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In 2003, Congress reauthorized HOPE VI, a program administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and designed to improve the nation's worst public housing. In doing so, Congress required GAO to report on the extent of severely distressed public housing for the elderly and non-elderly persons with disabilities. "Severely distressed" is described in the statute as developments that, among other things, are a significant contributing factor to the physical decline of, and disinvestment in, the surrounding neighborhood; occupied predominantly by very low-income families, the unemployed, and those dependent on public assistance; have high rates of vandalism and criminal activity; and/or lack critical services, resulting in severe social distress. In response to this mandate, GAO examined (1) the extent to which public housing developments occupied primarily by elderly persons and non-elderly persons with disabilities are severely distressed and (2) the ways in which such housing can be improved. HUD officials provided oral comments indicating general agreement with the report.

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