The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a new score report for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, and the news is not good.
HACA scored just 42 points on a scale of 100 and was labeled a “troubled” performer, according to a Public Housing Assessment System report issued Nov. 2.
“It is very disappointing, but we can’t say that is surprising given the challenges that we are facing,” HACA Executive Director Melissa Maddox-Evans said.
HACA will appeal the evaluation, she added.
Like many of America’s 3,300 public housing authorities, HACA sought waivers and was not evaluated for 2019, 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its last report, dated Aug. 3, 2018, HACA scored a 61, earning a “substandard” rating.
The federal government scores housing authorities in four categories: physical, financial, management and capital fund. In the physical category, HACA received 29 out of 40 points. What hurt the authority in that category was Morris H. Blum Senior Housing, which is undergoing a $60 million overhaul and is no longer owned solely by HACA.
As of Aug. 30, the 154-unit Blum building on Glenwood Street is held by a limited liability corporation that includes HACA and The Community Builders, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The federal government incentivizes housing authorities to convert properties into public/private partnerships called “Rental Assistance Demonstration.”
Blum received a 34 out of 100 on its physical score, significantly lower than HACA’s other four properties. Take out Blum, Maddox-Evans said, and the score would have been much higher.
But the main reason HACA scored so poorly is that the authority failed to file financial documents on time and received 0 of 25 potential points in the financial category.
The actual revised score, Maddox-Evans said, should be 17.89. That would give HACA a cumulative score of 61, holding steady with the pre-pandemic score.
HACA was late filing those financially documents because it was short-staffed and experienced issues with outside accountants and audit teams.
The “troubled performer” rating comes as HACA faces a series of other challenges related to lawsuits, finances and public safety. In late August, Annapolis city inspectors began condemning units in Wilbourn Estates, a 78-unit apartment complex that reopened as a public/private RAD partnership in June 2022.
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Like Blum, Wilbourn Estates is no longer owned solely by HACA, but is still a headache for the housing authority. Pennrose, the developer and manager, faced tough questions at an October City Council housing committee meeting. The city’s aldermen remain concerned about mold, HVAC and plumbing issues in the year-old community. The city documented serious issues in four out of eight buildings.
Only three or four families remain in the 1101 building, resident Cherdi Henson said recently. Five or six others have received vouchers from HACA to leave or are living in hotels while their homes undergo repairs. Henson said she discovered what appears to be black mold in her air ducts after turning on the heat earlier this month.
Both HACA and the city also arewaiting for federal courts to rule on what could be a prohibitively expensive class-action lawsuit. An attorney representing approximately 1,500 past and present residents at Harbour House and Eastport Terrace sued the city, alleging that by failing to inspect HACA properties, the city was discriminating against Black public housing residents.
The city countersued HACA, and the judge has allowed the case to move forward, creating a tense dynamic between the two entities.
In addition, nearly 200 HACA residents owe the housing authority back rent. At a September board meeting, HACA staff told the board its best recourse is garnishing tax refunds from residents who are scheduled to receive them in 2024.
“A lot can be said around what all this means,” Maddox-Evans said, speaking of the low scores. But, she added, the housing authority remains optimistic that it can continue moving forward to convert properties through the RAD process and to continue to raise the scores of communities that are left.