For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, DC (April 27, 2023) – The DC Housing Authority (DCHA), which runs public housing and the federal housing voucher program in DC is funded with approximately $236.8 million of DC taxpayer money (FY23). However, as a quasi-independent agency, it does not have to disclose to taxpayers or the Council much of their spending and operations. This problem came to light when DCHA Director Brenda Donald refused to answer questions from Councilmember Robert White about agency spending and executive bonuses at a recent Housing Committee budget hearing.
White, who chairs the Housing Committee Housing said, “You can’t ask for hundreds of millions of dollars from DC taxpayers in one breath and in the next breath say you’re not going to answer questions about agency spending. District residents rely on DCHA for one of the most essential things, housing. We can’t do effective oversight in support of our residents if we don’t know how the agency is running, and we need transparency if we’re going to help DCHA overcome a deep lack of trust that residents have in the agency.”
To rebuild trust and transparency, Councilmember White created a series of financial reforms in the Committee on Housing’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, which the committee passed yesterday.
“These reforms will put needed sunlight on the agency so we can home in on what is broken and fix it. This is how we put DCHA on track to serve District residents,” said White.
The Committee mandated an annual independent financial audit of DCHA overseen by the Office of the Inspector General, which already manages a similar audit of nearly all other DC agencies. This audit will give the Council and residents a full understanding of DCHA’s budget and spending.
The Committee budget imposes a 10% limitation on DCHA executive bonuses – the same limitation that applies to other DC agencies – as a measure of accountability that does not exist today.
The Committee requires recurring reports to the Mayor, Council, and Attorney General on key operational concerns, including the areas for improvement highlighted in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reportfrom October 2022.
To further build confidence in the agency, the Housing Committee budget proposal requires the DCHA Board and executive leadership to participate in ethics, budgeting, and public housing management training to prepare them for the detailed technical requirements of running a HUD-recognized public housing authority.
White said that DCHA will continue to struggle to meet the District’s housing needs without a substantial culture change. “Transparency and accountability are the path to better public housing and a modern housing voucher program. I believe we will get there and I will keep trying to work with DCHA leadership and the DCHA Board.”
Devon Haynes, Communications Director
# # #