HUD's help needed
Despite the old saw, good deeds are often rewarded, as they should be, but unhappily, not in the case of Island Elderly Housing (IEH). For the Island's oldest, largest, most successful, and indispensable developer of affordable rental housing for the elderly and disabled, hurdles have accumulated on the path to doing good. And, incomprehensibly, those hurdles have been put in place by the generous federal program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has made all of IEH's immensely valuable work possible. IEH officials will meet today with Taylor Caswell, the New England Regional director for HUD. They, and we, need Mr. Caswell's understanding and help.
IEH has twice appealed a HUD decision to reject part of the Island housing builder's budget for maintenance staff salaries and benefits. That the Vineyard cost of living is expensively out of step with costs elsewhere is not a concept that large federal agencies, no matter how well intended, can process. To hire and keep top-notch workers, IEH needs to match the going rate elsewhere on the Island in public service businesses such as the hospital and Martha's Vineyard Community Services. HUD's action also puts in jeopardy the IEH cafeteria plan for worker benefits, which allows the worker to decide how to apply the $625 a month benefit that the cafeteria plan offers - maybe to a health plan he chooses, maybe to a 401K. HUD would restrict that benefit only to those who join the IEH group medical plan, just half of IEH employees.
Just as vexing, to the tune of perhaps $100,000 annually in unnecessary spending by HUD, the federal agency requires that every time IEH builds a new HUD-funded project, the Island non-profit must set up a new non-profit corporation to build and run it. So, IEH has 11 corporations, with 56 bank accounts, and 11 audits. Each administrative move, each payment, from each of these 11 non-profits must be sent up to HUD for approval and funding, adding $50,000 just in duplicative auditing.
Hours and hours of manpower and auditing attention must be spent monthly on all this work. Common sense cries out: Why? Couldn't the money be put to better use?
Woodside Village, Woodside Village II, Woodside Village III, Woodside Village IV, Woodside Village V, Woodside Village VI, Hillside Village II, Hillside Village III, The Margaret C. Love House, Aidylberg 1 and Aidylberg II, plus IEH. Twelve corporations in all. A waste of valuable time and people. And, HUD knows how to streamline. It did so in Littleton, New Hampshire last year, and did it within a month from proposal to approval by Washington.
If IEH is unsuccessful in its appeals to HUD, new affordable, elderly housing may be out of reach. After all, what organization, no matter how capable and successful, will choose to add yet another corporation to its already impossible list. And that's too bad, when there are 49 elderly applicants on IEH's HUD-funded projects waiting list and about 100 on the Hillside I waiting list, most of them disabled and non-elderly. And when IEH could house those people and others, because it's the long distance runner in the affordable housing business, and it gets things done.