The Annapolis Housing Authority has received a “troubled” grade for fiscal year 2022 on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Public Housing Assessment. The total score required for the standard designation is 70; HACA scored 43.

The PHA is a system that HUD uses to assess a public housing authority’s performance in managing its low-rent public housing programs. The assessment looks at four categories: physical, financial, management and capital fund program.

“The score and designation are not a surprise,” Executive Director Melissa Maddox-Evans said. “HUD positions this as an interim score and HACA has the opportunity and plans to appeal.”

The authority, or HACA, had a previous score of 61 for 2018 and no score for 2019 and 2020 due to COVID.

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One of the key items on HACA’s physical assessment is aging structures beyond their useful lifespan, according to Maddox-Evans. The score doesn’t reflect properties that are in the midst of redevelopment, such as the Morris H. Blum Senior Apartments.

The financial assessment considers rent collected and audit scores. HUD waived the requirement for housing authorities to submit audits in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. However, last year HUD began requiring that authorities submit audits again, which resulted in auditors for housing authorities receiving all the requests at once. This created a staggered effect due to backlogs and HACA staffing shortages, Maddox-Evans said.

HUD gave housing authorities the opportunity to seek a waiver, but federal housing officials denied HACA’s request, saying its reasons were insufficient, Maddox-Evans said.

A HUD spokesperson said the wavier was denied because there was no good cause for an extension.

“When PHAs do not submit financial information timely, they receive a Late Presumptive Fail (LPF), and lose all points associated with the financial indicator of PHAS,” the spokesperson said. “The LPF also results in an automatic troubled designation. HACA did not submit its FY22 audited financial information timely to HUD, and was denied the requested waiver, thus HACA lost all points for the financial indicator and was automatically troubled, irrespective of the total score from other PHAS indicators.”

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The management assessment considers low occupancy rates. She said it’s taking longer to fill vacant units because of the city’s rental license requirement. Inspections and licensing are completed according to the scheduling and staffing availability of city staff and not HUD’s timeframe.

The optimal period to turn around an open unit for HUD is 20 days or less.

“I’ve told HUD officials and city officials we are not able to comply with HUD’s requirements because of local city requirements for licensing. We do not control the schedule of inspectors,” Maddox-Evans said.

Another issue for occupancy, she said, is that families aren’t applying for three- or four-bedroom units as much as they once did.

“The only way I can change the housing mix as far as bedroom size is through doing redevelopment. When we do redevelopment, we can reconfigure bedroom sizes based on the actual … composition of families that live there and based on market studies of the type of demographic that needs housing now,” Maddox- Evans said.

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HACA received a perfect score on the capital fund assessment, which assesses the period that it takes a public housing authority to obligate the funds provided to it.

Maddox-Evans emphasized that the label of “troubled” does not indicate, imply, or lead to administrative “receivership” or to HUD appointing someone to make improvements to the local housing authority.

The PHA score also will not affect the Choice Neighborhoods Planning grant to redevelop Eastport Terrace and Harbor House, two properties in the HACA portfolio. In November, HUD awarded $450,000 in federal grant funding to begin the development of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization plan.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley told The Banner: “The City is committed to our investment to reimagine Eastport Terrace and Harbour House through the Choice Neighborhoods alongside other initiatives to rebuild and rehabilitate public housing. The City will continue to work cooperatively with HACA on this project and in support of safe and affordable housing for all Annapolis residents.”

HUD and the city authority will work together to develop a two-year recovery plan. HUD will outline deliverables based on scoring, and the local authority will discuss what they’re able to reasonably achieve and what will be difficult to achieve.

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Going forward, HACA, HUD and the city will hold meetings to create operational plans and partnership opportunities aimed at bringing scores back up.

Royale Bonds attended Southern Illinois University. Go Salukis! She previously worked as an affordable housing reporter in Greenville, South Carolina. Royale enjoys long naps, snacking and endless scrolling on social media. She looks forward to reporting on Anne Arundel County and covering the stories that matter.

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