Update to Community on Hoboken Housing Authority’s Management Transition
I write to update the community on the HHA’s management transition and the condition of the authority.
The HHA is facing severe financial and physical problems. Really, it is in a state of crisis. The budget is overspent and the HHA is in a severe financial crunch. Our recent audit revealed a plethora of issues, including frequent violations of NJ and federal laws, and HUD has informed us that they are going to subject the HHA to a $0 procurement threshold because of the very concerning results of their recent procurement review. This means that every HHA procurement will have to be approved by HUD. The very strict oversight will likely result in some initial hardship, but the HHA is taking steps to mitigate that by fleshing out the inventory tracking system and enforcing a comprehensive preventive maintenance program.
The current lack of internal control mechanisms to track preventative maintenance, inventory, and vendor contracts is the reason maintenance issues go unaddressed for so long. The administrative issues may seem boring, but they are the foundation upon which the authority is built. If they are weak or failing, so is the HHA.
In addition to the administrative and financial issues in the public housing management, the Housing Choice Voucher Program is also in crisis. The HHA’s HCVP program is in shortfall, which means that the funds being expended to help subsidize rents for hundreds of low income residents exceeds the amount the HHA is getting from the government and administrative fees. HUD’s offices are collaborating with the HHA to minimize the shortfall and get us on the right track, but the extent of the problem is not yet clear.
To guide the HHA out of this difficult time, the Board is bringing in experts. Acting Director Richard Fox is currently managing the day to day operations of the HHA and the HHA is negotiating an interlocal agreement with West New York whose director is Robert DaVincent. Together, Mr. Fox and Mr. DaVincent bring a combined 60 years of executive director experience to the table and are skilled at guiding housing authorities out of troubled times. We are aggressively pursuing solutions to longstanding maintenance problems, such as the elevators constantly being down and security issues. We are working to replenish our inventory so when a resident calls in with a maintenance issue, we do not have to wait for the part to come in, we already have it. It’s going to take some time to right the ship, but the HHA Board and staff are committed to moving beyond this crisis.
My goal is to get the HHA out of crisis mode and to a point where the authority is humming along in an established routine. It’s going to take some time, but once we have achieved that, we can tackle our infrastructure issues. It’s not fair for residents to be living in apartments with constant leaks and mold. It’s not fair for residents to be out of power for days because of corroded electrical panels. It’s not fair for senior citizens to be forced to navigate steep stairs because of unreliable elevators. And we must fix that. We must bring the buildings into the 21st century and all residents should feel secure that they will not be displaced in the process. To be clear: No residents’ home is threatened in any way.
I hope that the Board and residents will have a productive and ongoing dialogue about the HHA’s future. I encourage all residents and members of the community to attend our meetings and voice their views. The Board, residents, and staff are strongest when they are united toward a common goal. Come, tell us what your goals are for the HHA, and let’s work together to navigate this crisis and plan for the HHA’s future.
Dana Wefer, Chairperson of the Hoboken Housing Authority