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May 26, 2011

 

DiNapoli Audit Recommends Strengthening Enforcement of Veteran Housing Preferences

New NYSHCR Commissioner Towns Supports Recommendations


Mitchell-Lama housing companies in New York City failed to provide disabled war veterans with priority consideration for housing as required by state law, according to an audit released by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli at a news conference today.  DiNapoli was joined by Darryl Towns, Commissioner of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (NYSHCR).

“By law, disabled veterans are supposed to be given a preference to Mitchell-Lama housing,” DiNapoli said. “What has happened is just unacceptable.  These vets have made unimaginable sacrifices for our nation; they should get every benefit they’re entitled to when they come home.

“So many New Yorkers are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. NYSHCR has to make and enforce immediate changes to ensure these men and women – and their families – aren’t turned away from the housing that they deserve and the law says they should have.  Commissioner Towns has only been on the job a short while, but he’s already stepping up to implement our recommendations and protect veterans’ rights.”

Commissioner Towns said: “NYS Homes and Community Renewal is dedicated to increasing transparency and accountability in our programs and procedures. The audit released today indicated that practices that occurred in this agency under previous administrations did not adequately relay information about housing preferences to some disabled veterans on housing waiting lists. Actions that our administration has already initiated, and steps that we have since developed with the Comptroller’s office, will fix this problem.”

According to the law sponsored by Towns, a former assemblyman, housing companies must provide disabled veterans with a preference in admission to Mitchell-Lama housing developments. In advance of that law’s enactment, NYSHCR issued a memorandum in 2007 instructing housing companies on how they should implement the law. Since then, NYSHCR has required housing companies to revise their tenant selection procedures, marketing advertisements, outreach letters, and apartment applications to give disabled veterans, and their families, priority consideration for available housing.

In addition, the housing companies were to notify existing waiting list applicants of this new priority.

The audit covered the period November 2007 to September 2010. The law was subsequently expanded to include all wartime veterans and their spouses.

Auditors examined 18 housing facilities in the New York City area. Among the findings:

  • Of eight developments required to have a tenant selection plan, three had not updated their plans to include a veteran preference.
  • Of six that had placed advertisements for vacancies, five did not mention the veteran preference, even though NYSHCR approved the ads.
  • Eight of the 17 developments that had open waiting lists had not updated their applications to include the veteran preference.
  • NYSHCR reviewed tenant selection plans and prepared reports on 14 of the developments. These reports failed to mention deficiencies at 13 of those developments that DiNapoli’s auditors later discovered.

DiNapoli recommended that NYSHCR:

  • Train Housing Management Representatives to properly review housing company compliance with applicable laws and division guidance; and
  • Increase monitoring of housing company compliance with applicable laws and division guidance.

DHCR generally agreed with DiNapoli’s findings and indicated they would take corrective action.

The full audit can be read at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093011/10s42.pdf.

Currently, there are 175 DHCR-supervised Mitchell-Lama developments in New York State, with approximately 73,000 units. There are approximately 695,000 wartime veterans who are residents of New York State, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
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