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GHA Revealed
by GOGP Contributors
26 October 2009

The decisions that the Galveston Housing Authority makes, will have a significant impact on our city’s future, yet many of Galveston residents know very little about this agency. A group of concerned citizens, in conjunction with the Galveston Open Government Project (GOGP) has spent many hours researching GHA in an attempt to understand its organizational structure, policies, and goals. 

Organizational Structure:
The Galveston Housing Authority is a federally directed agency, operating independently of city government, which administers Public Housing Programs. The GHA normally receives its funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

GHA is governed by a five member Board of Commissioners, appointed solely by the Mayor.
The Executive Director serves at the discretion of and answers to the GHA board. GHA does not require city council approval for its actions, unless requesting city appropriated funds.
Although HUD requires “community support” for Housing Authority decisions, there is no specific mechanism dictated by HUD to accomplish this.

Before Hurricane Ike, GHA operated a total of 990 Public Housing Units and administered 1,213 private-sector Section 8 Units; for a total of 2,203 housing units.
Source: GHA 5-year Plan 2009-2013 ; page 2

Based on GHA’s initial plan to operate existing and proposed Public Housing Units plus Section 8 Units, and data available to GOGP; 11.14% of Galveston’s total population would be receiving some form of housing assistance from GHA. This is 5.12 times the national average, and 6.96 times more than in the City of Houston. Therefore, if Galveston was in line with national averages, GHA would own and operate only 133 Public Housing Units, not 1,039, and administer only 380 Section 8 Units, not 1,516.
Source: Galveston Public Housing Concentrations versus National Averages

GHA Policies vs. Reality:
Policy: HUD requires that all potential occupants of GHA housing be screened for criminal records, in order to provide a safe environment for all tenants. Any resident involved in criminal behavior, including drug or alcohol abuse is subject to eviction.

Reality: Police “case reports” from 01 September 2007 to 01 September 2008, i.e. the year before Hurricane Ike: 

Cedar Terrace, 453 case reports
Palm Terrace, 569 case reports
Magnolia Homes, 270 case reports
Oleander Homes, 1,266 case reports 
Total for the areas containing and surrounding the four Housing Projects, 2,558 case reports

Total for the City of Galveston, 12,018 case reports

21.28% of all case reports in the City of Galveston were for the areas containing and surrounding the four Housing Projects.

This project was undertaken to quantify the proportion of police resources and expenses that were used to service the four Housing Projects during the year prior to Hurricane Ike. The seven police grids that were used do not produce precise data, because they do include some areas outside of the Project grounds; but it is the best measurement available.

There were 569 housing units in the four Housing Projects, and typically there are 2.2 people per unit. This means that the total population of these four facilities was approximately 1,252, or 2.20% of the pre-Ike population of the City. Even if the total population living in these seven grids boosted their percentage of the City population to 3%; it should be clear that with 21.28% of the case reports, the areas containing and surrounding the four Housing Projects may have used as much as seven times the police resources and expenses than most other areas of the City!
Source: Admission and Continued Occupancy Policy
Source: GPD case reports grids 43 and 48 Cedar Terrace
Source: GPD case reports grid 60 Palm Terrace
Source: GPD case reports grids 15 and 17 Magnolia Homes
Source: GPD case reports grids 74 and 75 Oleander Homes 

Policy: Since March, GHA has led the people of Galveston to believe that they were required to rebuild all of the damaged 569 housing units.

Reality: On October 15, GOGP received written confirmation from HUD that there was no requirement to rebuild the demolished Projects.
Source: Daniel Rodriguez email

Policy: GHA states that one of their goals is to help its residents to become self-sufficient.

Reality: Their current Family Self-Sufficiency program (FSS), for Section 8 clients, only has 50-60 openings for the 1,213 households that GHA serves.
Source: GHA 5-year Plan 2008-2012 ; page 60

Policy: Mr. Krishnarao, the Executive Director, has stated that he wants to be more transparent and encourage input from the community.

Reality: It took almost one month for GOGP to receive the requested documents from its first Open Records Request. The first, and all subsequent ORR’s, have been referred to GHA’s outside council, costing the tax payers $2,286.57, so far. In December of 2008, GHA also hired a Public Relations Consultant, costing the taxpayers $6,823.29, to date.
Source: June 29 ORR Time Line
Source: GHA Attorney Bills (in GOGP files)
Source: GHA Public Relations Bills (in GOGP files)

Policy:  HUD guidelines clearly state that Public Housing Units should not be rebuilt in a floodplain.  

Reality: GHA is ignoring the guidelines and pursuing other sources of funding, including the city's recovery funds, to rebuild in a floodplain at greater risk and higher cost to all involved.
Source: HUD Floodplain Management
Source: Procedures for Making Determinations on Floodplain Management

GHA’s Goals for the Future:
GHA expanded their mission beyond the basics required by HUD, which is “serving the needs of low-income, very low income, and extremely low income families” to now include the “low to moderate income” population which will allow them to increase their range of offerings.
Source: GHA 5-year Plan 2009-2013 ; page 3, Section A

Based upon their own data, GHA intends to increase government subsidized housing on this island by 1,940 units, or 90%.
Source: Empire Building

In July of 2009, GHA applied to HUD, and received, 303 Section 8 vouchers for Katrina/Rita victims. Houston, a city of approximately 2.2 million people, applied for, and received only 500 vouchers. Galveston’s share represents approximately 10% of all the vouchers issued for the state of Texas.
Source: Letter Inviting PHAs to Apply for Vouchers
Source: Voucher Application

GHA is planning to apply for a $40 million HOPE VI grant to purchase a large parcel of land for future development.
Source: GHA Minutes August 31, 2009; page 5

GHA received a special dispensation from HUD allowing them to pay rents 20% above market rates in order to expand and attract more landlords into the Section 8 program.
Source: Statement made at East End Meeting, April 15, 2009 and at GHA Board Meeting, September 28, 2009

There is much public apprehension about GHA’s post IKE plans to rebuild and expand. Only 2,046 people thought it was important to vote in the 2008 local election,  but 2,103 citizens signed an online petition expressing their concerns about GHA’s plans. Clearly, this is an issue that is important to the people, so some process must be found to allow broad participation.
Source: 2008 Election Results
Source: Online Petition

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