Housing Authority moving beyond recent past

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 27, 2013

By David Vitrano

LAPLACE – The Housing Authority of St. John the Baptist Parish is finally starting to dig its way out of the financial and reporting problems that have plagued its existence in recent years, according to Executive Director Trina Henderson’s latest report.
“I am looking for it to be a productive fiscal year,” said Henderson.
Her optimistic words came after months of work by her and her staff to track down financial and other records, the absence of which has caused the Department of Housing and Urban Development to decline issuing an opinion on the agency’s recent financial reports. But the Housing Authority recently resubmitted its 2012 audit after correcting earlier deficiencies.
“That was a major undertaking,” she said. “We worked really hard over the past year. We’re slowly coming out of some of those deficiencies that were noted over the past couple of years.”
Now the agency is free to turn its attention to its 2013 audit, which Henderson said should be submitted by the March 31, 2014, deadline. That has not happened in several years. By meeting the deadline, the Housing Authority will also clear the path to much-needed state funding.
“We won’t be penalized,” she said.
Work has also recently begun on renovations to units in the Reserve public housing developments.
Five units are currently receiving total renovations. Henderson said the work required was so extensive, the units had to be gutted before work could begin.
After the work on the Reserve units, the Housing Authority will turn its attention to the LaPlace development, where four units will receive similar treatment.
The agency had originally planned to rehabilitate 30 units, but the expenses involved forced it to whittle the number down to 15, then nine.
“The Housing Authority could not support rehabbing the total 30 units,” she said.
Although Henderson’s report mostly outlined the progress of the St. John Parish Housing Authority, she prefaced it with a letter drafted in response to a correspondence she had recently received from a board member. In the letter, she says she was not only criticized for advice she gave to a tenant but also threatened with corrective action. She defended her actions, saying she was merely following policies put in place by the Board of Commissioners.
Her response read in part: “The Housing Authority cannot react or succumb to public opinion or demand that contradicts with Agency policies and procedures, state and federal rules and regulations. I will not act irresponsibly and compromise this Housing Authority and my reputation for the few that make the loudest noise and negate the positive efforts of this administration.
“To move positively and progressively, we must work together to turn this ‘Trouble Agency’ around.”