Local housing non-profit responds to FOX 8 Investigation

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A New Orleans non-profit has responded to a FOX 8 Investigation that revealed how some public housing tenants who earned big money cashed in on your tax dollars for rent.

Taxpayers helped pay rent for some public housing tenants who earned more than $143,000 in St. Charles Parish, nearly $116,000 in Berwick, close to $100,000 in Lafourche and as much as $77,000 to more than $86,000 in New Orleans.

The executive director of the non-profit group Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center says housing authorities should be focused on helping transition over-income tenants out of public housing and into home ownership in the private market.

"It's really necessary and would be beneficial to them for them to receive services, support, counseling that would allow them to transition into home ownership, which we know is a way to build wealth and to pass that on generationally," said Executive Director Cashauna Hill.

We obtained public records from a federal audit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's public housing program. It ranked Louisiana seventh in the country for allowing people to live in public housing who earned more than HUD's 2014 eligibility income limits.

After that federal audit was released in July, HUD sent a letter to housing authorities across the country. It encouraged them to adopt local policies to remove those extremely over-income tenants in order to ensure public housing is available for the nation's most vulnerable families.

"Affordable housing is something that's desperately needed throughout communities across Louisiana," Hill said.

But our investigation found some over-income tenants are still living in public housing in Louisiana despite that guidance from HUD, while thousands of low-income families wait to get in.

"Low-income people are dealing with a smaller number of available, affordable units and so, you know, we need to find locally, a balance between supporting families who may be eligible to transition into home ownership and the folks that need that affordable housing," Hill said.

In that letter sent to housing authorities, HUD also said the audit identified several cases where families had incomes that were excessively above the income threshold, and of the housing authorities sampled, none were using their discretion to evict those families.

Since seeing the findings of our investigation, both State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metarie, and Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, are looking into what can be done at the state and federal level to keep over-income tenants out of public housing.

Copyright WVUE 2015. All rights reserved.