Audit blasts city housing program
Attempts to construct affordable units are barely monitored
The city's efforts at developing more affordable housing have suffered from poor monitoring of agreements with contractors and a lack of clear-cut policies, said the city auditor.
In a report released yesterday, city Auditor Les Tanaka also criticized the city administration for directing at least $3.2 million of about $4.5 million collected for affordable-housing initiatives into the city's general fund instead.
"Despite the public's outcry to solve affordable-housing issues and the high priority placed on this dilemma, we found that the city's efforts have fallen short," the report said.
The report was made public soon after Mayor Mufi Hannemann hired a housing coordinator and as the City Council considers a series of bills and resolutions relating to affordable housing.
"The report will be helpful to the Council to coming up with policies relating to affordable housing," said Councilman Romy Cachola, chairman of the Council's committee on affordable housing, who plans a public meeting next week to discuss the report's findings.
The report mainly criticizes the city Department of Planning and Permitting, which took over many responsibilities relating to affordable housing in 1998 after the dismantling of a city housing department.
It says DPP fails to monitor "unilateral agreements" set up with affordable-housing contractors and is doing a poor job of keeping records of housing data and inventory.
In response the department's director, Henry Eng, disputes much of the auditor's findings, saying the city has not failed in its affordable-housing goals and that no significant opportunities were lost because of its current unilateral agreement policies.
Eng acknowledged that the department is unable to monitor unilateral agreement reports because of staffing shortages. There is just one full-time worker with this responsibility versus five employees in previous years. However, Tanaka said the department had ample time in requesting more or relocating resources since taking this responsibility nine years ago.
Tanaka makes several recommendations, including establishing formal policies when administering unilateral agreements to ensure more accountability.
Eng also said the department is updating its policies on unilateral agreements, which are up for public comment in the next few weeks.
An affordable-housing package recently introduced addresses many of the audit's findings, said Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz. The package provides incentives for contractors wanting to build affordable housing, which includes essentially eliminating unilateral agreements to create more transparency.
The package would also set up a community land trust and grant program to ensure money for the city's affordable-housing fund is spent appropriately.
"There's no accountability for the money being spent," Dela Cruz said yesterday. "We have to fix the problem. We already got a jump start with the affordable-housing bills and resolutions introduced. It shows that we're moving in the right direction."