can end each year. A commissioner’s term begins on the first day of the month after the date that the municipality appointed him. After the first commissioners are in place, commissioner’s thereafter must be appointed annually to serve for five years. Any vacancy that occurs because a commissioner (1) moves to another town, (2) is removed from office, (3) resigns, or (4) dies must be filled for the remainder of the term.
If a municipality or town increases the housing authority’s board membership, the governing body must, by resolution, establish five year terms for each additional member.
Chair, Vice-Chair, Executive Director, and Employees
The CEO or the governing body in a town with a town meeting form of government chooses a commissioner to be the housing authority’s first chairman. When he steps down, the housing authority selects a commissioner from its board to be chair. A chairman’s term is three years. An authority must also select a vice chairman from its board of commissioners.
The law allows the housing authority to employ a secretary, who becomes the executive director. The authority may also employ technical experts and other officers, agents, and employees as necessary. Employees may be permanent or temporary and the authority must determine their qualifications, duties, and compensation. In municipalities with a civil service law, all appointments and promotions, except that of the secretary, must be based on examinations given and lists prepared under such law. The municipality’s civil service law and regulations apply to such a housing authority and its personnel.
The authority may also employ its own counsel and legal staff for the legal services it requires.
Quorum and Voting
Under the law, (1) three commissioners constitute a quorum if the authority consists of five commissioners and (2) four commissioners constitute a quorum if the authority consists of more than five commissioners. To take action, a majority of the commissioners who are present must vote, unless the authority’s bylaws require a larger number.
Additional Requirements and Duties
After a commissioner has taken an oath as prescribed by law, a certificate of the appointment or reappointment must be filed with the town clerk. The certificate is proof of the commissioner’s legal appointment.
A commissioner must hold office until his successor has been appointed and qualified. A commissioner, or any employee of the authority who handles its funds, must furnish an adequate bond.
Commissioners serve without compensation, but are entitled to reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses incurred while performing their official duties (CGS § 8-41).
Removal of a Commissioner
An appointing power may remove a commissioner for (1) inefficiency, (2) neglect of duty, or (3) misconduct in office. The appointing power must provide the commissioner the opportunity to be heard in person, or by counsel, before it can remove him. Additionally, the commissioner must receive a copy of the charges against him at least 10 days before the hearing. In the event of a commissioner’s removal, a record of the proceedings, charges, and findings, must be filed in town clerk’s office.
Under the law, the municipal appointing power may subpoena any books, papers, records, accounts, contracts, deeds, regulations or documents in the process of removing a commissioner. The law stipulates that anyone who willfully refuses to produce the books, papers, records, accounts, contracts or documents be fined up to $5000, imprisoned up to six months, or both (CGS § 8-43).
Legal liability of Housing authority Commissioners and Employees and avoiding conflicts of interest
Housing authorities must assume liability for its commissioners and full- or part-time staff for any financial loss and expense, including protection from legal fees and costs, that may arise from any claim, demand, suit, or judgment for alleged (1) negligence or (2) infringement of anyone’s civil rights while a commissioner or employee is acting in an official capacity (i.e., in the discharge of his duties).
Additionally, the law is set up to avoid a conflict of interest on its board or with its employees by prohibiting them from acquiring interest in authority properties, requiring disclosure of any existing interests, and setting a grace period before a commissioner may be hired as an authority employee.
Specifically, the law prohibits a housing authority commissioner or employee from acquiring any interest, direct or indirect, (1) in any housing project or in any property included, or planned to be included, in any project and (2) in any contract or proposed contract for materials or services for any housing project. The law requires a commissioner or employee who owns or controls an interest, direct or indirect, in any property included or planned to be included in any housing project, to immediately disclose that fact, in writing, to the authority. The disclosure must be entered into the authority’s minutes. Failure to disclose an interest constitutes misconduct in office (a removable offense). Additionally, under the law, occupying a housing authority unit or being enrolled in a housing authority assistance program for low-income families in private housing is not considered a conflict of interest (CGS § 8-41a ).
The law prohibits a housing authority from employing anyone who served as one of its commissioners for at least two years after leaving office, with one exception. The law allows a housing authority that does not have an executive director to immediately hire a commissioner (i.e., without the two year grace period) who served for more than 20 years for a housing authority (CGS § 8-42).