Housing Authority moving toward solid ground

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 21, 2012



LAPLACE – With three months under her belt as executive director of the St. John the Baptist Parish Housing Authority, Trina Henderson told the board of commissioners Tuesday that the troubled agency is working its way back on track.

“There is still a limited staff, but we are constantly working to put out fires within the agency,” Henderson said. “There are still many hurdles, but we are moving forward.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Henderson allowed members of various departments to address progress regarding rent collection, accounting and maintenance.

Henderson said the agency has been able to work down its large past due water bill owed to the parish. She said both the Edgard and Garyville developments are current on water bills and Reserve has a $1,000 past due balance. The LaPlace development still has a $20,000 past due bill, but it is expected to be current by next month.

Stacy Francis, who handles the agency’s Section 8 program, said over the last nearly two years, the Housing Authority was not properly processing paperwork tied to the program.

“Forms needed for qualification were incomplete, and some were not there at all,” said Francis. “The agency was not getting paid on a large number of tenants who occupy units in St. John.”

Francis said in the past three months she has worked to boost the Housing Authority’s Public Information System Score, a mechanism used by HUD. She said in three months, the agency’s score has risen from 70 to 95. She also said she has been able to collect about $180,000 in rent from other agencies that was supposed to be paid to St. John Housing and that she is working with HUD to pinpoint and deal with fraud cases.

In maintenance, supervisor Oscar Weber said the agency is currently processing annual inspections, which had not been done since 2008.

He said many of the needed repairs are being done by on site employees.

Weber said the Housing Authority is dealing with 45 vacant units across all four developments, down from 51 last month. He said the agency is hoping to have as few as 24 by July.

In other action, the housing board was treated to a presentation from Terry Coker, a CPA from Casterline Associates who is assisting the agency in auditing its finances. Coker said her firm, which specializes in assisting housing agencies, is sifting through reports from as far back as 2008, which is the last time the Housing Authority was given an unqualified, or clean, audit.

“She is getting our house in order so that we can move ahead in compiling a budget,” Henderson said.