FOX 8 Investigates: Over-income tenants living in N.O. public housing

FOX 8 Investigates: Over-income tenants living in N.O. public housing
Published: Nov. 20, 2015 at 12:59 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2015 at 3:15 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A FOX 8 Investigation uncovers that even more public housing tenants making big money are cashing in on your tax dollars for rent.

Now, after seeing what we found, a state lawmaker is taking legislative action to put a stop to it.

More than a $140,000 a year. That's what one public housing tenant living in New Orleans is making. And - get this - that income supports just one person, yet your tax dollars are helping pay their rent each month.

"Clearly someone making $140,000, when they qualified they were supposed to be making $33,000. In one year, I think it would be surprising to see if their income jumped to $140,000, that had to grow over time," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.

We obtained public records from the Housing Authority of New Orleans that show the current incomes of some public housing tenants, and found 51 tenants are making more than the income eligibility limits set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Take a look at some of the highest earners. That one-person household that brings in nearly $141,000, is more than $107,000 over the HUD income limit. Another tenant earns more than $70,000, their income is nearly $40,000 over the limit. Other families are pulling in annual incomes ranging from the high $60,000 range to over $75,000 and $86,000. Keep in mind, 5,000 low-income families are currently on a waiting list to get in. After seeing what we uncovered, Henry said he's taking action.

"I think we obviously get the legislative auditor to come in and see what their process is for the checks and balance with this," said Henry.

These are just the latest findings in our continuing investigation, Unfair Housing. We also uncovered taxpayers helped pay rent for hundreds of other over-income tenants across the state, including families who earned more than $143,000 a year in St. Charles Parish, nearly $116,000 in Berwick, and close to $100,000 in Lafourche.

We also obtained public records from a federal audit into HUD's public housing program that 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 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 over income families. The letter goes on to encourage those housing authorities 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.

But our investigation continues to find over-income tenants still living in public housing in Louisiana.

"It seems to me that the feds have given them everything they need from their side to actually get the process moving. It seems HANO, along with some other agencies in the state, seem to be dragging their feet and obviously we need to motivate them some way," said Henry.

We have repeatedly asked for an on-camera interview with HANO about this story, but they have declined our requests.

HANO did send us this statement though. It says, "HUD has issued updated guidance, which will be vetted through our next agency planning process."

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