WaPo and HUD in Second Tussle Over HOME Program

November 10, 2011 | By Liza Casabona | Post a Comment

News reports charging that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program is mismanaged have surfaced again. The Washington Post ran a couple of articles this week asserting that the affordable housing program is not functioning properly.

The Post’s pieces are here and here.

According to the articles, the Post’s team of reporters identified 75 abandoned or delayed projects that received federal funding. Those sites are in addition to 700 other delayed projects cited in a Post investigative series last spring. The author of the articles claims that the dozens of recently identified federally funded construction deals across the U.S. that produced no homes or fewer homes than promised “offer additional evidence of breakdowns within HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program.”

We covered the earlier investigative series here and here. The major difference between the initial 700 sites identified and the 75 new ones discussed this week is that while the first batch only drew part of its funding from federal coffers, the more recent group obtains all of its funding from HUD, according to the Post.

It’s a serious charge, and one that HUD is not taking lightly. The agency sent a statement out to reporters on Wednesday refuting the Post’s claims and arguing that projects that were scaled back are evidence of how deep the impact of the economic recession has been.

HUD acknowledged that the HOME program could be improved. In its statement to the press challenging the Post’s article, the agency pointed to the proposed rule for the HOME program that it announced last week to increase oversight, require additional reporting and improve the vetting of partners that are chosen for projects.

But HUD also argued that the HOME program is performing better than the private market and points out that in its 20 years of operation, the program has produced more than 1 million affordable homes and helped 440,000 individuals become new homebuyers.

The last round of investigations sparked a Congressional hearing and vehement defenses of HUD from affordable housing proponents. With proposed rules already on the table to reform the program’s oversight, it seems that the earlier investigation had a policy impact. It remains to be seen what the fallout from the additional media scrutiny will be this time around.

Subscribers to Local/State Funding Report should look to their Nov. 21 issue for more in-depth coverage of this story.

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