The Charlotte Housing Authority has made dramatic improvements since a 2008 assessment found extensive bookkeeping flaws in its Section 8 program, a newly released study found.
The improvements are detailed in a report shared this week by Washington, D.C.-based Quadel Consulting, the same independent group that completed the study done more than four years ago.
According to Quadels latest report, the housing authority made significant progress in almost every area of the program, and for those areas that represent major financial and audit risk to the authority, the improvement has been dramatic.
Areas with financial or audit concerns include the accuracy of the authoritys payments to landlords and how the authority determined tenant eligibility and reasonable rents for units.
Board members called for the newest Quadel assessment last year after a former employee leaked the 2008 report to one of them.
That report, which wasnt shared with the full board, found a litany of paperwork errors within the housing authoritys Section 8 program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Errors ranged from failing to document criminal background checks to failing to provide complete information on property owners.
Those problems have since been erased, according to this weeks report.
For example, Quadel found:
• 100 percent of the Section 8 files contained the necessary form stating that a criminal background check was conducted and passed (up from 40 percent in 2008).
• 96 percent contained tenants correct utility allowance (up from 25 percent in 2008).
• 89 percent contained the latest voucher, signed and dated (up from 58 percent in 2008).
I was proud of everything, said A. Fulton Meachem Jr., CEO of the housing authority. To be a high performer is as good as it gets in our industry.
Fulton joined the authority last October after leading the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
The voucher program uses federal dollars to help low-income residents pay rent. In general, a familys income must be less than 50 percent of the areas median income, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Charlotte Housing Authority currently manages 5,400 Section 8 vouchers.
Because he recently joined the authority, Meachem said he couldnt pinpoint the specific reason for the improvement, though he praised staff members hard work.
Charles Woodyard, who now heads Chicagos public housing program, was Charlottes CEO four years ago.
Housing authority board member Will Miller said it was possible that the release of the 2008 assessment spurred the improvements.
He also praised Meachem, adding that Meachem was creating a new culture that will improve performance.
But there is still work to do, Miller said.
The most recent Quadel assessment, which cost $66,700, also included a review of the authoritys public housing program.
The Charlotte Housing Authority provides an estimated 3,300 public housing units, officials said.
Within the public housing program, Quadel found:
• 9 percent of the files did not contain the required criminal background check documentation.
• 15 percent did not contain completed documentation of citizenship status.
• 22 percent did not contain the required identity documentation.
Quadel was later able to confirm citizenship and identity using HUD files, the report states.
Weve got work to do, Miller said, but I feel progress has been made.
Deronda Metz, director of social services for the Salvation Army, said she was stunned by the unflattering 2008 findings, adding that the housing authority has always been a stickler for compliance rules and regulations. For the past two years, the Salvation Army has partnered with the authority to offer 60 families housing and social services.
Im not surprised at all they corrected what they needed to, Metz said.
Neither was Darren Ash, executive director of Charlotte Family Housing.
Like the Salvation Army, Charlotte Family Housing partners with the housing authority. The housing authority provides Ashs group with 40 public housing vouchers in return for services that include social work, vocational training and volunteer engagement.
The partnership began more than a year ago.
To be quite honest, Ash said, I have not noticed any compliance issues whatsoever in our short partnership with them.