Shrug Shoulders, Feign Ignorance

Having some experience with public housing, I read the article on the Lompoc shelters with some interest. This is simply a monumental failure of government that will precipitate, at best, the displacing of the people it was meant to serve. The same folks who want to know where each two-by-four is placed in my home remodel seem incapable of fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility in monitoring a $6 million public investment.

Responsible housing authorities promulgate and enforce controls, and rules, that are specifically designed to avert the type of malfeasance exhibited here. Three simple controls placed on housing projects that accept public financing and housing assistance payments (HAP ) are:

1. A required annual financial audit submitted within 90 days of the fiscal year end.

2. Regular inspection of files related to tenant certification standards, tenant background checks, and tenant lease conformance.

3. Regular physical inspection of the properties and tenant units.

It appears that county functionaries failed to enforce any provisions of their contract with the shelters. When an audited statement was not submitted timely, it was time to descend on the property and demand conformance. All housing assistance payments should have ceased until the shelters complied. An audit would have exposed all of the irregularities noted in Mr. Welsh’s article—including the questionable legal fees. For five years they seem to have been utilizing the Jon Corzine school of fiscal reporting (shrug your shoulders and feign ignorance). The Department of Housing and Community Development may have “existed in a frenzied state of perpetual turmoil,” as Mr. Welsh says, but someone at DHCD [the Department of Housing and Community Development] must have been performing the job they were paid for. Maybe not – perhaps they expected Lompoc Housing to simply put their head in the noose.

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