WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make public the salary data it collected from public housing authorities across the country under pressure from Grassley and amid numerous salary scandals. The Administration made only aggregate information public in announcing a salary cap proposal this week.
“Making only a handful of the information public is a missed opportunity,” Grassley said. “We’ve seen several significant gold-plated compensation packages at housing authorities. The abuses have grown in the absence of oversight. My review has shown that the housing authorities that go off the rails count on a lack of transparency to do what they want. If salaries are public, there’s a deterrent for abuse.”
This week, HUD released aggregate salary data from 2010 from the nation’s housing authorities and announced a proposal to cap the federal part of housing authority salaries. The limited information released is available here. Coverage of controversial housing authority directors’ salaries this week in Atlanta and Providence, Rhode Island is available here and here.
Grassley has been scrutinizing abuses by certain public housing authorities since 2010, working to hold HUD accountable for the way federal housing dollars are used and to protect those dollars from wasteful and abusive spending.
In addition to seeking transparency of the existing salary data, Grassley said he intends to look at the Administration’s salary cap proposal to make sure it closes the many loopholes around compensation caps. A cap on federal funding for salaries does not apply to local funding, so salaries could still be high if the local agencies choose to supplement the salaries, another reason for transparency, Grassley said. Housing authorities sometimes give bonuses and significant perks such as vehicles, accrued vacation pay, and rolling contracts that make it expensive to remove the top employee.
The federal government spends roughly $6 billion to $7 billion per year on public housing. Another $4 billion was provided by the 2009 economic stimulus legislation. More than 3,000 public housing authorities nationwide manage public housing programs. “The federal government needs to pay a lot more attention to what happens at local housing authorities,” Grassley said. “Taxpayers are paying for safe, clean public housing for those in need. HUD has to make sure the services are delivered and that the taxpayers’ money is spent as intended. Better transparency would be a good start.”
Grassley’s letter to the HUD secretary is available here.