Audit faults housing authority's wait list

HUD study found documentation missing but said agency generally complies with federal guidelines

April 02, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Annapolis' housing authority generally administers its Section 8 housing subsidy program according to federal guidelines but has failed to adequately maintain its applicant waiting list, a federal audit has found.

The audit, by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, found that the authority conducted annual inspections of units and provided tenants with safe and sanitary housing and reasonable assistance payments between July 2003 through June 2005, the period reviewed.

The authority is required to update its waiting list and file applications based on when they are submitted. Many of the 2,058 applicants on the waiting list during the audit period should have been removed from the list.

Auditors randomly selected 23 applicants from the list and found that the authority could not provide proper documentation and files for nearly half of them.

Trudy McFall, chairwoman of the housing authority's board, said the audit was a good set of findings and stressed that it found that the authority met the needs of its tenants and provided safe housing.

The authority agreed with the concerns the report raised about the waiting list procedures and was already implementing changes, McFall said.

"We are busy improving," McFall said.

The authority, which provides affordable housing to low- and moderate-income residents, manages 1,104 public housing units in Annapolis. It is also allotted 200 Section 8 vouchers that can be used at privately owned apartments.

During the review period, the authority received $3.24 million from the federal government for Section 8 assistance.

In fiscal 2005, federal funds equaled $1.1 million.

According to the audit, the authority in November 2005 drew 101 applicants from its waiting list to issue 22 new vouchers. Seventy of those applicants either did not respond or were no longer interested in obtaining housing assistance. The 22 applicants who received the housing vouchers had been on the waiting list for periods ranging from three to 27 years.

Because the authority failed to file applications consistently and properly, the audit found, the matching of applicants with vouchers was inefficient, time-consuming and not necessarily based on when requests for assistance were submitted.

With no permanent files or documentation on applicants, the agency was unable to ensure that they were treated fairly and consistently, the audit said.

The result was a potential delay in leasing units.

The authority pointed to high management turnover and lack of oversight as reasons for problems with the waiting list. From May 2004 to October 2005, for instance, the authority had three different executive directors.

Eric C. Brown, the authority's executive director, responded to the audit in a March letter.

To address management issues, Brown said, the authority will install in the next four months a new housing software system to monitor and track applications. The agency will also conduct quarterly reviews of applicant files. To begin the updating process, the authority mailed out letters to applicants on the current waiting list.

The deadline for responding to the update letters is April 15.

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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