Chattanooga Housing Authority expected to meet standards

Chattanooga Housing Authority expected to meet standards

June 14th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

The Chattanooga Housing Authority is closer to getting off the federal government's troubled agency hit list after receiving an audit that showed CHA in the black with $73 million in net assets.

Because of the agency's financial progress, the audit is expected to garner a Public Housing Assessment System score of 24 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. If CHA hits that score, it will be the first year since 2007 that the agency met HUD's minimum requirement of 18.

"Oh my goodness, it's been so long," said Betsy McCright, CHA's executive director. "We've worked so hard to get to this day, but we're not really there yet. It's not over until we definitely get removed from that list."

HUD uses Public Housing Assessment System scores to determine which housing agencies are in good standing and which are put on the troubled list and monitored more closely. CHA expects to know its official Public Housing Assessment System score from HUD by the end of summer, said CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes.

At CHA's June board meeting, certified public accounting firm McCauley, Nicolas and Co. presented the results of the agency's annual audit.

"You all are doing everything in principal that you should be doing," said John Pieper, a CPA with the company.

"We noted no transactions entered into by the authority during the year for which there is lack of authoritative guidance or consensus," he said, reading from the report.

The CHA had a Public Housing Assessment System score of 10 in 2009. Being labeled a troubled agency limits the agency financially because it can't score high enough to compete for some grants, Holmes said.

Pieper did note two findings in the audit that still were occurring at the time of the audit. One was that recertifications for the housing authority's Housing Choice Voucher Programs were not completed on a timely basis. The other was that preferences used to rank Housing Choice Voucher applicants on the waiting list did not correspond to the housing Choice Voucher Admissions Policy.

However, both problems have been corrected. CHA has implemented a weekly scheduling review of the tenant files and also has transitioned to using a lottery system for selecting voucher participants instead of using a waiting list, according to the audit.

CHA, which hit a $4.5 million budget shortfall in 2008, got on the troubled list in 2009 by mismanaging funds for low-income housing and for its Housing Choice Voucher program. The agency also used a $3.6 million Fannie Mae loan for affordable housing to cover its own operating expenses.

To better position itself financially the agency cut one-third of its staff, and CHA's senior management agreed to take a 10 percent pay cut. Several staff members also took on dual jobs with limited training because there was no money to send them to training, said Holmes.

But reaching the Fannie Mae loan settlement agreement in November 2010 is what instantly freed the agency of more than $2 million in debt, said McCright.

Contact Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.