Housing Authorities Lose Money on Red Tape

A coalition of housing authorities across the country — including Houston — is asking the government to ease up on red tape. Houston's Housing Authority operates HUD voucher programs at a loss because of the federal regulations.

The group of eleven housing authorities sent a letter to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, asking him to waive a number of requirements for operating low-income housing voucher programs.

Houston Housing Authority President Tory Gunsolley says they get 75 cents on the dollar to run the voucher program.

"We have to subsidize the program, either by cutting other areas, or using some of our non-federal money to subsidize the running of the program. He has the ability to waive some of these regulations, which would allow us to operate more efficiently."

Public housing reform has been stalled in Congress, with the last big overhaul dating back to 1998. Gunsolley says the current process could be simplified in a number of ways. One example he gives is the research and paperwork required to verify a person's assets.

"Right now we spend a lot of time calculating exactly how much income, down to the penny, a person has. And that includes looking at a savings account of you know $150 and then calculating how much interest does that savings account earn over the course of a year. It's harder than doing your taxes, actually."

The housing authorities are asking HUD to allow them to tap into an existing program which already shares income data between HUD and the IRS and reduce the duplication of efforts. They've also asked for a meeting with Secretary Donovan to discuss their recommendations.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...