Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | 2 a.m.
One local housing authority may hand over management of its public housing program to another in the coming weeks, a move that should help hundreds of low-income residents.
The Las Vegas Housing Authority’s board is to meet today to consider taking over the North Las Vegas Housing Authority’s 220 federally subsidized apartments, 120 of which are for senior citizens. The remainder are for families.
Despite a waiting list, about 10 percent of the units have been vacant over the past 18 months due to management problems at the North Las Vegas agency, according to its chief financial officer, Rose Carvey.
The Las Vegas agency may be able to do a better job of keeping the apartments occupied because it is larger and has more employees experienced in management, Carvey said. The change is expected to benefit current public housing residents as well.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, the main source of funding for the Las Vegas Valley’s three housing authorities, is spurring the proposed handoff of the $1.2 million program.
Larry Bush, spokesman for HUD, described the move being considered as the North Las Vegas agency “making decisions under pressure from HUD rather than having HUD impose changes.”
The North Las Vegas Housing Authority has “shown poor performance,” Bush said.
The agency received a failing score for financial management in a 2006 review and had to get an extension of a 2005 agreement to make improvements in its performance.
Carvey said her agency hasn’t gotten bad scores for its management of public housing recently. Still, she said, she thinks HUD “really wants to close down this housing authority.”
Stephanie Smith, who as a North Las Vegas City Council member is also on that city’s housing authority board, said the federal agency has set up a series of conditions “that make it impossible for you to comply.”
The public housing program being considered represents only about one-tenth of the North Las Vegas Housing Authority’s budget. Most of its $13.3 million budget goes to the Section 8 program, or vouchers that low-income residents can use to rent housing from private-sector landlords.
Carvey’s agency hasn’t been able to get experienced eligibility specialists to run the public housing program, resulting in the ongoing problems with vacancies, she said, despite a waiting list of 481 names.
Smith said the problems getting experienced specialists stem from the federal government’s widely-known interest in having another agency run the public housing program.
“It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said.
Carl Rowe, executive director of the Las Vegas agency, said his staff will be examining the federal reviews of the North Las Vegas agency before deciding whether to take over the apartments.
“We know they’re in trouble,” he said. “We just don’t know the scope of it.”
Today’s special meeting of the Las Vegas agency’s board is meant to discuss the pros and cons of the proposal.
Rowe said his agency stands to earn about $100,000 a year from managing the public housing program.
He said his staff’s reports from a first visit to the apartments left the impression that they were “not in great shape.”
“The question is, ‘Are the problems fixable?’ ” Rowe said. “If not, we’re not going to do it. We don’t want to let this housing authority in for a lot of negative press.”