Public Records

What is the Freedom of Information Act?

As a public agency, Boston Housing Authority (BHA) is not subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. subsection 552, but it is subject to the Public Records Act, pursuant to MGL c. 66 § 10, as defined in clause twentysix of section seven of chapter four.

The act states that “Every person having custody of any public record shall, at reasonable times and without unreasonable delay, permit it, or any segregable portion of a record which is an independent public record, to be inspected and examined by any person, under his supervision, and shall furnish one copy thereof upon payment of a reasonable fee.”

Simply put, BHA is required to release any public record when requested.

What is a public record?

Public records include all books, papers, maps, photographs, recorded tapes, financial statements, statistical tabulations, or other documentary materials or data, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by any officer or employee of the BHA, unless such materials or data fall within the following exemptions:

  • Specific laws that make certain records non-public;
  • If there is a legitimate public interest in an agency’s personnel rules and practices, records relating to them are public. This exemption applies only to matters in which the public could not reasonably be expected to have an interest;
  • Personnel and medical files relating to a specific individual are private and may not be released to the public. Other information relating to a specific individual may be denied to the public if public access would be an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy;
  • Documents relating to policy positions being developed by an agency are exempt from disclosure;
  • Personal materials prepared by a government employee, which are not part of government files, are private and may not be seen by the public;
  • Records made by police or other officials are non-public if their disclosure would interfere with effective law enforcement;
  • Information that is required to be submitted to the government or that is submitted in order to get a government contract is public. Trade secrets and commercial and financial information voluntarily provided to the government to help in policy development are not public if the government promises the provider that such information will be kept confidential;
  • Proposals and bids submitted to government agencies are non-public until the time for submitting them has expired, at which point they become public. Internal government documents concerning review of proposals and bids are non-public until the agency enters into contract negotiations or a contract with a particular person, at which point they become public;
  • Appraisals of real property made by the government are exempt from disclosure, even when the property is taken by eminent domain. Records do not become public until there is a purchase and sale agreement or until the statute of limitations on the transaction (three years) has expired.

Resident Characteristics Report 

Click here to access the "Resident Characteristics Report" which presents data on households living in Federally-funded public housing or receiving Federally-funded Section 8 assistance. This link will redirect you to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (“HUD”) internet site. 
Follow the directions on the page to create the reports you wish to see.  Note that the reports can be run for the entire housing authority, a specific housing development, or for larger aggregations up to the entire nation.
HUD's Internet data reporting system is still being developed and so some reports are incomplete or obviously inaccurate, but much useful information is available now and more will be in the future.
Note: The Public Housing data in the Resident Characteristics Report combines Federal public housing programs, including both Federal Family and Federal Elderly/Disabled programs. The Section 8 reports also include all households - families, elderly, disabled and single persons.

How do I obtain public records from the BHA?

Send your request in writing to Records Access Officer:

BHA Records Access Officer
Boston Housing Authority
52 Chanucy Street
Boston, MA 02111

Email the Public Records Request Form to the Legal Department.

All requests should include a scope of the documents requested, your name, firm, mailing and email address.

The BHA may charge a fee of five cents ($ 0.05) per page depending on the size of the request. The fee is due at the time the records are produced. There may also be a fee for staff time allocated if needed to answer the request.

If the request is lengthy, BHA may ask the requester for additional time to respond to the request.

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