Just 15 months after taking over the Miami-Dade Housing Agency (MDHA), The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) returned the beleaguered agency to local control.
"We are pleased to announce that the Miami-Dade Housing Agency is a more efficient institution than it was a little over a year ago when HUD took possession," said HUD's outgoing secretary Steve Preston in a statement. "It was my intention to work cooperatively with Miami-Dade's leadership and Congressional representation to resolve any matters that stand in the way of providing Miami families and taxpayers the best possible customer service."
MDHA's troubles originally came to light in a series of articles by The Miami Herald in 2006. The stories detailed many problems at the county, including how consultants, architects, and project managers double-billed the county instead of building homes to replace those demolished at the James E. Scott and Carver housing projects. A HUD audit revealed that the county overdrew its accounts and used money earmarked for new affordable homes to cover the shortfall.
HUD says Miami-Dade had to take three steps to regain control of the housing authority: bring its financial and accounting methods up to general standards and HUD requirements; reorganize its Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program by outsourcing it; and restart the development of the Scott-Carver public housing development. MDHA, which received a $35 million HUD HOPE VI grant in 1999, has brought in a developer to redevelop Scott-Carver.
HUD will continue to keep tabs on MDHA over the next two years. One major focus will be on the redevelopment of Scott-Carver. "With a housing authority that's recently been returned, the department continues to monitor that housing authority," says Donna White, spokeswoman for HUD.
In addition to MDHA, HUD has returned three other Florida housing authorities to local management?those in Riviera Beach, Sarasota, and Sanford. However, five additional authorities?the Detroit Housing Commission, The Virgin Islands Housing Authority, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, the Wellston Housing Authority in St. Louis, and the East St. Louis (Ind.) Housing Authority?remain under HUD control.
HUD does a yearly assessment of its housing authorities, labeling them high performers, standard performer, or troubled. "When a housing authority is troubled, that's when the department goes in and provides that additional support in terms of technical assistance to see where they're weak," White says.
Many authorities work through those problems with HUD and never end up being taken over, White says. "If we go in and do a comprehensive review, and we find out they end up being more troubled than we thought, they could end up being taken over," she explains. "In the grand scheme of things, taking a housing authority is rare. When it's necessary, the department does it."