“The City of Albemarle Department’s internal public housing control system is failing,” the report said, noting that the focus appears to be on verifying that spending is authorized by the Board of Public Housing Commissioners.” and not on the administration and monitoring of program resources in accordance with applicable rules and regulations.”
In a letter dated Aug. 15 to Shelia Hester, director of the North Carolina Office of Public Housing in Greensboro, Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael said the city appreciates “the opportunity for substantive and constructive feedback on the ADPH operations,” HUD said. office “has a fundamental misunderstanding of the founding structure of our Department of Public Housing”.
Because the review was “based on this misunderstanding”, Michael wrote, some of the findings and observations detailed in the report were “mistakenly included”.
The Albemarle Public Housing Department has released a written response to the compliance report, which is due to Council on Monday, when it will be considered for approval. The department’s response will then be forwarded to the HUD office in Greensboro.
Regarding the suggestion that the department should become its own independent organization, it was once a stand-alone agency, the city wrote, but it was decided that the community would be better served if it were “absorbed into the city to allow better oversight and additional resources.” Being under the city’s jurisdiction, the department receives “a plethora of benefits” that it otherwise could not afford, the city wrote.
Among the main concerns highlighted by the review was what it saw as the suspicious spending habits of public housing. In recent years, the department has purchased a bedbug machine for about $9,200, aluminum fencing for $28,000, and chains and galvanized posts for $8,000.
The report revealed that none of the housing staff are certified to operate the bed bug machine, so the department recently outsourced bed bug eradication services for $6,000. Additionally, the aluminum fences, chains and posts will soon be removed as the former does not meet commercial residence standards and the latter has been deemed a “trip hazard”.
The report also revealed that the housing department had purchased several doors for a total of approximately $1.3 million, but were not identifiable in the procurement file.
In a written response to the spending allegations, the City said it “refute claims” that it engaged in “irresponsible spending”, noting that items spent on social housing “have been determined as eligible and necessary expenses”.
With regard to tracking supplies, HUD staff learned that no inventory had been taken in over eight years and that maintenance personnel typically purchase items in bulk and place them in inventory until that the items are needed for a maintenance repair.
One of the social housing warehouses that was inspected contained seven central air conditioners, a refrigerator, doors and floors, but none of the items were counted on an inventory list.