January 27, 2011

A Fair Look at Public Housing

Secretary Shaun Donovan

Last night, ABC’s Nightline aired a report on the state of the nation’s public housing. In his story, reporter Brian Ross inaccurately and unfairly portrayed HUD’s oversight efforts. We know that years of underfunding by the prior administration has left our nation’s public and assisted housing stock under significant stress. For too long, housing authorities have had to manage their programs with major shortfalls in their capital and operating budgets.

The Obama Administration has made it a priority to preserve and protect this important resource. And, after reinvesting in these programs and proposing new initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods and Transforming Rental Assistance,  we are making significant progress toward that goal. Nightline failed to mention the changes we’ve made and mischaracterized the hard work that HUD staff does everyday to fund and provide oversight to nearly 3,200 public housing agencies, and to serve the millions of American families who depend on public and assisted housing.

Nightline referenced unacceptable behavior by a few local housing authority employees and showed scenes of deplorable living conditions. They didn’t tell you what HUD has done to address them. The real questions are: what do we do when those problems arise, how do we intervene, how do we make it right, and how do we work with our partners at the local level to ensure that quality housing is delivered to the people who need it?

In Philadelphia, for example, once HUD learned of allegations of impropriety, we took swift action and unprecedented steps to set that housing authority back on a course to provide safe, quality, affordable housing in the community. In light of the recent developments involving the housing authority’s executive director, HUD sent a team to audit the agency on September 2nd. In November, the Philadelphia Housing Authority appointed Michael Kelly as the interim executive director, as HUD continues to audit the housing authority’s management and financial operations. We will continue aggressive oversight and monitoring in Philadelphia until we are certain that is the case.

As for the actions of former Housing Authority of New Orleans CFO Elias Castellanos, Nightline failed to mention that it was HUD’s program staff – led by Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandi Henriquez – that called his actions to the Inspector General’s attention.  Castellanos has since pled guilty and was sentenced to four years in federal prison, thanks to the swift action of HUD’s team.

As  Assistant Secretary Henriquez  said in the full, unedited version of her  interview which you can watch here , HUD provides essential services to 4.5 million households who need – and deserve – affordable housing and economic opportunity.

The truth is that even with these enormous renovation and management challenges, the vast majority of nearly 3,200 public housing authorities across the U.S. do an incredible job of maintaining the nation’s 1.2 million public housing units for low-income Americans. Of the approximately 3,200 public housing authorities across the U.S., at any given time approximately 150-200 – only about 4% — are deemed “troubled.”  And when that happens, HUD staff in our field offices work quickly and directly with the agency to identify the problem areas and provide guidance to management and/or local management to make corrections.

Early last year, I was proud to announce that nearly all 3,200 housing authorities were able to quickly put $4 billion through the Obama Administration’s Recovery Act to work, making significant capital improvements to tens of thousands of public housing apartments nationwide; creating jobs, growing local economies, and providing better housing for those who need it. Today there are more than 300,000 affordable homes that have been renovated using funds from the Recovery Act.

But even with that success, we were only able to meet a fifth of the estimated capital backlog in public housing properties.

That is why I believe – and the Obama Administration believes —  that time is right for a national conversation on how best to design and implement a 21st century solution for the nation’s public housing system. HUD has made our proposal, called Transforming Rental Assistance, and members of congress have proposed legislation too.  Over the coming months, we will continue to work with housing stakeholders and elected officials to promote a comprehensive strategy to preserve and enhance the country’s affordable housing stock. Because, without a long-term strategy, we will continue to lose thousands of quality, affordable homes each year – at the expense of the households depending on them.

And that is what Nightline and Brian Ross didn’t tell you.  We need Congress to pass legislation to help us implement that long-term strategy to preserve and enhance our affordable housing stock and to adequately house our nation’s most vulnerable families.

15 Responses to A Fair Look at Public Housing

  1. Mass media has paradoxically left people more informed and more ignorant at the same time. News from television is looking more and more like tabloid.

  2. They talk about fair housing , choice neighborhoods and affordable restored homes . What about the many Americans that live in substandard housing ? Homes in need of repair that will cost more than their home is worth . We live here cause we have no choice . Sure , you could take out a lone to fix it , but then you owe so much, that you couldn’t sell it if you had too . Where is the help for us ?

  3. U R a DISGRACE to what this NATION stands for! U and YOUR “ilk” have ENSLAVED the very populance U Proport to represent!…U R “jackles” In the Night!

    U breed “ignorance” through CONTROL over the Educational System ONLY to “subverbriate” the very populance U proport to represent!……How “vile” can U get?

