Housing Authority in Trouble With HUD

Federal audit says Housing Authority of the City of Austin could have to repay $588,130 to Department of Housing and Urban Development for overpayment of Section 8 vouchers

The Housing Authority of the City of Austin could be forced to repay $588,130 to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for overpayment of Section 8 tenant vouchers, according to recommendations in a federal audit released this month.

The potential penalty sounds dire, but on the scale of misdeeds and miscalculations, this is a minor misstep for Austin's housing authority. The audit, completed by HUD's Office of Inspector General, tags and audits suspected cases of "overhousing." In Austin, the vouchers of 662 tenants over the last three years were pulled because the voucher size appeared to exceed the needs of the members of the household.

The circumstances varied: An extra relative could be living with the family, a live-in caretaker might no longer live in the unit, or a change in the family unit – such as a divorce – went unreported to the housing authority in order to keep a larger apartment. Of the 662 suspect vouchers reviewed, HUD considered 180 families to be "overhoused."

"It wasn't a surprise to us," HACA president James Hargrove admitted. "We knew that we would see some problems in the audit, but we felt like there was adequate justification in our files. It's something we should have paid more attention to." Housing authorities must be vigilant for a certain degree of fraud in Section 8 vouchers, he said. That includes the "overhousing" issue. In the bigger picture, though, the $588,000 represents less than 2% of the $33 million the housing authority receives each year, Hargrove said. It's a tiny fraction of the total families served. "If we find any fraud, we will investigate it. We've turned numerous cases over to the district attorney's office," he said. "In the big picture, though, we are housing 5,025 families every night in Austin with very few problems."

The infraction also is fairly minor compared to some of HACA's past violations, Hargrove said. When Hargrove came on board nine years ago, the housing authority was in HUD's sights for failing to use all of its available units. At the time, a total of 330 units in the city actually were boarded up and unused, despite a waiting list of 6,000. That waiting list is still 6,000, but every available unit is now being used, and Hargrove and his board are looking for new ways to expand housing stock.

Hargrove is optimistic a resolution can be reached with HUD. A meeting is scheduled next week to work out details on any potential fine.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    Street Racing a Deadly Game

    Slaughter Lane, where the big Sept. 11 double-fatality wreck took place, is one of the city's most raced-down streets, according to APD

    The Good Fight

    Former Mayor Gus Garcia suits up for Las Manitas
  • Sustainable Living

    Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair is the place to learn about cutting-edge clean-energy technologies, as well as a one-stop shop for people wanting greener homes and natural backyard gardens

    Hurricane Housing Update

    Federal housing assistance 'recertification' deadline for hurricane evacuees looms for both landlords and their tenants

    Weed Watch

    Even Willie is getting busted these days

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Housing Authority of the City of Austin
(Not) For Rent
(Not) For Rent
New state law blocks Austin housing ordinance

Mary Tuma, Sept. 4, 2015

Section 8 Reopens
Section 8 Reopens
Hurry up ... and wait!

Amy Smith, Oct. 3, 2014

More by Kimberly Reeves
Right-Wing Funded Civitas Institute Is Almost Up and Running at UT-Austin
Right-Wing Funded Civitas Institute Is Almost Up and Running at UT-Austin
Classes focused on “liberty” start this fall

March 27, 2024

"People's Summit" Aims to Refocus State's Attention on Last Year's Freeze Disaster
Winter Storm Uri death toll may be more than 800

Feb. 17, 2022


Housing Authority of the City of Austin, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Section 8 vouchers, James Hargrove

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle