April 28, 2005
On April 26, 2005, staff in the Office of the HUD Inspector General
(IG) confirmed that they have begun an investigation of HUD’s 2004
Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control grant award process. On October
7, 2004, the Alliance for Healthy Homes called on the HUD Inspector General
to investigate evidence that the HUD Office of Healthy Homes and Lead
Hazard Control (OHHLHC) failed its duty to carefully review applications
and award lead safety and healthy homes grants based on merit and performance
in 2004. The HUD IG’s office this week informed the Alliance that
it has completed a preliminary audit survey in response to the Alliance’s
October complaint (see www.afhh.org/aa/aa_policy_federal_agencies_request_for_IG_Invest.pdf).
Based on their preliminary review, the IG concluded that a full audit
of HUD’s application review and grant award process is warranted
and said that their audit is already underway.
OHHLHC outsourced review of all 2004 lead hazard control and healthy
homes grant applications to an outside contractor, without ensuring that
contract reviewers were qualified or trained to evaluate the more than
200 funding proposals HUD received. Don Ryan, Executive Director of the
Alliance for Healthy Homes said, “Several suspect grant awards in
2004 raise serious doubts about the quality and fairness of the grants
process.” Ryan noted that HUD awarded almost $2 million in an Operation
LEAP grant to AIMCO, the nation’s largest rental property management
firm, which has a history of violating federal law and regulations. Two
years ago, HUD and EPA penalized AIMCO $129,580, the largest ever penalty
for widespread violations of the federal lead hazard disclosure law. On
May 12, 2004, HUD’s Inspector General found that a subsidiary of
AIMCO inappropriately used $409,388 in three federally assisted properties.
“While rewarding AIMCO’s bad behavior,” Ryan noted,
“HUD denied funding for Operation LEAP grants to organizations in
several cities with notable lead poisoning problems, including Chicago,
St. Louis, Baltimore, and San Diego.”
HUD also awarded lead abatement grants of up to $3 million to several
cities that had performed poorly on past projects while denying funding
to many cities and states with strong lead poisoning prevention programs
and excellent track records with previous grants.
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The Alliance for Healthy Homes is a national nonprofit
policy and advocacy organization working to protect children from lead
and other health hazards in and around their homes by building capacity
for primary prevention in communities at risk.