AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's been a long year for the Maine State Housing Authority, responding to allegations of overspending, losing their executive director, Dale McCormick, in the spring, and hiring a replacement.
Now, the board of commissioners is once again in the limelight, to face a report released Monday by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Inspector General, that 87% of section 8 housing run by Maine Housing failed a recent inspection.
The inspection focused on just 61 units in Norway, but Maine Housing recognizes this is a statewide problem, one board members say has made them reevaluate their entire agency.
"HUD's OIG report, although it's painful to read, it is completely accurate and it is a reflection on the problems that have probably been deeper in the MSHA than have been recognized in the past," said board member, Lincoln Merrill, at a press conference in Augusta Wednesday.
Merrill and Peter Anastos both admit, they had no idea what they were getting into when they joined the board of commissioners for the Maine State Housing Authority just last October.
Merrill says this latest report released by HUD is just one more piece of the puzzle the board was left in the dark on.
The report cites an investigation into section 8 housing in Norway run by Maine Housing: of 61 units investigated, 53 were below housing quality standards -- 87%.
Of those, 28 had emergency or life-threatening violations.
"There were individuals at Maine State Housing Authority that knew about these problems for 2 years, to the best of our knowledge, and nothing was ever done," said board member and state treasurer, Bruce Poliquin.
Photos of the units investigated this spring and summer show a 5-gallon propane tank connected to the kitchen stove, a toilet with no handle to flush, mildew and mold, and a door held shut by duct tape.
As a result of the inspection, the IG report concluded that the MSHA essentially wasted $195-thousand of Maine taxpayer dollars on this sub par housing, that's money they may actually have to pay back now, which could affect the programs they currently run.
All of this, Poliquin says stems deeper into the history of Maine Housing, and why he says he's been demanding answers since he joined the board last January. The agency has since begun a major overhaul.
Merrill says, "We've terminated all outside vendors we used to do inspections on our behalf and we replaced the manager of the MSHA who oversees our employees and the performance of these inspections. We're also developing programs to work with landlords directly so they may be more prepared to consistently meet the standard so when we do go there and do inspections there is a better chance that apartment will pass."
The biggest change to come: transparency within the agency, so any future problems will hopefully come to light much sooner.
HUD will continue it's investigation into all 3,200 Section 8 units run by the Maine State Housing Authority throughout the state.