WASHINGTON – In an effort to restore public confidence and accountability to the Gary, Indiana Housing Authority (GHA), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced a mutual agreement with the City to work together to reverse years of financial mismanagement, improve physical conditions and increase occupancy rates.
“HUD will stand with the City in addressing the shortcomings at the agency,” said HUD Assistant Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez, who announced the receivership today. “We respect the mayor’s commitment to the city and its public housing residents to take this bold and courageous step.”
Citing a decade of neglect, Henriquez and Freeman-Wilson signed a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement to address administrative, financial and management concerns at the agency. HUD will lead the effort to help get GHA back on track. Freeman-Wilson noted that this move was a resident-centered decision and is expected to improve the quality of life for the residents of GHA.
“Upon a lengthy assessment of operations at GHA, we have determined that the existing problems are beyond the scope of our resources and federal assistance is required,” said Freeman-Wilson. “This decision was made with the residents in mind, and I am appreciative of HUD’s partnership and look forward to this change resulting in the high quality of housing that Gary citizens deserve.”
In a separate letter, Freeman-Wilson acknowledged the hard work of the GHA Board of Directors and thanked them for their extraordinary efforts during her tenure.
Henriquez named two HUD employees who will assist the agency effective immediately. Willie Garrett was named executive director and Steven Meiss will serve as the one-person board of directors. Garrett is the Public Housing Director in HUD’s Detroit Field Office with 15 years of housing experience in both the private and public sector. He will work directly with the housing authority staff to manage day-to-day operations to ensure residents will continue receiving services. Meiss is the Public Housing Director in HUD’s Chicago Field Office and a HUD-veteran with more than 36 years of housing experience. He has also served in a board capacity for other housing agencies that are under HUD control, most recently the Detroit Housing Commission and earlier the East St. Louis (Ill.) Housing Authority.
Under the partnership agreement, HUD will first develop a detailed action plan to stabilize the housing authority’s operations. The second step will be to address specific problems HUD identified in a comprehensive review of the agency’s operations. The receivership period will be for at least two years. Interim GHA Executive Director Mary Cossey will remain at the agency to assist with the turnaround efforts.
This partnership with HUD will allow GHA to implement a new property management structure, modernize each of the housing developments and establish a well-defined business and operation plan, and adequate financial management systems.
“The challenges that plague the Gary Housing Authority did not occur overnight,” said Henriquez. “Despite HUD and the city’s efforts over the years, the agency is not where it should be. This agreement is the beginning to the agency’s path to recovery.”
The mayor also stated that town hall meetings for GHA residents will be held next week and will be open to the media and members of the public.
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