Kevin Williamson | Cronyism: HUD-backed housing agencies rob communities blind

The Houston-area Harris County Housing Authority (HCHA) has wasted or misspent nearly $30 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money from 2010 to 2012, and the federal government wants its money back. The catch: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is for obvious reasons demanding that those wasted federal funds not be paid back out of other federal funds, and the HCHA’s total non-federal revenues this year are expected to amount to a mere $52,000. At that rate, HCHA should have paid back HUD sometime in the middle of the 26th century, assuming it dedicates 100 percent of its non-federal funds to doing so.

A newly released audit from HUD’s inspector general found $27.5 million in mismanaged spending by the Harris County Agency during the three-year period in question. The audit came in response to an excellent investigative series by the Houston Chronicle, which found, among other things, that hundreds of thousands of dollars had been paid to friends and family of agency employees — not only without board approval, but without so much as a contract. Among those on the HCHA gravy train were convicted felons with no qualification for the work they were hired to do but boasting a more important asset: links to management. A longtime associate of the CEO of the organization was paid more than $135,000, while the CEO’s father-in-law was put on the payroll of a subcontractor awarded millions in contracts.

The agency managed to spend millions of dollars on a veteran-themed housing development called Patriots by the Lake — which, despite some $8 million being poured into the project, was never built.


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