Audit in NYC Reveals Big Problems with Housing Repair Program Post-Sandy

Here is a second posting on the topic of post-disaster housing, this one focusing on the post-Sandy housing repair programs. Considering how much money is being spent on post-disaster housing programs, clearly the time has come for better oversight and some reform!

An article about the audit appeared in the NY Times, but here is the actual source document:

COMPTROLLER STRINGER AUDIT OF BUILD IT BACK REVEALS MILLIONS PAID OUT FOR INCOMPLETE WORK, DOUBLE-BILLING & UNDOCUMENTED TRAVEL COSTS. Frustrated homeowners forced to contend with over 100 procedural changes in the course of a year. Same subcontractors that bungled earlier work still on the job, working without legally enforceable controls.  Some excerpts:

New York City’s recovery effort following Superstorm Sandy was a boon for consultants who failed to do required work and left thousands of victims without help long after the storm ravaged the City—and problems continue to this day, according to an audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.

The Comptroller’s audit revealed the City’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations (HRO) failed to properly monitor contractors and paid $6.8 million to them for work that that was flawed or incomplete – contributing to extensive delays in the delivery of aid to more than 20,000 people seeking help.

“New York City’s response to Sandy was a case study in dysfunction,” Stringer said. “During the course of this audit, I went to affected communities to hear first-hand the stories of the recovery from hundreds of City residents — from the endless delays, to the lost paperwork and the maddening lack of progress. With this audit, we present a new level of detail about how the City allowed consultants to run amok and what must be done to ensure these mistakes are never again repeated.”

The audit examined the Build it Back Single Family Program – which focused on owner-occupants of properties with one-to-four units affected by Sandy – from June 1, 2013 to August 1, 2014. The findings were enhanced by testimony from six public hearings that Stringer’s office held in areas hardest hit by the storm, which were attended by hundreds of New Yorkers. The audit included detailed reviews of a random sample of 70 applicants, plus reviews of program design, management and operations by HRO and its contractors.

This is not the first example of housing repair program problems. They occurred after H. Katrina in LA as well.  The Diva hopes to have more posts on the topic of the use of CDBG-DR funding for post-disaster home repair in the future.

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