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Federal audit finds Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority's contractor missed problems

Mark Ferenchik

A federal inspection of Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority apartments found numerous problems, and that the agency didn't do a good job overseeing the performance of the contractor hired to manage the program.

An audit by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development states that families participating in CMHA's housing choice voucher program lived in housing units that were not always "decent, safe, and sanitary."

The inspector general reviewed 84 units and found that 48 of them had close to 250 problems.

Those problems included rotted windows, rusted furnace ductwork, water damage, insect infestation, deteriorated wiring, standing water and peeling paint.

The audit said that CMHA did not consistently stop payments to property owners for uncorrected deficiencies.

The housing authority also did not comply with HUD’s reporting and data collection requirements for cases of children with elevated blood lead levels.

The audit said those conditions occurred because CMHA's contractor "did not thoroughly inspect units in a consistent manner."

Also, the housing authority did not effectively oversee the contractor’s performance, the audit said.

CGI Federal manages the voucher program for CMHA.

The housing authority said its contract with CGI expires in March 2025.

The inspector general recommended that HUD require the housing authority to show property owners fixed the problems.

It also said CMHA needs to implement controls over inspections and stop payments for property owners who haven't fixed problems.

The inspector general estimated that over the next year, CMHA will pay property owners close to $36 million in housing assistance for units that do not meet standards.

The housing authority released a statement that said the number of units in the inspection represents less than 1% of its units and that the agency will work to comply with HUD requirements.

It said it is studying options on how to manage the housing voucher program in the future.

"CMHA’s continuous improvements and rigorous oversight will ensure ongoing compliance with HUD's requirements and enhance the quality of housing in the communities served by CMHA," the housing authority said.

You can read the audit here.

Mark Ferenchik is news director at WOSU 89.7 NPR News.