The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $270,000 in reimbursements to the federal government after a recent audit found that the county had failed to properly inspect federally subsidized housing units.
Supervisors approved the item on a 4-1 vote without discussion. Supervisor Todd Spitzer casted the lone dissenting vote.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) demanded the reimbursement “because the [Orange County Housing] Authority failed to provide current and consistent training and a complete quality control review of its inspectors,” according to the audit by the HUD inspector general.
If the housing authority does not improve its inspection process, HUD will spend over $48 million throughout the next year on fixing subsidized houses that are not up to federal standards, according to the audit report.
The $270,000 payment will reimburse the federal government for money spent on the substandard housing.
The money was given to the county through HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program, which has funded 1,154 Orange County housing units. Its focus is to help “low-income families, the elderly and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market.”
The audit looked at 80 of these units and found that more than half “were in material noncompliance with HUD standards” and that the “the [Housing] Authority’s inspectors failed to report 229 deficiencies that existed when they conducted their last inspections.”
Auditors also found that there were dozens of “conditions that jeopardized the security” of housing units, such as “windows and doors on the first floor that did not lock,” “electrical problems or conditions that could result in shock or fire,” and “conditions that presented an imminent possibility of injury.”
Auditors also found that the county failed to monitor its contractors who performed some of the inspections on the houses. Auditors looked at 21 units that contractors were supposed to inspect and found that “12 were in material noncompliance with HUD standards.”
In response to the audit, a county staff report pointed out that “no tenants have been harmed by conditions noted as deficiencies” and that the county has since repaired the issues found in the housing units by the auditors.
The report also explains “comprehensive training plans have been developed for both new and existing inspection staff, nine of whom attended off-site training in April 2016. Quality control desk procedures have also been updated.”
Kaitlin Washburn is a news intern from the University of Missouri. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter: @kwashy12.