The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority is in a sound financial position but should continue to reinvent its business model while under the Trump administration, according to an annual external audit.
At the agency’s board meeting Thursday, accountant Dale Rector commended the housing authority for having about $27 million in working capital as of October. That capital could be used to make up a future revenue shortfall.
“Your financial picture, to me as an auditor, looks very, very good,” said Rector, whose Georgia-based firm Rector, Reeder & Lofton, P.C. conducted the audit.
But he also said the housing authority must diversify its portfolio as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson prioritizes privately owned subsidized housing over government-owned public housing.
“Continue to not be single-sourced on revenue from HUD and operating subsidies,” Rector said. “They’ve made it very clear that they’re getting out of the business of public housing.”
Like housing authorities across the nation, the local agency has privatized some of its public housing properties in recent years through a federal program called Rental Assistance Demonstration.
The program helps secure money to revitalize and rebuild aging homes, but it also reduces the housing authority’s ability to generate revenue by collecting rent. That means less money to spend on accrued government pension liabilities, which the audit stated rose by $2.86 million between October 2017 and September 2018.
“Other programs have to pick up that employee benefit,” Rector said.
Following the audit review, the board was scheduled to discuss and vote on the housing authority’s new $154 million annual operating budget. However, the item was postponed until the board’s next regular meeting in August because commissioners Cedric Crear and Dan Shaw were not present. The new budget is set to take effect Oct. 1.
Commission Chairman Scott Black also announced that Crear, a Las Vegas city councilman, will be replaced by newly seated Councilwoman Olivia Diaz at the housing authority board’s next regular meeting. Black said it was “customary” for the City Council to change its representative on the board after an election.
Communication review ordered
Housing authority commissioners voted 5-0 Thursday to adopt their latest annual plan, which contains a policy that could preclude Commissioner Theresa Davis from continuing to serve on the board.
Two of the seven commissioners present at the meeting — Davis and Misha Hooks — abstained from voting.
Davis said housing authority staff was not thorough in seeking public comment on the document. But she did not directly address the policy that housing authority Executive Director Chad Williams has said will force her off the board.
The policy will require resident commissioners, board members who receive housing assistance, to “have always maintained good standing in all SNRHA Programs.” Housing authority staff removed Davis from the agency’s Family Self-Sufficiency program in June following a fraud investigation against her.
But Davis’ concern about proper notice was echoed by several audience members who felt residents at their public housing properties were not aware of public meetings.
“I can tell you for sure at James Down Towers a board of commissioners meeting agenda has not been posted since January,” said Vanessa Hamlin, a five-year resident of the complex for seniors on Alta Drive.
The concerns spurred Black to direct Williams to conduct a “top-down analysis” of how the agency disseminated information to its residents.
“We will tighten up our communication processes throughout the agency, not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because we absolutely have to,” Black said. “We can improve, no doubt.”