Federal Inspector General report shows 91% of units inspected by MaineHousing failed to meet quality standards

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“Several different inspectors from both the Authority and Avesta” passed 30 units that failed to meet HUD quality standards

A federal report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) shows that the MaineHousing Authority has regularly inspected, and passed, housing units that don’t meet HUD’s quality standards.

MaineHousing, despite blaming recent inspection failures on third-party providers, was found to have directly inspected, and passed, 10 out of 11 units that “did not comply with HUD’s housing quality standards,” according to the report.

A story about sub-standard units in Norway prompted the firing of a Section 8 administrator Avesta Housing “rogue inspector” and led to the sudden termination of Avesta’s contracts administering Section 8 housing.

MaineHousing and then director Dale McCormick placed the blame for inspection failures solely on Avesta and “rogue inspector” Kay Hawkins and crafted an internal audit to support those claims. McCormick then made the decision, without board input, to bring all Section 8 administration and inspection in-house.

The report, issued by OIG, was done at the request of Maine Senator Susan Collins, who became concerned about the condition of HUD funded housing units in Maine following reports of the sub-standard living units in Norway. The OIG review was initiated because there were, “concerns about the well-being and safety of tenants living in units that may not have complied with HUD’s housing quality standards,” according to the report.

The OIG report details the review the OIG’s office made of “units that passed the Authority’s and Avesta’s inspections after March 2011 to determine whether…units complied with HUD’s housing quality standards.”

The results weren’t good.

According to the report, 30 of 32 units inspected, “did not comply with HUD’s housing quality standards,” and 10 of those were inspected directly by MaineHousing.

Despite MaineHousing and McCormick’s longstanding position that this was the problem primarily of one “rogue inspector,” the report notes that the 30 units passed by Avesta and MaineHousing that failed HUD standards were inspected by, “several different inspectors, from both the Authority and Avesta.”

The report says that not only did 30 of 32 units fail to meet HUD standards, but several units also contained, “health and safety violations.” OIG also stated that some of the units shouldn’t have ever been approved for initial occupancy, finding “deficiencies that would have existed at the time.”

The report notes that MaineHousing and Avesta inspectors may have been, in effect, covering for each other. “In addition,” the report states, “the Authority and Avesta performed quality control inspections of each other’s units. These inspections did not indicate problems with the inspection process.”

Senator Collins, who requested the investigation by OIG, said the activity the review uncovered was “appalling.”

“The failed inspection rates uncovered by the Inspector General’s investigation are shocking,” Collins said. “They indicate systemic failures by both Maine State Housing Authority and Avesta, rather than problems caused by one “rogue inspector” as MSHA and Avesta previously had asserted.”

“The bottom line is people who live in federally subsidized housing should expect decent, safe, and sanitary conditions.  Unfortunately, this report shows that federal funds are instead going to property owners who fail to properly maintain their units.  This is absolutely unacceptable,” Collins added.

The report goes on to question the capacity of MaineHousing to move forward with their plan to pull all Section 8 inspections in-house, a plan put in place before McCormick’s sudden resignation in March.

In reaction to the Norway incidents, MaineHousing decided to phase out contract administrators by the end of year and “assume responsibility for all of its 3,200 units,” the report stated.

David Montoya, the Inspector General, doesn’t feel that MaineHousing is in a position to handle the inspection program, citing the 10 of 11 passed inspections that failed to meet HUD standards.

According to the Inspector General, “our initial assessment determined the likelihood that there were serious systemic deficiencies with the unit failures managed by both the Authority (MaineHousing) and Avesta and that it is questionable whether the Authority has the capacity to manage the entire program in house as planned,” Montoya said. “We are concerned that the Authority may not have the capacity and expertise to accomplish both a reorganization while effectively managing the inspection program.”

Senator Collins agreed with the sentiment that MaineHousing may not be fit to run the inspection program for Section 8.

“As part of a corrective action plan proposed by MSHA, the agency will no longer use outside inspectors and will instead assume responsibility for the safety of its units,” said Collins. “This report, however, reveals instances where MSHA-inspected units also failed to meet HUD’s housing quality standards, which raises troubling questions about the agency’s capacity to ensure safe and healthy housing for qualified residents.

MaineHousing board chair Peter Anastos expressed his disappointed in the findings of the report.

“This is the real, major problem at MaineHousing. They have taken their eye off the ball of the core mission of providing quality, affordable housing to chase ‘green’ initiatives and carbon trading schemes,” Anastos said.

“The former administration at MaineHousing might have been rock stars at carbon conferences around the world, but they didn’t take care of the Maine people that needed them most. That’s a shame and we are going to fix it.”

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone doubt that this tawdry story will get much worse as the corruption is exposed.

  2. I agree that MSHA certainly veered off its mission when it focused on all these green initiatives. However, I’d also like to know what are the standards that must be met in order for a unit to pass inspection and who or what is the cause of the deficiencies. Let’s just say I’m always a bit suspicious of “government standards”. From what I’ve seen, you could fail to meet standards if a building is structurally unsound which makes perfect sense. However, I’ve also seen where you could fail to meet standards if a handrail is an inch too high or low off the ground or an outlet is missing a GFCI sticker. Either way, I’ll be happy when MSHA is back on track and following its mission; helping Maine people get into safe and affordable homes.

  3. I am just shocked the “Lee Carbon Scam” has not been reported on…Does anyone know if they are looking into the transfer of funds?  Wasn’t it something I read like $370,000.00?  Yikes!

    Dee

  4. are federal social workers putting miss information at the va level to move people up on the list faster when they may not qualify for that they dont pick who gets hud/vash but they do handle paper work

  5. This is what happens when there is no direct oversight and the authority to fire a manager that fails to perform the job they were hired to do for the people of Maine.  I listened to Attorney Kathrine Lee’s explanation of the her carbon trading scheme for MSHA.  It bordered on the insane to expect a 20 year return when the markets have already collapsed and closed for these carbon credits.  Just another half-baked idea from the idiotic left.

    Michael Doyle

  6. This is only part of the problem.  The low-income housing that comes under Rural Developement is the same. 

  7. There is an interesting discussion in another state on whether it can apply a sales tax to carbon credits; seems like a lot of revenue is slipping out of the hands of state government because of the carbon credit biz. 

  8. Saw Dale last weekend and she looked like she just came from an assisted living center for retired nuns….I mean she was a living definition of decrepit.

    I felt very sorry for her but this is the invariable result of putting a politico into a complex administrative job; they get crushed by the ensuing scandals and look the worse for it.

  9. I’m living the nightmare! I complained to the Augusta housing Authority and my landlord according to the contract (HUD voucher) tells me too. and AHA works with my landlord to EVICT ME for renivations one week later. SEE I complained about bad conditions, which i got sick from ( raw sewerage poop, pee, tampons dried and went airborn and got in my lungs.)bad lights, leaky water pipes near tub, etc. they just wanted to sprinkle down LIMESTONE 2 days later, and sweep it up It was dry by then. and say it was cleaned. and i’m only getting 24 days to leave but AHA, not the 30 on the contract, and they let my landlord do it and them too now i pay full rent 575+ utilities out of 698. so when all done, lucky if i can buy toiletpaper at the dollar tree. every pun intended. happened march 26th 2012 80%fixed 4-12-12. I also complained about presonal items that got damaged from the RAW SEWERAGE, not replaced yet. come Senate of maine live in my place for 1 week and see how it feels. loosing my faith in maine people :”(

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