Public HousingHousing Agency Officials Want More Flexibility in Replacing Deteriorated Housing Gao ID: T-RCED-94-159 March 22, 1994
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) classified more than a dozen large public housing authorities (PHA) as "troubled" because the public housing they manage is plagued with excessive vacancy rates. Although public housing vacancy rates nationwide are eight percent, troubled agencies average more than double that because many deteriorated properties are unlivable and have no tenants. Until PHAs can demolish or dispose of these properties, HUD continues to pay PHAs large sums to prevent further deterioration. Housing agency officials told GAO that a maze of interrelated constraints prevents them from replacing worn out and often vacant or crime-ridden housing with livable stock. These officials said that because of inflexible rules and red tape, they spend millions of dollars on vacant properties and more money to rehabilitate aging buildings than it would have cost to build new ones. HUD officials characterized the process of public housing replacement as gridlock. This testimony discusses (1) the one-for-one replacement statute that requires replacing every demolished or disposed of public housing unit with one meeting acceptable housing standards; (2) site and neighborhood standards that seek to avoid over-concentrations of minorities or persons receiving federal assistance; and (3) HUD oversight of troubled housing agencies.