Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, through his in-house attorney, accused the federal housing authorities of a “capricious” and politically-motivated decision to end a contract with the city that helped provide healthcare centers at housing projects, summer job programs for at-risk youths and housing and services for poor people.
“The hasty decision to implement this dramatic policy change in the last days of a presidential administration raises serious questions about the motivation behind the change,” said Thomas Saenz, counsel to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He added that given the city’s current financial circumstances, it would be “extremely hard if not impossible” to make up the nearly $8 million in lost funds.
So the city filed a lawsuit Monday.
That in any case is how the L.A. Times tells the story, noting at the end that “also on Monday, in an unrelated move, HUD’s inspector general released a report that said nearly two-thirds of the apartment units inspected by auditors in its Section 8 program did not meet minimum standards.”
In fact, the city isn’t suing to make sure the poor get badly needed services. The $8 million was for administrative overhead and the city is seeking a temporary restraining order because HACLA, the Housing Authority of the City of L.A., desperately needs the money because it’s in such a mess financially.
And worse, much worse, the Inspector General report is as damning a document as you’ll every read with photos, charts and tables showing just what kind of slum housing conditions the city is responsible for.
To see if HACLA boss Rudy Montiel — undoubtedly America’s highest paid public servant with an income from serving the poor of more than $400,000 — had improved after two bad years of audits, HUD came back and looked at 68 statistically selected units and found 43 did not meet minimum federal housing standards.
And they weren’t just a little below standard. The 43 units had 318 deficiencies — one with 39 deficiencies alone. And there’s aren’t small things. They are the stuff of slums and slumlords, filthy and unsafe conditions, plumbing in disrepair, lack of security and on and on.
In all 134 of those deficiencies existed before HACLA inspectors did their last inspections which were so poor they found only four of the 134 deficiencies.
HUD warns that the city stands to lose $65 million unless it brings these units up to standard and fixing its inspection program. Just a couple of months ago, HUD demanded the HACLA pay back more than $27 million for its incompetence.
Montiel dismisses the HUD findings without really engaging them but he seems to have the mayor’s ear.
Instead of being sickened to find out that HACLA allows landlords to get away with slum conditions, Villaraigosa goes into court with accusations that HUD’s attack on this long controversial agency and its controversial leader is a Republican dirty trick.
Does he think President-elect Barack Obama will tolerate slum conditions on property owned, operated or overseen by the City of Los Angeles when a Republican administration won’t?
Does he actually know what’s going on in the housing agency he is responsible for or what the conditions are in these units or what the report says or where the nearly $400 million HUD funnels through HACLA every year goes?
All over Los Angeles, residents complain about the city’s failure to enforce housing laws, how it tolerates slum conditions and overcrowding and substandard conditions and how there aren’t anywhere near enough Building and Safety inspectors to make a dent in the problem.
That’s a terrible thing but it’s nothing compared to the city housing programs themselves, funded by the taxpayers to help the poor, providing nothing but slum conditions in two-thirds of the units.
I’m not sure which is worse: The mayor not knowing what a poor job HACLA is doing when he talks so much about helping the poor or that he does know and chooses for whatever reasons to cover up HACLA’s failures.
What I do know for sure is that a city that allows these conditions to persist year after year is worse than a slumlord. And if the mayor and the leadership of the city won’t do anything about it, then maybe it’s up to the feds to start digging into who’s profiting on these federal dollars at the expense of the poor.