This is a statement from Deborah Turcotte, public information manager at MaineHousing.
AUGUSTA – The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Tuesday released its final audit report of MaineHousing’s administration of the Housing Choice Voucher Program. MaineHousing did not wait for this report to institute a corrective action plan and consulted with OIG and HUD regularly to implement it.
The OIG concluded that “the actions taken by Authority officials are responsive to our recommendations.”
OIG’s audit is one of several responses to an October 2011 Norway Advertiser-Democrat article that brought attention to what MaineHousing considers shocking substandard living conditions experienced by tenants who received Section 8 vouchers administered by MaineHousing and one of its agents.
MaineHousing last fall immediately took action to address the Norway situation and went further by thoroughly examining its administration of the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. As a result of that review, MaineHousing created an action plan to improve the entire program and ensure rental units meet federal housing quality standards (HQS). HUD has been updated monthly on MaineHousing’s progress.
As part of the action plan, MaineHousing:
- Instituted regular training sessions for inspectors to ensure quality, consistent inspections of units.
- Improved relationships with local code enforcement officers.
- Established communication channels with landlords and tenants so they routinely receive information on how they can maintain their rental units to meet housing quality standards.
In the final audit report being submitted to the regional HUD office and MaineHousing, the OIG recommends that deficiencies found in 53 of the 61 units it inspected be fixed. All units were repaired, the rent abated, or the tenant moved out. It also recommended that MaineHousing improve its quality control inspection process to ensure that HCV program units are meeting housing quality standards; that is being done through the corrective action plan.
“Since last fall, MaineHousing has taken strong, far-reaching steps to ensure that its HCV program provides quality service to tenants living in apartments subsidized by Section 8 vouchers,” said John Gallagher, Director of MaineHousing. “We thank all of the landlords and tenants who have endured numerous inspections for their cooperation and patience over the last few months. We appreciate your willingness to learn what factors can cause a housing unit to fail an inspection, and your actions to remedy them.
“Be assured that MaineHousing is working hard to create a model delivery system that will ensure quality housing and excellent service for Maine’s voucher holders.”