HUD to review Portsmouth housing authority

13News Now Laura Geller has the story

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent a letter to the interim executive director of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, notifying leadership that HUD will be reviewing how the PRHA Board of Commissioners governs and and operates the Authority financially.

The review is called a Departmental Enforcement Center snapshot review. HUD examiners will be in Portsmouth December 5th through December 8th. 

"We are all aware the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority has experienced some challenges of late," says Lisa A. Wolfe, a spokesperson for HUD. "This visit will either restore people’s confidence in PRHA, or will identify actions that need to be taken. This is not a routine inspection, but is implemented when there is reason for concern." 

Some who live in the PRHA communities are among the most vulnerable of Portsmouth citizens. They told us there is reason for concern.

“There's plenty of kids that stay out here,” one man, who didn’t want to reveal his identity, said. “If you look around nine times out of ten you see all kids and it's like health problems.”

He believes the kids who live in the housing projects are not safe.

That’s one of the reasons Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Psimas is now calling for City Council to remove the entire Board of Commissioners.

“My gut reaction is it is very damning,” she said. “It's very serious. I'm very disappointed. It's another black eye for the city that didn't have to happen.”

13News Now reached out to the chair of the Board of Commissioners for her reaction to the review. Flossie Bridgeford sent us back to the interim executive director. We pushed for answers because the letter specifically mentions the Board of Commissioners. Still, Bridgeford simply said, she has no comment.

But for the Feds 'no comment' isn’t going to cut it. The letter says "It is essential that public housing representatives, including all board members, with appropriate management and financial knowledge of PRHA, be available to assist with our review.

HUD is requesting a long list of documents and records, including all agency bank accounts, the current budget, cash management policies and financial controls.

Back on the streets where that money is supposed to make a difference, it's not about paperwork. There, answers are about survival.

“These are the people you all are helping, you all are giving aid to, to survive, but at the same time how can somebody raise a home with three or four kids and they're living in mildew,” another resident added. “It's just ridiculous.”

Late Monday evening, the interim director of PRHA returned our phone calls. Donnell Brown said the agency is preparing for the HUD inspectors and gathering the documents they have requested. She has not, however, spoken to anyone from the federal department.

Meantime, HUD officials told 13News Now the review will either restore people's faith in PRHA or identify actions that need to be taken.

This is the latest piece of negative news for PRHA. Over the summer, the Board of Commissioners fired the longtime executive director of the Authority. Board members are appointed by city council.

HUD PRHA Letter


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