Mobile Housing Board

Despite plans for multimillion-dollar redevelopment projects, the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners has been beset by financial shortcomings and dilapidating infrastructure. From reprimands from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a lawsuit from former employees to the recent resignations of a longtime commissioner and executive director, the board has continued with plans to update its affordable housing stock.

Mobile Housing Board

MDE is unlike housing board partners in other cities

Like the Mobile Housing Board, neighboring housing authorities in New Orleans, Huntsville and Birmingham use nonprofit arms to manage everything from the distribution of tax credits to resident services, but none had the scope of responsibility Mobile Development Enterprises has. MDE has 23 employees, not including a maintenance crew once part of MHB’s vacancy reduction program. The maintenance employees have since been laid off, executive director Dwayne Vaughn said in a previous Lagniappe interview. Previous Lagniappe reporting and a report released last month by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General revealed that MDE and the board share office space, phone lines and bank accounts. A source familiar with the inner workings of the board’s central office said some MHB employees would complete assignments for the nonprofit. The OIG report also found that while MHB considers MDE a third-party affiliate and not technically part of the authority, its board included two MHB members and its executive director served as the nonprofit’s president. MDE still manages the WEALTH program, which provides a variety of education and job placement opportunities for residents. The program also provides health services such as free eye exams and annual checkups, as well as classes on life skills. MDE is also involved in the housing authority’s day care program, community relations, grant writing and asset management, Vaughn said. Comparatively, the Housing Authority of...

Read More

Housing Board’s vacancy reduction program examined

While a Mobile Housing Board official praised a program aimed at addressing an issue that was the focus of a blistering federal audit, both former and current employees called it a waste of money. In an email message sent earlier this month, MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn called the agency’s Vacancy Reduction Program, or VRP, a “success.” He wrote that the plan, which was later called an “occupancy initiative,” was devised as a way to address the board’s “significant occupancy concerns.” The program was approved by HUD’s Alabama field office in 2011. “The VRP was approved by HUD-Birmingham on January 27, 2011, and fully operational on July 18, 2011,” Vaughn wrote. “Since the initiation of the VRP/OI occupancy effort, some 1,589 units have been turned, made ready, come online or otherwise leased. Moreover, all of the original units identified in the original VRP have been addressed, excepting those then-vacant units in Roger Williams Homes and Thomas James.” Vaughn said the program was multi-pronged. The plan was to demolish two obsolete sites — Roger Williams Homes and Josephine Allen — where some 90 percent of the board’s vacancies existed, as well as work to fill vacancies in other communities. The plan also sought to curb the number of move-outs to below national averages. The program was ultimately hurt by move-outs, Vaughn wrote. “We believe VRP/OI were successful. Unfortunately, MHB did...

Read More

Mobile Housing Board accused of financial noncompliance, conflict of interest

While an investiagtion into the Mobile Housing Board by the HUD Office of the Inspector General pointed directly to the awarding of a multimillion-dollar contract to a company owned by the half-brother of State Rep. Adline Clarke, even more questionable connections appear to exist between the Clarke and those who may have benefited from MHB and MDE work. Clarke is a vice president of the board’s nonprofit arm, Mobile Development Enterprises. Frank Seltzer, who state records list as president of Superior Masonry — a company that received more than $3 million worth of work from 2011 to 2015, as...

Read More

More than 5,000 on housing board’s waiting lists

More than 5,000 people are currently waiting for apartments or housing choice vouchers through the Mobile Housing Board, Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn recently confirmed in an email message. Although vouchers and rentals mean revenue for the authority, the MHB was unable to award vouchers to 4,808 people following a June 23-27 application window, Vaughn wrote, when a total of 6,257 people applied. There are also 668 people currently waiting for apartments in MHB’s 12 complexes. The wait time on the voucher list, which allows low-income renters and families rental assistance in a private complex, is anywhere from 12 to 24 months, Vaughn wrote. “The challenge to providing more families with housing does not stem from the number of families on the public housing waiting lists, although several properties could benefit from more robust waiting lists,” Vaughn wrote. “Rather, the challenge is the desirability of the communities, along with the age of the properties, their obsolete infrastructure and a reduction in the federal funding MHB receives that makes it difficult to spend the resources necessary to make apartments ready for rent.” The amount of money required to make some of the MHB apartments ready to lease runs anywhere from $1,000 to more than $30,000, he said, explaining “these circumstances are part of the reasons MHB is embarking on the Housing Transformation Plan 2020 and pursuing the Rental Assistance Demonstration program.”...

Read More

HUD inspector reviewing housing board’s books

Mobile Housing Board (MHB) Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn informed board members last week that the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had visited in a “routine review of [MHB] financial operations, as part of [HUD] plans to review a number of housing boards each year.” “The review is just starting,” he wrote in an email message following the meeting. Inspector General spokeswoman Marta Metelko confirmed an audit is underway, but did not specify whether it is a routine review. In the same email message, Vaughn said a separate review was...

Read More