Kenzie Bok will step down from her post as District 8 City Councilor, effective April 28, to assume the reins of the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) as the city agency’s incoming administrator.
Before she was elected to the council in 2019 to represent the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Audubon Circle, Mission Hill, and the West End, Bok served as the BHA’s senior advisor for policy and planning. Her achievements in this role included spearheading the BHA’s efforts to “vary the subsidy amount of federal housing vouchers by ZIP code,” according to an April 5 press release in which Mayor Michelle Wu announced Bok’s new role, whereas previously “all voucher recipients received the same subsidy regardless of where they were applying to live in the Greater Boston area.” This program continues to allow all voucher recipients greater flexibility in deciding where they want to live in the city.
Additionally, Bok helped lead the successful ballot initiative campaign to enact the Community Preservation Act (CPA) in Boston in 2016, which has since generated tens of millions of dollars for affordable housing in the City.
“I’m so excited to return to BHA to put our residents and voucher-holders at the heart of everything our City does, by providing safe high-quality housing for every family and by ensuring the best access to jobs, services, and all the opportunities Boston has to offer,” Bok said in a press release. “To truly have a City for all, we have to boldly invest at the local, state, and federal levels in the BHA housing that continues to anchor so many of our communities. I was lucky to learn from my predecessors in this role, Kate Bennett and Bill McGonagle, that residents come first at BHA, and I’m looking forward to working with Kate over the coming transition to continue that essential focus.”
Bok, who will be charged with providing housing for around 9 percent of the city’s residents, or 62,000 Boston residents, in her new role, added: “Public housing is a public good, and all of Boston benefits when our public housing communities are strong.”
Besides her previous work with the BHA, and with the City Council, Bok has held community leadership roles in various local organizations, including the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) and the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA). After graduating from Harvard College, she earned an M.Phil and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Cambridge in England as a Marshall Scholar, and formerly taught courses at Harvard on housing justice.
Reflecting on her time with the City Council, Bok wrote in part in an April 5 email to her constituents: “If I could freeze this opportunity in amber and come back to it after two, four, or six more years as your District 8 city councilor, I would. We have so much exciting work underway together, which I would love to continue. But this is a rare moment of alignment, in that we have a Mayor, a Governor, and a President who all support the mission of public housing and voucher subsidies to ensure that our communities have places for everyone to live, regardless of income. To rebuild America’s social safety net, beginning at the BHA, will require city, state, and federal support. So I cannot freeze the frame; I feel a strong call to this work, and I have accepted the Mayor’s offer.”
Mayor Wu said in a press release: “The Boston Housing Authority has been a lifeline for generations of Boston families, and in this moment of housing crisis, the BHA must be a model for housing as health, safety, opportunity, and community. Kenzie brings a deep commitment to our BHA communities along with an expansive vision of how public housing should anchor our neighborhoods and city—I’m thrilled for her leadership and look forward to building on the strong foundation set under Kate’s stewardship by the entire BHA team.”
Bok will replace outgoing BHA Administrator Kate Bennett, who was appointed to the role in 2020, and will begin a transition period next month before Bennett steps down from the role later this summer.
“I am delighted that Councilor Bok will become the next Administrator at the BHA,” said Bennett in a press release. “She is the right person to take BHA to the next level. She is passionate about the Authority and its mission, she knows our staff and residents, and she is a brilliant housing advocate.”
Meanwhile, City Council President Ed Flynn said while Bok will be sorely missed by him and his fellow councilors, he’s also confident that she will prove to be an “incredible” leader of the BHA.
“Councilor Bok is an excellent colleague, whose intellect, knowledge, and passion for service have made her an invaluable asset to the City Council. I know that Councilor Bok will make an incredible Administrator for Boston Public Housing, and her experience and expertise will allow her to not only manage and preserve our public housing stock, but also continue to improve the lives of public housing residents. I look forward to working with her in her new capacity and continue to advocate for our public housing tenants and communities.”
Likewise, Rep. Jay Livingstone, who has worked closely with Bok on many issues and initiatives during their respective times in office, wrote: “Kenzie Bok has had a huge, positive impact on the district and the city regarding addressing food and housing insecurity, the improvement to the provision of city services, and many other issues. She has been a great partner. I’ll miss working with her as a councilor but look forward to working with her in her new role, where I expect to see tremendous strides made.”
A special election to fill the District 8 city council seat is expected to be announced in the near future.