Delay In Naming Housing Panel Perils Hud $27m

Posted: October 07, 1988

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is quietly planning to hold up $26.9 million from the Philadelphia Housing Authority because it believes Mayor Goode is reneging on a promise, according to federal government sources.

At HUD's behest, Goode promised in March that he would set up a task force to study housing authority problems and recommend solutions.

Eight months after the mayor's promise, there still isn't a task force.

Through a spokeswoman, Goode said he had asked Edward Schwartz, his housing director, to work on the task force.

Schwartz said an announcement of the task force's existence was imminent. He took the blame for not having created it until now, and acknowledged that not all of the potential members have been asked to join yet.

"It was nothing other than the inertia of summer vacations that slowed it down," Schwartz said.

In recent studies and audits, HUD has said that the housing authority has too many vacant apartments, a "woefully inadequate" maintenance system, an increasing number of tenants who don't pay their rent and a poor procurement system.

The $26.9 million HUD wants to sit on would pay for major repairs -including elevators - at many of the authority's 29 housing projects. Several tenants have been killed or seriously injured while playing or riding in the elevators.

The awarding of the major-repairs grant was supposed to be announced last week, when other public housing authorities around the country received word they'd get similar grants. But the Philadelphia Housing Authority wasn't on the list.

A HUD source said he did not know when PHA would be notified about whether it is getting the grant.

But Gregory Kern, PHA's executive director, said he believed he would get the money "any day."

If HUD goes through with its plans to hold up the money, it will be the second time in two years the agency has withheld funds from a Philadelphia housing agency because it was dissatisfied with the way its money was spent.

In 1986, HUD was so frustrated with the way the Goode administration was running its Community Development Block Grant program that it held up $13 million of the $52 million grant. That money wasn't fully returned to the city until June.

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