Response to MULTIFAMILY EXECUTIVE's recent Web exclusive, "The Fallout: Inside the Controversy that Ousted Jackson," was overwhelming. Below are a few select letters that show the broad spectrum of feedback we received.
Do you have your own opinion? E-mail MFE editor-in-chief Shabnam Mogharabi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a small and emerging nonprofit, we have always received the best training and support from HUD as can be expected. Our families have always been first and foremost of importance during our trainings so that we can provide the best service possible from our end of the spectrum. Any time we have a question or concern there is an individual available to assist us. What happens at the top certainly trickles its way down to the bottom, hurting innocent people who come in day in and day out and provide services to the public in an honorable fashion. I have met Mr. Jackson but not worked closely enough with him to render an opinion as to if his statements are completely accurate.
As a HUD Housing Counselor, our organization follows the example of those who train and assist us. Never once have we felt that we could be anything less than upstanding, nor was an example set that was anything less than upstanding. Every organization has its issues, whether perceived or real. It is our hope that all of those individuals that we work with consistently are not affected by any outfall of the eruption and that HUD is permitted the time necessary, free of public outcry, to reassess whatever policy and procedure needs to be assessed and given ample time to make any changes it deems necessary.
This is an honorable institution that deserves our respect and patience as it journeys through this crisis. Those of us who do work closely with HUD need to offer our assistance and support back to those individuals we know and respect, just like HUD has given us their respect in a tireless manner. Were it not for the insight and leadership of HUD with mortgage insurance and great mortgage products, many families would be irreparably harmed by the foreclosure and reverse mortgage scams of the past 10 years. One family I am dealing with was involved in a tornado, had a reverse mortgage insured by FHA, and when her home was bulldozed, she thought she would be paying for a home that was now leveled to toothpicks. Thanks to mortgage insurance, she has been salvaged from the wreckage of her home and no longer has a mortgage to pay and can concentrate on rebuilding her life.
Welcome Home CDC
I must say the Web exclusive report on "The Fallout: Inside the Controversy that Ousted Jackson" was great editorial work. The different commentaries, aspects, and timelines helped to put the big picture together. Thank you.
Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to Jackson. The Union pointed out the millions being wasted under contracting out activities regarding single-family marketing and management; indifference to the impact those properties had on increasing homeownership among first-time, primarily minority families; and the impact of the contractors selling off of the plum properties and leaving the blighted ones to adversely impact neighborhoods going back to when Cuomo was Secretary of HUD.
Another one of our member locals did the same for multifamily contracts. Even Congressional hearings on contracting and wasteful programs such as the Community Builder Program did not make either the Democratic or Republican administrations that controlled HUD take action.
The Unions are, from time to time, becoming the only ones concerned with waste. For example, my office was to move to smaller space within the same building some four-plus years ago and counting. Absolutely nothing was done the first year, resulting in a loss of $3.6 million dollars (more now).
The only customer service employees get to give the public is the phone number for the relevant contractor. HUD is no longer in control of its program policies; the contractors are. What makes it worse is that I doubt we have the managers to take this work back in house and make it successful.
Having met with the Hill over the past decade, I have not come across even one person who didn't know HUD management was atrocious. The Agency rarely shares the information necessary for the Hill to do its job in overseeing and legislating programs. There has never been a show of will on the part of the White House for change and a true commitment to housing and communities, under either party since Cisneros. Until that happens, I have only sympathy for anyone who attempts to be Secretary of HUD.
Irene H. Facha
Regional Vice President
HUD Council of Locals 222
I am the executive director of a housing nonprofit and would happily testify on my experiences with HUD, specifically the Houston and the Kansas City Regional offices. We were threatened by the Regional Director in HUD that if we did not hire his cousin to manage our properties, he would "empty the units by supplying housing vouchers to other locations." And in Kansas City, we were held responsible for the previous owners of the housing project's payment of an accounting firm too much money.
The problem with HUD is as simple as unqualified personnel holding positions because they are a minority. Housing is not a black or white issue, but I can tell you, if you are not black and try to do business with HUD, you will not be successful. It's a disgrace and has been like this since the '80s and probably always. Close HUD, and stop the fraud, abuse, and waste.
Karen M. Dodge
Commonwealth Housing Corporation
San Antonio, Texas
Rachel Azoff's story regarding the issues between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Philadelphia Housing Authority was incomplete. Despite having ready access to my contact information, not a single one of the journalists who wrote pieces on PHA's issues with HUD or issues related to former HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson that allegedly had something to do with me called me for comment on the circumstances surrounding the controversy between HUD and PHA before publishing.
Here are some thoughts on your headline and on Ms. Azoff's story:
First, scrutinizing what I did, failed to do, or should have done as Assistant Secretary is your job as the press, and I have always availed myself to media scrutiny. But I believe that most in the business of public housing would tell you that I am, if nothing else, candid; I do not hide, and I do not lie. Most who have known me throughout my life would add one more thing: I do not believe, much less act, in revenge or retribution, nor would I do so on someone else's behalf.
Second, in some cases, reporters' failure to call has led to errors in the story, while in other cases, such as this one, their failure to call meant that the story was not reported fully when it could and should have been. For example, I did not offer to help Kim Kendrick; I responded to her request for help. That is, for reasons that would have become apparent to Ms. Azoff and your readers had I been called, a very important distinction that you simply reported badly and need not have, had you simply contacted me.
Third, the idea that Alphonso Jackson resigned because of the issues between HUD and PHA would be laughable if it were not so hubris-filled. PHA's problems, as Judge Diamond stated in his order that was the result of PHA's unsuccessful equitable action against HUD, are entirely PHA's own doing and not HUD's. I may be speaking out of school, but I can say with considerable confidence that Secretary Jackson resigned for reasons that had scant little, if anything, to do with the issues between PHA, Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Assistant Secretary Kim Kendrick, Office of Public and Indian Housing Deputy Assistant Secretary Dominique Blom, or myself.
Each time that I read PHA's lamentations in an article, I chuckle a bit, lament its deliberate inaccuracies and the press' ready willingness to print them without the benefit of any other side of the story. During our many meetings, I remember repeating to Carl Greene, his staff, and his bevy of lawyers one thing consistently: Repeating something that is untrue often will not make it true. Thankfully, the Court recognized that PHA's many attempts to repeat an untruth often did not make their version of the facts true, so it denied PHA's sought-after equitable relief for that and other reasons. Now, repeating that PHA had something major to do with Secretary Jackson's resignation is not true either, but it certainly does get Carl Greene what he wants most -- attention.
In closing, I appreciate and have accepted the apologies that I have received from the various journalists, editors (including yourself), and publications (including The Washington Post and the New York Times), but I'd much prefer thoroughness and thoughtfulness in lieu of the apologies.
Orlando J. Cabrera
Former Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Editor's note: MFE regrets not interviewing Mr. Cabrera prior to publication of our story on HUD and the PHA. The article was intended to be a case study of the PHA's experience with HUD -- both parties were contacted and interviewed for the story. Mr. Cabrera is mentioned in ancillary references only. The facts of our original story were backed by documentation or attributed to sources interviewed for the piece. We stand behind our reporting.