For Immediate Release - April 21, 2011

Auditor Bump Finds Mixed Improvements at Local Housing Authorities

BOSTON, MA (April 21, 2011) – State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released audits that cited improvements at three local housing authorities that provide hundreds of units for seniors and families in Southwick, Auburn, and Hull.  However, the reports also revealed continued problems at Southwick and Auburn housing authorities.

Auditor Bump found that turnaround rates for vacant units got worse at Southwick Housing Authority. A previous audit criticized the authority for taking 45 days to re-rent a unit when state guidelines call for a maximum 21 day turnaround rate. Findings from today’s audit show it now takes Southwick 51 days to prepare a vacant unit for occupancy.

"Public housing is a crucial service for the most vulnerable,‖ said Auditor Bump. ―Higher turnover rates mean longer waiting lists for those in immediate need. It also means tax dollars are being wasted on higher cost motels, hotels or other interim housing."

One bright spot in the Southwick audit noted that the authority had successfully eliminated a backlog of repairs from its own annual inspection of rental units. However, OSA auditors identified 24 sanitary code violations—crumbling driveways, damaged floors and ceilings in this latest audit which included eight violations that Southwick failed to address since the last audit in 2008.

Southwick did indicate that it is working to remedy all 24 violations, and has increased maintenance hours from 20 to 40 hours per week.

Auditor Bump’s audit of the Auburn Housing Authority, which oversees 190 public housing units, found that there were no problems in its operational practices, including vacancy turnover and inspections of units. But the report did find that Auburn wasn’t properly utilizing or accounting for $88,269 in federal grants it received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The audit cited Auburn for hiring vendors without meeting the prevailing wage requirements and for keeping insufficient records on the number of jobs that the grants either created or retained.

As for the Hull Housing Authority, Auditor Bump cited several improvements in practices noted during a 2008 audit from improved vacancy turnover and record keeping, timely payment of PILOT money to Hull, and reductions in the amount of rent money the Authority cannot collect from tenants.