NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A Louisiana congressman calls for change after a FOX 8 Investigation. In our report, "Unfair Housing," we uncovered taxpayers are helping pay rent for some public housing tenants who earn six figures.
We found it happening across the state. Public records from a federal audit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's public housing program ranked Louisiana seventh in the country for allowing people to live in public housing who earned more than HUD's 2014 eligibility income limits.
And take a look at the incomes of some of the highest earning tenants: more than $143,000 in St Charles Parish, nearly $116,000 in Berwick, close to $100,000 in Lafourche. Some tenants in New Orleans made anywhere from $77,000 to over $86,000 a year. Since our investigation aired, Congressman Cedric Richmond of New Orleans says that has to change.
"I think the goal is to root out fraud, abuse and inefficiencies in government wherever it exists, and this is probably a good example of both inefficiencies where you have people slipping through the cracks that should not qualify but who are not trying to beat the system, and then you have people who are trying to beat the system, and that's fraud and abuse," Richmond said.
Thousands of low-income families are on waiting lists across the state in need of affordable housing. And 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 to ensure that public housing is available for the nation's most vulnerable families. On Tuesday, we talked with the housing authority executive director in Houma about the seven over-income families we found living there, including one making nearly $95,000 a year. He says only one over-income tenant is living in the public housing there now, and the tenant is making just over $49,000 a year.
"HUD has I think more recently given some discretion to the housing authority, to the executive directors, and frankly that over income individual is living here at the senior site and I don't plan to evict him," said Houma-Terrebonne Housing Authority Executive Director Wayne Thibodeaux.
Richmond says after seeing what our investigation uncovered, he plans to look into the matter to see what can be done at the federal level.
"I think you have to root that out and you have to make examples of people and make them make restitution to the federal government, because at the end of the day we have to be very, very careful how we spend taxpayer money, and we need to treat it like it's our own," Richmond said.
We asked all the housing authorities in our viewing area for a current income list from their public housing tenants. We found some making big money are still cashing in on your tax dollars for rent since that federal audit was released in July.
In Berwick, we found a family of three living in a two-bedroom unit with an annual income of nearly $151,000 a year. We are told that family is making arrangements to move out of the public housing system there.