Mount Clemens public housing officials have received what amounts to a failing grade in their most recent inspection by the federal government and ordered to come up with a recovery plan.
The city’s stock of 255 public housing apartments has been designated as “troubled” following the inspections, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). If sufficient improvements are not made, HUD could remove the director and install their own.
“It is critical that the Agency assess its current situation to determine if recovery is feasible or if alternative options for affordable housing should be considered,” Douglas Gordon, director of the Detroit Office of Public Housing wrote in a letter to the city.
According to HUD, the Real Estate Assessment Center division (REAC) issued the troubled designation after the Mount Clemens Housing Commission had an overall score of 59 out of 100 for the year ending June 30, 2022.
The Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) inspection reports centers on four areas: physical, financial, management, and capital fund.
Mount Clemens scored an 18 out of a possible 40 points in the physical category; 25 out of 25 in financial; 11 out of 25 in management; and 5 out of 10 in capital fund.
According to HUD’s letter to the city, when a public housing agency becomes physically substandard, it typically has either failed to prioritize capital funding or failed to correct deficiencies identified in previous REAC inspections reports.
Likewise in terms of management, the agency has failed to maintain an acceptable occupancy level in its developments.
Mayor: Housing residents ‘deserve better’
Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp and City Manager Gregg Shipman met last week with the city’s housing commission Executive Director Earl Rickman and the commission to discuss the letter. Mount Clemens’ housing is run in conjunction with the Mount Clemens Housing Commission and Rickman.
After the meeting, the mayor said she was “disappointed” at the troubled status.
“The residents of the housing development deserve better,” Kropp said. “We believe a comprehensive plan should be developed to ensure the improvement of the development for the over 500 residents.”
At the meeting, Rickman, who is retiring this summer after 30 years with the housing commission, blames much of the problem on a delay in inspections caused by the pandemic.
He said the COVID-19 crisis resulted in no annual inspections being done and employees went into the units only on an emergency basis. That was for the health and safety of both the staff and tenants, he added.
“After almost two years of no inspections, I’m not surprised at the condition,” Rickman said, adding: “It was not a comfortable situation.”
Still, according to local housing officials, the score provides only a “snapshot” of the big picture. The failing 59 score was only off by 1 as a 60 score would be considered as a passing grade.
The crisis also caused a shortage of supplies and manpower, while some staff members were vaccinated while others weren’t. Evictions were frozen during the pandemic.
Rickman distributed pictures of recent inspections of tenants’ units that showed a leaking pump in the boiler room, boarded-up windows, ceiling tiles falling from water damage, and smoke detectors being removed. Officials said some unkempt units became a “breeding ground for roaches and bedbugs.”
HUD has started a binding recovery agreement with the housing commission to make sure that improvements are being made.
Manager says staff working ‘every day’ on improvements
A correction plan is in place to address the deficiencies and improvements are gradually being made, said Kimberly Ross, the city’s property manager.
“We are going through the report, starting with most serious issues and working our way to least serious,” she said. “We are working on every day, at least four hours a day to make sure the tenants are cleaning up their units.”
HUD issued its letter at the end of April and gave Mount Clemens until the end of May to submit its plan.
Its findings “look much worse than it was,” Rickman said.
For the most part, the units are in good shape, he added.
Michael Polsinelli, field office director of HUD’s Detroit office, said the pandemic caused similar problems in many of the country’s public housing developments.
“It’s getting back in the swing now,” he said in a telephone interview.
Polsinelli said if the city agrees to a recovery agreement with HUD, a monitor would be put in place to keep track of the improvements.
“If, for some reason, things are getting worse, they will be put under a receivership with HUD,” he said.