Housing Authority of New Orleans Faces Sharp Criticisms from HUD
Less than two weeks after the New Orleans Saints triumphed at the Super bowl, a scathing new federal assessment of the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) serves as a reminder of the challenges that continue to face the city. In its 74-page report, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) criticized HANO for severe management, operational and staffing shortfalls across most of the agency۪s departments and programs.
According to the report, HANO is severely mismanaging its public housing and Housing Choice Voucher programs. For example, the report finds that inaccurate calculations of rent left low-income public housing tenants overpaying for utilities and rent. The agency also anticipates a $6.7 million loss for its public housing program during this fiscal year.
The findings also show that HANO is understaffed and overly reliant on contractors as a result, and that several of the agency۪s departments, including its Housing Choice Voucher program, have improper or missing job descriptions.
The report was prepared by Gilmore Kean, LLC, the consulting firm hired by HUD in October to oversee and assess HANO۪s day-to-day operations. However, despite the grim findings, HUD officials are optimistic about the prospects of rebuilding and strengthening the agency, nearly ten years after the federal government took over HANO. In a press release issued by HUD, Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez says:
“We believe that HANO is fixable with hard work and the right leadership. The assessment acknowledges that many HANO employees are eager too see changes made, and with sufficient training they can work to meet HANO۪s mission to provide high quality, affordable housing for New Orleans families. This assessment is the first step that will lead this housing authority toward achieving that mission.”
And if Henriquez is right, the findings may just be the catalyst that۪s needed to overhaul this long-beleaguered agency. In fact, Gilmore Kean will continue to manage HANO through July 2010, at which point a long-term consultant is expected to be hired to implement improvements to the agency based on the findings of this report.
Ultimately though government leaders must be held accountable for this agency and for the vulnerable families it serves. If and when that happens, the city will have another well-deserved reason to celebrate.
Posted by Helina
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