All the local scrutiny of the city’s Housing Authoirty this summer has caught Washington’s attention, as well, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development is reviewing the public housing agency’s books to make sure everything is in order, according to a spokesman.
The review began earlier this month, HUD public affairs officer Jerrod Brown said, and was prompted by reports in the Daily News of mismanaged funds. Mr. Brown stressed that the review was still in its earlier stages and was not a condemnation or confirmation any wrongdoing of NYCHA. Instead, the review is a matter of practice.
“News reports like the series on NYCHA often result in reviews, audits and investigations,” Mr. Brown said in an email. “Some recent examples are Philadelphia and the Harris County Housing Authority in Texas.” In those cases, officials in Phillie and Houston were misspending federal funds. In the former case, there were some lavish gifts, well documented (or poorly documented, in the case of the accused), including a party with show girls.
So far the charges against NYCHA have been far less, namely that the agency does not work fast enough, but that has been the focus of an internal investigation the agency has been conducting on itself. Some money has not been spent simply due to the wheels of bureaucracy turning. With the largest housing agency in the country, New York can take years to put the billions of dollars in federal funds it receives to use.
Mr. Brown said the review was not prompted by calls to action from any local politicians, such as would-be Congressman Hakeen Jeffries, who recently held a press conference calling for a full investigation of NYCHA’s practices.
Last week, Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, chair of the housing committee and a defender of NYCHA, told The Observer she thought an investigation was unnecessary. “The money is getting spent,” she said. “The reports are false and misleading, so I don’t know that an investigation is prudent.”
A NYCHA spokeswoman declined to comment on the review until it was completed.
Mr. Brown said HUD already took an enthusiastic view of some changes NYCHA has announced following an internal review of the agency performed by the Boston Consulting Group.
“We support changes to the structure of the Board, and look forward to working with NYCHA to ensure that the board structure is consistent with best practices nationally,” Mr. Brown said. “We are fully committed to working with NYCHA, its residents, and other key stakeholders to improve NYCHA and strengthen its ability to meet its current and future challenges.”