The latest news from the Omaha Housing Authority is positive. OHA is making clear, measurable progress in tackling its financial and management problems.
Evidence comes in the latest annual grades that OHA received from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD uses a 25-point scale to grade housing authorities’ financial processes. A year ago, OHA scored a mere nine points. Now, it’s scoring an 18.
A 25-point scale is used to rate housing authorities’ management operations. On that front, too, OHA has seen laudable progress. A year ago, its score was 13. Now, it’s up to 19.
Overall, OHA’s total score (on a 100-point scale) rose from 65 a year ago to 80 now.
There’s much more to be done at OHA, but the trend is moving in the right direction. These advances illustrate how the housing authority has begun to implement professional, efficient management practices under Clifford Scott, its executive director since 2011.
All of this is a welcome change from the crisis of several years back, when HUD found that the housing authority lacked adequate financial management and had improperly transferred more than $2.5 million in federal funds from other accounts to cover needed costs.
Under Scott, OHA has implemented professional procedures, reduced costs and embraced an overall improvement strategy signed in December by OHA, HUD and Mayor Jean Stothert. Another positive is that the OHA board’s finance committee now has practical-minded members with valuable business experience.
OHA’s obligation is to keep moving toward achieving the entire set of goals laid out in the improvement strategy. Among the issues to be tackled: An agreement for repayment of the federal funds. Reducing unit turnover. Improved management of scattered-site public housing.
It’s also important that all OHA board members understand their proper roles, given that a HUD audit last year stated, in part: “Elected officials serving on the board have improperly influenced several management decisions.” Proper board operations is part of the improvement agreement signed with HUD.
Overall, Omahans can be encouraged by the progress thus far. A strong, professionally run OHA is in the best interests of the entire city.