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.
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Mobile Housing Board

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...

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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.”...

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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...

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Housing Board calls for furloughs, facility closure in budget decisions

The Mobile Housing Board hopes furlough days for employees and the planned closing of an assisted living facility will help fill a funding gap in its budget. Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn said the budget revisions, which were approved at the board’s regular meeting this morning, will include an anticipated six to eight furlough days. The days are expected to impact all 120 employees of the board and its nonprofit partner, Mobile Development Enterprises. The furloughs will begin in about two weeks. The furlough days will save the board between $150,000 and $200,000 this year. READ OUR ONGOING SERIES OF...

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Mobile Housing Board loses $88,000 in first quarter

The Mobile Housing Board (MHB) lost nearly $88,000 in the first three months of its fiscal year, according to financial information provided during a regular meeting May 13. The board failed to meet its projected revenues in the first quarter and although expenses remained below the budgeted amount for the same January through March time period, it wasn’t enough to avoid a losing quarter, MHB Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Lori Shackleford said during a presentation to the board. Revenues were off projections by nearly $500,000, while expenditures were about $415,550 under budget. Shackleford said the staff has done a good job spending less than what was budgeted. She told board members the housing board administration would present a revised budget, which would include three mandatory furlough days for employees to try to close the gap. “We budgeted furlough days, but haven’t taken any,” Shackleford said. “Scheduling those days may be something we need to do as part of the budget revision.” Board member Norman Hill calculated that if the budget is not revised, the board could lose about $800,000 by year’s end. Part of the loss can be attributed to $107,000 the board didn’t receive in dwelling rent, Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn said, attributing the shortcoming to both a lower level of occupancy than was budgeted and residents who were unable to pay rent. One remedy,...

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HUD to allow Mobile Housing Board to sell vacant complex

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to allow the Mobile Housing Board to sell off Josephine Allen Homes, MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn said during a meeting Wednesday morning. The 292-unit housing complex north of downtown has been vacant and boarded up for some time, which has affected funding from the federal department through “historically low” occupancy rates, but Vaughn told board members they recently got HUD permission to sell the property. Vaughn told board members if the property doesn’t sell they would petition HUD once again to allow demolition of the complex, in order to boost those occupancy rates. Bids for the property will go out in about 30 to 60 days, once a new appraisal is completed, Vaughn said. The property was last appraised in 2011. The property would be open to commercial or other development, he said. “The property would be offered for public sale,” Vaughn wrote in an email message, following the meeting. “There would be no restrictions on who could bid. The bidding process would be open to all, for whatever purpose the buyer deemed appropriate.” Vaughn added that HUD would have no future interest in the property once the sale is finalized. When asked if there was any chance the current structures at the Josephine Allen complex could be rehabbed by a developer, Vaughn said “they’ll have to come...

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Housing Board postpones first two regular meetings of year

The Mobile Housing Board postponed its regularly scheduled meetings in January and February. Both original meetings were rescheduled due to failure to reach a quorum, Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn wrote in an email message over the weekend. “The originally scheduled meeting was postponed due largely to illness of some of the members and business travel out of the city by another,” Vaughn wrote. The board held a makeup January meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The February board meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 11, will now be held on Wednesday, Feb. 25. “The meeting was not held due to a lack of quorum, caused in part by unexpected business travel for two members and a serious illness by a third,” Vaughn wrote. The January meeting marked the first for Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s newest board appointee, Joyce Freeman. “It is my pleasure to appoint Ms. Freeman,” Stimpson said. “She brings an honest voice to this leadership team and I’m sure she will fulfill her duties with integrity.” Freeman replaced Ruby Lang, whose term expired last year. Freeman lives in public housing, fulfilling the board’s requirement to appoint at least one tenant. In addition to her position on the board, Freeman is president of the resident association of Central Plaza Tower. She is a lifelong resident of Mobile and graduated from Bishop State Community College. Her four-year term expires in January...

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Housing Board receives another ‘substandard management’ designation

For the second straight year, the Mobile Housing Board received a substandard management designation from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and for the second straight year, MHB Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn blames low occupancy rates for the poor score. A Dec. 12 letter addressed to MHB Chairman Clarence Ball from Robert Kenner, HUD director of public housing, noted that the board received a score of 14 out of 25 through the Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS), which is a failure. The board received an overall score of 68 out of 100 through the end of fiscal year 2013. MHB was also given a substandard designation through the end of fiscal year 2012. In both years, Vaughn said the score was hurt by vacancies at Josephine Allen Homes and the Roger Williams community, which are largely blighted and unsuitable for habitation. An MHB request to demolish 292 units at Josephine Allen is still pending through HUD, Vaughn said, adding that they’ve also made a similar request for the Roger Williams community. “As the 292 units of Josephine Allen have been vacant for more than two years, unless HUD approves the request, these vacancies continue to count against MHB and make it difficult to achieve higher occupancy scores,” Vaughn said. “Thus, there was no real change in MHB’s position from 2012 to 2013 as HUD approval of Josephine Allen...

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