Red tape, HUD go together

If the Altoona Housing Authority were a problem agency in the eyes of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD’s reluctance and caution regarding an ongoing authority proposal might seem justified.

But minus such a troublesome history, it would seem logical for HUD to show confidence in the authority’s judgment and allow the local agency to move on the plan without much hassle.

Couple that with the reality that the proposal is not one of huge scope carrying great risk.

Granted, HUD’s intent is to do what’s best for the long run, but the feds have neither the manpower nor the all-encompassing local-level perspective to be experts on all local topics.

There are times — like now — when it should acquiesce to local-level judgment and expertise without requiring expensive justification, especially when the agency making the request has a long history of doing things right.

The issue currently at hand is the authority’s attempt to rid itself of 10 scattered-site properties.

HUD has been withholding permission, claiming that the authority hasn’t made a good-enough case with its physical needs assessment. That federal decision has prompted the authority to approve an $18,000 outlay for comprehensive property inspections, in hopes of proving that renovation costs would meet an “obsolescence” threshold suitable to Washington.

If that were the only point of concern, HUD’s stance might be acceptable. However, the authority, for the properties in question, currently is dealing with travel related to making repairs; the reality that not all of the properties are alike, making them challenging in terms of preventive maintenance; and the inability to buy replacement materials at lower bulk-purchase costs.

The properties’ differences make it impossible for cost-efficient production-style upgrades like are possible with the authority’s other housing developments.

The bottom line: The 10 properties are difficult to oversee and maintain.

And now, five years after the authority first sought HUD permission to divest itself of the properties, the proposal remains at a standstill.

Instead of the authority putting to better use the $18,000 it will pay for the inspections, it in effect has allocated the money to an exercise of cutting federal “red tape.”

“Red tape” is the cause of so much that’s wrong in the Nation’s Capital.

All considered, it’s best that the authority move ahead with the inspections now than allow the issue to remain unresolved for another five years or longer.

If the inspections do prove the authority wrong, the local agency should accept the findings and respond accordingly. If the authority is proven correct, HUD should stop stonewalling and permit the local agency to distance itself from the properties.

Should the authority be given the go-ahead to sell the properties, the new buyers will have the advantage of knowing most of the important facts about the properties, since the inspections will cover virtually all important details. Beyond the inspections, the data collected hopefully will remind HUD of the local agency’s commitment to conducting its operations efficiently and in the best interests of all whom it serves.

Too bad the authority must engage in costly busy-work to satisfy bureaucrats who apparently don’t have enough larger-scale work on their “plates” to consume their workdays.