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Housing fix

North Las Vegas officials can stop pretending to be so shocked that the Casa Rosa public housing complex has turned into an uninhabitable sty of sewage leaks, collapsing stairways and ceiling mold.

When you turn a commodity into an entitlement, when you give people no stake in the upkeep of their homes and provide no oversight whatsoever, you get dilapidated buildings that have to be cleared out and, eventually, torn down. It has been proved time and again, year after year, from New York and Chicago to Florida, Texas and California.

Working for a public housing agency means never having to learn from history — and never having to say you’re sorry to taxpayers.

The North Las Vegas Housing Authority has declared an “emergency for the immediate relocation” of 21 poor families who call Casa Rosa home. Of the complex’s 100 units, 57 had code violations, according to a recent inspection.

But if you believe elected members of the North Las Vegas City Council — four of whom double as members of the housing authority board — the long and steady deterioration of Casa Rosa came out of nowhere.

“Nobody ever said anything, not management and not the residents,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Smith.

The authority’s well-paid administration has been “masking” the problems from the board, Councilman William Robinson said.

Last week, authority Director Don England blamed inadequate funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

These excuses smell worse than a moldy section of wallboard. This is yet another colossal failure of accountability, from the handyman who’s supposed to make minor repairs and keep up with routine maintenance to the council members who ultimately answer to voters.

Was anyone making routine visits to Casa Rosa? Was anyone taking time to talk to residents? Or were North Las Vegas officials doing the kind of “drive-by” inspections that Clark County workers performed on hotel remodeling projects?

Ms. Smith, a council member for 11 years, acknowledges that she has never been inside a Casa Rosa unit. That’s a basic requirement of board member responsible for the upkeep of 220 total public housing units for the poor.

Now taxpayers are on the hook for moving these families to hotels and making costly repairs, a cycle that will no doubt repeat itself without institutional change. HUD has labeled the North Las Vegas authority “troubled” for its poor track record. “It’s been made clear that HUD wants to shut us down,” Ms. Smith said.

Good. Get the city of North Las Vegas out of the housing business. Tax dollars would be better spent anywhere but there.

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