Housing Authority Has $350,000 in Debt
The state Department of Housing and Community Development has given director of the Natick Housing Authority, Ed Santos, three weeks to make a plan to pull the authority out of major debt.
Urgency has increased over the Natick Housing Authority’s growing debt, which has reached $350,000, according to Jill Fenton, an independent fee accountant. According to Fenton, who periodically examines the organization’s financial situation, the authority has been spending money it does not have for the past four years.
The NHA board of commissioners showed their frustrations at a meeting Wednesday night, sharing that they were not aware of the severity of the situation.
In an Aug. 22 letter to Edward Santos, executive director of the NHA, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development expressed major concerns over the authority’s financial situation and “serious decline in the past three years in the overall operations of the NHA.” The DHCD, which has discussed its growing concerns with the NHA since 2009, blamed the problems on a “serious lack of senior leadership.”
To begin to correct the deficit, the DHCD has given Santos three weeks to develop a plan to reduce expenses, increase unit turnover and improve maintenance efforts. The plan must be submitted to the DHCD by Sept. 16 and include an overall management plan and capital improvement plan, all to be carried out within three years.
Members of the board expressed their frustration with Santos, stating that they did not know they were not able to pay their bills. Santos said he has known about the financial situation for a year, but when pushed, admitted he did not ask the specifics.
Santos said that the authority’s difficulty making money stems from the inability to turnover old units and what he says is inefficient repair work done by the maintenance staff. He said he aims to discipline any staff that does not meet expectations, something he said had not been done much in the past.
“We’re not going to do business the way we’ve done in the past,” Santos told the board.
“The responsibility, from our perspective, falls back to you to manage the maintenance staff so that they’re working as much as they can with the resources that they have,” said Gina Govoni, chairperson of the NHA board of commissioners. “And from what we can see here on these letters, that’s not happening and you’re not giving us a very clear understanding of what your plan is.”
There are currently around 60 vacant units managed by the authority, many of which in recent years have had a 200-day turnover, according to Govoni.
“We have spent a lot of money because the properties are deteriorating. We can’t not keep the properties up. We can’t not spend certain monies…“ said Santos, who added the authority has not been able to repair more than eight units a month. “The state doesn’t want us leaving the units and not fixing them… we’re not spending it on just anything. Were spending it on the units, we’re trying to get them done. They need more, in most cases, than just paint.”