Gulf Watch: Housing Authority of New Orleans fails to provide decent public housing

The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) is under fire once again this week. In a report released Friday federal auditors report finding poor conditions in New Orleans housing developments. The auditors also raised serious questions about the ability of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to safeguard the tenants it assists in New Orleans and ensure that they live in decent, sanitary conditions, reports the Times-Picayune.

HANO is notorious for its failure to provide decent upkeep in its housing developments. For decades HANO had such high rates of mismanagement (including squandering millions of federal dollars) that in 2002 HUD was forced to take over HANO - long before Katrina struck the city.

But despite the HUD takeover, according to the audit, the federally-run HANO continues to mismanage its properties.

As the Time-Picayune reports:
[HANO] hasn't properly maintained its public-housing apartments or inspected its Section 8 rentals since Hurricane Katrina. The report also found the agency may have paid too much rent for many New Orleans apartments, and that it has created a Section 8 waiting list that's virtually unusable.

Between April and September, HUD auditors examined 10 random apartments with tenants who receive rental assistance through HANO's Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program. All 10 of the units fell short of HUD's quality standards because of loose floorboards, inoperable stoves, leaking water and sewage, mold, peeling paint in units housing young children, missing handrails and insufficient heating.

Two-thirds of public-housing apartments also failed the random inspections. Auditors found poor conditions at the Iberville and B.W. Cooper housing developments: missing or loose railings even on second-story balconies, peeling paint, long-standing sewer leaks, and a network of tunnels along Iberville buildings' foundations indicating "a serious rat infestation."

In its written response to auditors, HANO called the Iberville development "obsolete" and noted that the B.W. Cooper units are "slated to be demolished." This is despite the fact that the agency, when asked whether the city's public housing can accommodate all returning tenants, has typically described the Cooper and Iberville units as "repaired and ready to be occupied."
The agency's Section 8 waiting list, which had 9,700 names before Hurricane Katrina, was missing key federally required data. Without that critical information, such as the date of application, the agency can't pick tenants fairly from the list, the audit found.