The Northwest Oregon Housing Authority was flagged as “troubled” in January by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development following an audit report.
The federal agency gave the housing authority, which helps low-income people in Clatsop, Tillamook and Columbia counties, a score of 52 out of a possible 100 points for the fiscal year ending in June. Housing authorities are deemed “troubled” if they score between 0 to 60.
Following an on-site review, the score dropped to 7.
“It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it does … on occasion happen,” Leland Jones, a regional public affairs officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said of the “troubled” score.
The audit report was conducted under the Section Eight Management Assessment Program. The housing authority was given 13 recommendations to help come into compliance with federal regulatory requirements.
“Given all of the requirements and regulations, it’s not unusual for us to find that there are procedures that aren’t quite being followed and regulations that aren’t quite being followed by our grantees,” Jones said. “It’s just in this particular instance there is a not inconsiderable number of issues they need to address, and we’re confident they will.”
The recommendations mainly focus on documentation, record keeping and timeliness in reporting information.
Todd Johnston, the housing authority’s executive director, countered that many of the problems highlighted in the audit report are incorrect.
The housing authority has appealed several of the findings. Johnston believes once federal auditors review the appeal the score will increase.
Johnston said some of the issues, like supplying documentation, were a result of being short-staffed. He said some of the issues were also due to software challenges. He said the Department of Housing and Urban Development is offering funding to improve software to avoid issues in the future.
“The insinuations from this report that there’s problems with the agency is incorrect because we can demonstrate that there’s not,” Johnston said.
Clatsop County Commissioner Pamela Wev has served on the board of the housing authority for the past year and believes the audit report raised valid concerns. But she said communication between the authority, the board and regulators has been positive.
“The executive director handed me, the next day, a three- or- four-page response to the negative HUD audit and I thought it was quite robust. I think it was addressing some issues that they were actually objecting to, with pushback,” Wev said during a county Board of Commissioners meeting this month.
“They are now working with HUD, and HUD has been just terrific in helping the staff,” she said.