Maine Senator Appalled by Interim Section 8 Housing Report

Thirty of 32 low-income housing units inspected in southern Maine recently failed quality reviews done by the federal government, according to Sen. Susan Collins. Last December, Collins had requested that HUD's inspector general review the Section 8 program in Maine after problems with housing in the Norway area were brought to light.

"The failed inspection rates uncovered by the Inspector General's investigation are shocking. They indicate systemic failures by both Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) and affordable housing developer Avesta, rather than problems caused by one 'rogue inspector' as MSHA and Avesta previously had asserted," said Collins in a statement.

Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, released the report on May 8th. And the HUD inspector general will release a full report at a later date.

According to the interim report, the inspector general's office inspected units in March that had passed either MaineHousing or Avesta Housing's inspections after March 2011. Of the 30 units that didn't comply with HUD's "housing quality standards," 20 had been inspected by Avesta and 10 by MaineHousing. Some of the units contained health and safety violations, the inspector general reported.

"Also, several different inspectors, from both the authority and Avesta, were responsible for inspecting these units, and some units should not have been approved for initial occupancy because of deficiencies that would have existed at that time," inspectors noted.

The report contains pictures and descriptions from inspected units. In one case, a picture shows electrical wiring hung over an interior doorway, which is a violation. In another, debris litters the yard and inspectors found "health and safety issues including open pool chemical containers."

"The bottom line is people who live in federally subsidized housing should expect decent, safe, and sanitary conditions," said Collins. "Unfortunately, this report shows that federal funds are instead going to property owners who fail to properly maintain their units. This is absolutely unacceptable."