City unqualified for MTO, Hayden says

September 23, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

The city Housing Authority is not legally qualified to participate in the controversial federal Moving to Opportunity (MTO) housing program, Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden said yesterday.

In a letter sent by overnight courier to U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry G. Cisneros, Mr. Hayden cites HUD's published rules for governments seeking MTO money and a provision that says applicants will be disqualified if they have "serious and unaddressed noncompliance issues with respect to other HUD programs."

The Hayden letter says findings of several federal audits of Housing Authority practices since 1992 -- including the most recent audit, whose findings were reported yesterday in The Sun -- provide evidence that, under HUD rules, "the city should be disqualified" from getting MTO money. The MTO pilot program, which is being administered through the city Housing Authority, is supposed to move 285 poor inner-city Baltimore families to nicer neighborhoods in the region using $12.5 million worth of federal Section 8 rental subsidies. Baltimore is one of five cities in the program, which has drawn strong opposition from eastern Baltimore County residents worried about MTO participants moving there.

The Sun's story on the most recent audit, the draft report of which alleges gross mismanagement in a city housing repair program for public housing, caused county lawyers to consider citing the alleged mismanagement as a reason why the MTO program should not be undertaken in the Baltimore area.

By day's end, Mr. Hayden and Deputy County Attorney Virginia W. Barnhart had composed the letter, which they called the first formal step in the process for challenging HUD funding for the program. The letter refers to "serious and unaddressed noncompliance" issues raised in the Sun story about the city's no-bid repair contracts for public housing. It also notes a 1992

HUD Management Review of the city Housing Department and a 1993 HUD Field Office Monitoring Review that found the city in "noncompliance."

In the letter, Mr. Hayden criticizes Mr. Cisneros for failing to contact him or invite him to a meeting on MTO, especially since the secretary in the last two weeks spoke with Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III about MTO and the audit results. "I would have driven the 10 miles [to Baltimore], or the 45 miles [to Washington] to talk to him," the executive said. "We are going to march through the procedures that give us the opportunity to be heard. We deserve to be heard."

Ms. Barnhart said the county's legal strategy will be worked out by Monday. Mr. Hayden, who began raising issues concerning MTO a few weeks ago, indicated that, if necessary, he might be willing to go to federal court to block the program.

Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, departing 2nd District Republican, also wrote Mr. Cisneros yesterday, citing the reports of loose spending of federal money as a reason to stop MTO.

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