    MMMM……..I have terms for U………U would NEVER live the life of a “common” American. U are “Elite” and KNOW what is BEST for the “ignorant” MASSES!……

    Interesting……….Once the “Ignorant Masses” realize they are “ignorant” to PROTECT YOUR position of GOVERNANCE……U LOSE!

    Can’t wait!

  4. I would say that the nightline report was fairly accurate. Public housing has always been a problem, conditions of the properties are poor, there is corruption, etc. It does not matter under what administration. Public housing has not worked, and it will never work. Anything the government runs is screwed up, because the people in charge are not business people. It is a never ending supply of money coming in so there is no accountability by the individuals in charge of the public housing.

  5. After hours of checking I agree with you that Brian Ross’s report was somewhat one-sided. BUT NOT on everything !!! During my hours of reading (for a different reason)it was reported that HUD was in fact putting up, or paying housing for long term registered sex offenders. According to HUD’s rules/laws this cannot be done. I read a myriad of excuses as to why they were there. If I remember the number was estimated from 2094 to 3046. This number came from a highlighted cover page to a 26 page report done August 14, 2009, by the Office of Inspector General, HUD, from Ronald J. Hosking, Regional Inspector General for AAudit 7AGA
    The other issue as to OVERSIGHT that is an ISSUE……STILL. What of the occupants that we taxpayers are paying for that are dead ? Again a mess of excuses……. This was mentioned in a report Brian Ross did last year.

    Again, somewhat one-sided but not near completely………..


  6. Pingback: Morning Links: Self Defense - Housing Complex - Washington City Paper

  7. When Donovan talks about fairness I want to throw up. How fair is it to impose regulation after regulation to the small mortgage broker and not require it from banking loan officers? How fair is it to tell someone how much they can make but not tell them what that is, exactly? How fair is it to subject hard working loan officers to ten year background checks, expensive education, testing, auditing, and expensive HVCC appraisal management companies because they didn’t ever do their jobs to prevent a housing meltdown?

    At the same time, hugging and embracing massive banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells, and Citi, HUD has all but announced the death of small business (in the form of a local mortgage company) and Shaun Donovan and David Stevens couldn’t care less about the loan officers, realtors, appraisers, title companies, insurance agents, house inspectors, and the average family that wants to buy a house, much less suck money out of working families to have the government house the poor in rat traps. But we continue to see these big banks dole out huge bonuses to executives that couldn’t originate a loan under these new rules if they had a three week instruction on how to do it. The new GFE is a joke. HVCC is a joke, and raising the monthly MIP is a tax increase that no one knows about. Every step that HUD has taken in the past two years has been one misstep after another and has actually shown more americans the benefits of walking away from mortgages more than staying in them. There’s simply no justification for the swagger that either Stevens or Donovan try to present and they haven’t done anything to turn the tide of economic disaster we are in right now. They aren’t fair – they are bought and paid for by big banks and could care less about people.

  8. I am a landlord that rent to the section8 program. I have taken 5 of my properties off the public housing program because of the way the tenants tear up the property and the program tell us to take them to court. What good does it do us when they have nothing to pay for damages in the first place that is why they are on assistance. They tear up and get to move into another unit and tear up again and move. They are allowed to do this over and over again without being removed from the list. The landlord is stuck with all the repair bills. The government use to reimbuse the landlord and the tenant had to pay back the government for their damages and it gave them the incentive not to leave the unit in such bad condition. Why are they rewarded for bad behavior? They do not learn from their bad behavior and continue with it. They have nothing to lose and that is why they do it. Some cannot even afford to keep their utilities on. I use to feel sorry for them, but after the experience in dealing with them I do not. They need an incentive to try and not tear up the properties, like being cut from the program if they do not keep the property up.

    • Hey Bea in Reply to To You’re Compliant about Tenants Tearing up and Damaging The Property I’ve Found Getting A Complete Background Check On all tenants Before Moving Them In Helps Weed Out Some Of The Bad Apples It really Helps.With This One You can a Whole Year Of Checks! Background Checks Hope I’ve Been Of Help

  9. Most bad practices at HUD never seem to change, no matter what administration is in charge. Why didn’t the HUD Administration defend herself just as this article attempted to do. HUD is broken because of the same people going from administration to administration caring with them the same old unprofessional incompetance. Fire them all and start over.

  10. Fair Housing should be scraped at HUD along with several other programs, HUD has it place but most of HUD should be scraped, the agency is full of corruption by its staff member and housing authorities’ employees as well as administrators. Iam sure that the administration is doing its best, but HUD can not be fixed it is rotten to the core and only benefits the rich Tax Credit developers and big political funders.

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  12. Why HUD let the new haven housing authority get away with violating the Fair housing right and the american disabilty act.But when the new haven housing authority stole $1 million dollars of HUD money no one went to jail i can understand that it call Kick Back

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