Public Housing:

Management Issues Pertaining to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

RCED-91-70: Published: Mar 1, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's (BMHA): (1) voluntary 3-year compliance agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and whether it could correct leasing practices that violated title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; (2) reasons for its high vacancy rate; and (3) justification for its high number of employees.

GAO found that: (1) the agreement attempted to remedy BMHA title VI violations while taking into consideration the BMHA financial position and its high vacancy rate, but BMHA had not yet completely implemented the agreement; (2) the agreement's effectiveness will depend on the value of individual incentives provided to tenants and housing developments, and whether BMHA will be able to attract more families to desegregated housing; (3) BMHA should not use its operating funds to pay for individual incentives; (4) implementing the agreement could adversely affect the BMHA financial condition and its ability to reduce its high vacancy rate, but HUD believed that the agreement balanced civil rights requirements with the financial requirements and the vacancy situation; (5) as of June 1990, about 1,300 of approximately 5,000 BMHA federally financed units were vacant; (6) many factors contributed to the high vacancy rate, primarily health hazards, undesirable conditions and locations, restrictive leasing policies, extensive modernization activities, and BMHA inability to promptly prepare vacant apartments for reoccupancy; (7) HUD paid BMHA $240,000 per month to subsidize the vacant units; and (8) although the BMHA staffing level was about 1.5 times higher than the average level for 10 similar housing authorities, HUD approved the BMHA staffing level as necessary to improve the management of its modernization program, address the vacancy problem, and provide increased security coverage.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On July 3, 1992, HUD and the Buffalo housing authority entered into a voluntary compliance agreement that complied with the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in implementing the voluntary compliance agreement, should not require BMHA to finance the individual software incentives from BMHA operating funds. Rather, if HUD chooses to implement those incentives, the Secretary should either seek alternative sources of funds or request that Congress explicitly authorize the use of operating funds for this purpose.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The voluntary compliance agreement entered into by HUD and the Buffalo housing authority requires that HUD monitor compliance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, in monitoring implementation of the title VI voluntary compliance agreement, should evaluate the effects that the agreement has had on the BMHA financial position and vacancy situation in addition to its effects on desegregation. In making its evaluation and while monitoring, HUD should also ensure that the compliance agreement is compatible with its separate national initiative to reduce vacancy rates at public housing authorities where vacancies are unusually high. Should serious conflicts develop between title VI objectives and prudent management of BMHA, the Secretary and BMHA should negotiate appropriate adjustments to the compliance agreement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Housing and Urban Development


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