A final report from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General (IG) finds that the Maine State Housing Authority mismanaged its program and failed to ensure that participants in its Housing Choice Voucher program were living in decent, safe, and sanitary conditions.
In December, Senator Susan Collins wrote to David Montoya, the HUD IG, and requested a review of Maine State Housing Authority's oversight of its Section 8 program. Her request came after the Fire Chief in Paris, Maine wrote to her to report serious safety violations in units that receive federal payments under the Section 8 program. Specifically, Senator Collins, who is the Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, wanted to know whether taxpayers were subsidizing properties that not only violated fire safety codes but also failed to comply with Housing Quality Standards required by HUD.
"The Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General began this important work after a request by Senator Susan Collins," said Inspector General Montoya. "The Senator was greatly concerned about the quality of public housing in the State and we immediately began our work to address her concerns."
In its final report to Senator Collins today, HUD IG finds that 53 of 61 units, or 87 percent, of the units it inspected did not meet Maine State Housing's housing quality standards. More than half of the failing units had defects serious enough that landlords should be required to remedy within 24-hours, and three units had conditions so bad that residents were moved due to eminent health and safety risks. The IG report concludes that Maine State Housing did not have adequate oversight of its contractors or their inspectors and it did not have effective internal quality controls for its own inspectors. As a result, taxpayers paid at least $194,956 in housing assistance payments for tenants who were living in units that failed to meet quality standards. In addition, the report concludes that Maine State Housing officials did not always comply with either HUD or their own policies on procurement and expenditure practices.
"Unfortunately, this final report is only further proof that, under its previous leadership, Maine State Housing Authority failed to live up to its own mission-to help Maine people obtain and maintain decent, safe, and affordable housing. No one should ever be living in federally subsidized housing that fails to meet basic safety and health standards, and certainly taxpayers should not be footing the bill," said Senator Collins. "I am hopeful that the unacceptable conditions revealed by this investigation are being corrected by its new management. Going forward, it is absolutely essential that Maine State Housing not only be steadfastly committed to ensuring safe and healthy housing for qualified residents, but that it is also uses taxpayer dollars prudently."
The final HUD IG report recommends that units deemed deficient in its investigation be repaired and that Maine State Housing improve its inspection quality control to better ensure that all units always meet housing quality standards. In addition, Maine State Housing should repay $194,956 from non-Federal funds that it paid for units found not to meet acceptable housing standards.