This document presents the results of GAO's survey of public housing agencies that manage developments that house primarily the elderly and non-elderly persons with disabilities. The purpose of the survey was to (1) collect data on physical and social characteristics that constitute aspects of "severe distress," (2) verify HUD data from the PIC and REAC databases, and (3) collect data about ways in which the stock of severely distressed public housing for the elderly and non-elderly persons with disabilities could be improved. We surveyed 46 public housing agencies that manage the 76 developments identified as potentially severely distressed using a mail questionnaire. Questions covered the following topics: physical deterioration, systems requiring renovation or modernization, the neighborhood environment in which the development was located, accessibility features, access to social and public services, and actions to remedy housing challenges. Each questionnaire contained a set of specific questions about the identified development and a set of general questions about public housing for the elderly and non-elderly persons with disabilities. In the 11 cases where the housing agency managed more than one of the identified 76 developments, respondents were asked to provide separate answers--in response to the specific questions--for each of the identified developments. For the 35 public housing agencies with one development, we also asked the local housing agencies whether they had other developments or buildings occupied primarily by elderly persons or non-elderly persons with disabilities that did not score above our distress threshold, but had conditions comparable to or worse than the developments we identified. We mailed the questionnaire to each public housing agency on June 10, 2005. Participants could return the questionnaire by mail or fax and collection of survey data ended on August 30, 2005. We had 43 housing agencies return the survey, providing a response rate of 93 percent, and representing 66 of the 76 developments. Respondents were asked to provide written comments to open-ended questions; however to maintain the confidentiality of participants, responses to these items are not provided here. We did not attempt to verify the respondents' answers against an independent source of information; however, we used two techniques to verify the reliability of questionnaire items. First, we used in-depth cognitive interviewing techniques to evaluate the answers of pretest participants. Interviewers judged that all the respondents' answers to the questions were correct. Second, we compared some responses with observations made during site visits; again, observers concluded that responses to these items were correct. A more detailed discussion of our scope and methodology, and a discussion of the survey results are contained in our report, Distressed Conditions in Developments for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities and Strategies Used for Improvement. Clicking on the following link will provide access to this report (GAO-06-163). We conducted our survey work from November 2004 through August 2005 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
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