Contra Costa Times editorial: Appalling performance at Richmond Housing Authority


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The saga of Richmond's housing authority seems endless.

It was more than a year ago that City Manager Bill Lindsay said he hoped to relocate residents of the Hacienda housing project within 61 to 150 days so that a complete rehabilitation of the moldy, leaking and roach- and mice-infested six-story building could begin.

That deadline came and went eight months ago. And, as reporter Karina Ioffee revealed in her article Saturday, not a single one of the people living in 101 occupied units has been moved. Not one. That's appalling.

We understand that there were months of work obtaining approval for the reconstruction from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But there's been a lack of candor about the delays moving residents.

Housing Director Tim Jones now says all of them will be relocated by September. But, as Ioffee discovered, those who have received Section 8 vouchers to help them pay for housing elsewhere are unable to find landlords willing to accept impoverished tenants in a tight market.

It's been three months since the feds approved issuing the vouchers. By now at least some residents should have been relocated. Jones must get ahead of this problem now, and regularly update the City Council and the public. More delays are unacceptable.

While Lindsay continues to protect and defend Jones, it's time to set limits. Meeting the September target should be a condition of Jones keeping his job. He's had plenty of opportunity to fix this mess; this should be his last.

Richmond's housing authority is one of the worst in the nation. HUD has issued sharply critical reports for years and questioned Jones' leadership, saying he ineffectively managed the agency's performance and regulatory compliance programs.

The problems at Hacienda first came to public light through articles by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which also detailed expensive taxpayer-funded meals for Jones and his staff, maintenance workers running up excessive overtime and double-billing the agency, and tens of thousands of dollars of missing appliances.

Meanwhile, this newspaper reported that Jones never forwarded to Lindsay or the City Council the 2010 and 2011 reports from an advisory commission member about problems at Hacienda — the very sorts of problems that finally emerged in 2014 press accounts.

City officials are quick to blame federal funding cuts. That dodges responsibility. As Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, said last year before he retired, "For years, federal investigators have warned of deficient services, inadequate and dangerous living conditions and dysfunctional organization in Richmond. These issues existed and were apparent long before recent federal funding cuts."

The time for excuses is long gone.

 

Reposted from Contra Costa Times.

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