Mayor Vincent Gray has called for an investigation into the use of public funds on a troubled housing project.
In the wake of a Washington Post investigation into city funds advanced to a non-profit for housing renovations, the Department of Housing and Community Development announced that one of its employees has been fired and another one was let go.
The Post ran an investigative piece on Monday detailing how the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development put $5.5 million in city and federal funds towards three buildings for low-income housing. The project was initially placed in the hands of a non-profit group called the Peaceaholics, then later transferred to another developer. Years later, one of the buildings remains vacant, and tenants in another building complain of mismanagement.
DHCD director John Hall said the project, which started during the Fenty administration, had been the subject of a long-running internal investigation.
Hall said in a statement, "In an abundance of caution, one DHCD employee has been terminated, and a second employee has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is conducted. DHCD has already requested that the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) investigate this matter further."
Mayor Vincent Gray has also called for an investigation into the project.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is calling for an investigation
into why the city poured more than $5 million into a failed plan to renovate vacant apartment buildings.
According to the Washington Post, three vacant apartment complexes were bought by the non-profit Peaceaholics with money from the city’s Department of Housing and Community Development in 2008. They were intended to house at risk young men. But last year the ownership of those buildings was transferred to contractor Richard Hagler.
Councilmembers Jim Graham and Michael Brown say the transfer is evidence of housing employees “enriching” themselves in the sale and renovation of several properties in the city.
But as the Post reports, most of those complexes aren’t even being renovated. One of the three originally bought by Peaceaholics has been renovated, but remains closed. At another, tenants complain of poor maintenance and rodents.
The Post identified two employees who have been reprimanded for their involvement. Chief Program Officer Chris Earley was fired and Project Manager Ray Slade was placed on leave.
Mayor Gray told the Post his administration must ensure that programs like this “reach the people who need housing” and “do what those programs were designed to do.”
But Councilmember Jim Graham says there is still at least $1 million in city money still unaccounted for.
“It seems this was a building project in search of a mission rather than a mission in search of a building,” Graham told the Post. “At every turn, it doesn’t pass the smell test.”