An investigative report by The Houston Chronicle indicates that the City of Houston has $46 million in taxpayer dollars buried in accounting errors and sloppy bookkeeping.
According to the report, the city has collected nearly $130 million in the past decade to combat an affordable housing crisis, but the department overseeing that effort cannot say how many families have been helped, whether those currently using the city’s housing services are still qualified, or where the money is going.
Rebecca Elliott, one of the investigative reporters behind the story, says that the exact cause of the mismanagement is difficult to pinpoint, but that lack of prioritization is a place to start. Overall, the city has $161 million allocated to the affordable housing crisis, $130 of which was collected from local taxes. $96 million has been spent, $20 million is allocated to be spent and $46 million remains unallocated and unspent.
“What you can conclude is that this really was a systemic failure on the part of the city over many, many years and reveals that it simply wasn’t a priority the way keeping track of other money has been,” Elliott says.
Meanwhile, 43,000 families remain on the waiting list for subsidized housing. With the mismanagement brought to light, Elliott says that there are new ideas for how to allocate the funds – from a community land trust meant to preserve housing prices, to a new five-year housing plan.
“I think that city is trying to seize this moment to leverage these resources in a concentrated fashion but obviously we’re going to have to wait and see,” Elliott says.
Written by Emma Whalen.