Blistering city report rips Housing Authority 

The Housing Authority has lost out on $7.5 million in federal subsidies since 2008 for failing to hire general maintenance workers to perform routine labor despite being told by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to do just that, according to a scathing city audit of the troubled agency.

The audit, released Monday, points out multiple, ongoing deficiencies in the Housing Authority’s management practices. The agency routinely overpays for city services such as police protection and trash collection, does not have the needed staff members to review contracting and procurement services, and has not updated a waiting list for public housing since 2001. While federal budget cuts have made the federally funded housing provider’s job harder, the long-standing management issues have contributed toward the agency’s current $1.8 million deficit and ongoing woes, the audit found.

The audit listed 43 areas in which the authority could improve. Some reforms, such as requiring contracts with more than $30,000 in value to be reviewed by the authority’s commission, are already underway, according to agency spokeswoman Rose Dennis.

Supervisor David Campos, who requested the review in February, said Monday that the audit revealed “things to be a lot worse than I expected them to be.”

Campos said that today he will call for a hearing and city action on the audit.

“Because of mismanagement, a bad situation has become a horrible situation,” he said.

Reforming the Housing Authority — which has an annual budget of $210 million and 289 full-time employees — has been a priority for Mayor Ed Lee since the agency landed on HUD’s “troubled” list in December.

Earlier in the year, Lee secured the resignation of nearly all members of the Housing Authority Commission, whom he has since replaced with city employees. The commission voted to terminate early the contract of former Housing Authority Executive Director Henry Alvarez – who Lee hired in 2007 – in April. A “lack of leadership” was key among the agency’s woes, according to a March letter from HUD.

More than 31,000 people live in some form of publicly financed housing in The City. Over 12,000 people live in the 6,259 public housing units throughout San Francisco, and another 19,000 people live in privately-owned housing units subsidized through the Section 8 voucher program.

Key findings of the audit

  • Maintenance bills are regularly 35 percent over budget, with skilled laborers performing routine maintenance; there were 2,853 outstanding requests for repairs as of April.
  • Key staff positions to review contracts and procurement procedures have gone unfilled. Specifically, the Housing Authority has not had a contracts analyst “or similar position since at least 2009,” and as a result the Authority routinely overpays for police and trash-collection services.
  • The agency is five years late in implementing a 2008 order by HUD to manage costs and budgets for its properties on a property-by-property level.
  • The authority has written off $9.1 million in unpaid rent since 2007, for an average annual loss of $1.5 million.
  • Tenants who fail to make rent aren’t evicted from their units; as of February, almost half of 5,372 tenants were delinquent on rent.
  • The authority hasn’t collected repair bills from tenants since 2009, despite most damage to units being “tenant-caused.”
  • Waiting lists for Section 8 housing vouchers and units in public housing have not been updated since 2001 and 2008, respectively.
  • Housing units remained vacant for an average of six and a half months; HUD standards require units to remain vacant for no more than 30 days. Ongoing vacancies have cost the authority $6,285,961 since 2009.

Source: Report from Board of Supervisors’ Budget Analyst Harvey Rose

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Bio:
Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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Monday, Jul 27, 2015

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