Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hud's `Homes for Homeless' Housed the Well-Off

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hud's `Homes for Homeless' Housed the Well-Off

Article excerpt

A government program to give the poor a roof over their heads is so riddled with problems that well-off people lived in houses meant for homeless families and - as in St. Louis - low-income home buyers were bilked by government-approved middlemen, documents show.

Under the "Homes for Homeless" program, the Department of Housing and Urban Development leases houses whose owners have defaulted on federally guaranteed loans. The houses are made available for just $1 a year to nonprofit groups that work with the homeless.

The aim is to provide cheap temporary housing for people trying to get back on their feet. But some HUD offices have done such a poor job of monitoring the groups that many have abused the program, letting friends, relatives or others live in the houses, according to internal HUD investigative documents and audits obtained by The Associated Press. D. Michael Beard, inspector general for HUD's Southwestern district, said: "It's just too easy to cheat. We believe the program should be eliminated." The agency is not ready to scrap the program. But under pressure from Congress, HUD said last month that no new leases would be issued as of Jan. 1. HUD will decide next year whether to end the program, said Jacquie Lawing, deputy assistant secretary. St. Louis Connection In St. Louis, HUD gave Allied Housing Group Inc. contracts to buy a dozen houses and resell them to low-income buyers, even though it had had problems with the group. Allied collected thousands of dollars in deposits from several buyers and tried to buy additional houses with the money, according to HUD documents. The deals fell through. "We scraped to get the money together," said Pamela Wyatt of Bridgeton, Mo., who lost $7,900. HUD ended its dealings with Allied early this year. Missouri sued the group to retrieve the funds, but the group's officials cannot be located, according to state and HUD officials. A man who answered the phone at the number listed for Allied said the group had moved. More than 300 groups - most of them privately funded homeless coalitions and community service groups - hold leases on 1,289 of the homes around the nation. …

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