Jan. 25, 2005 The V.I. Housing Authority has a new receiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD officials introduced Jose Bosque as the new receiver for the territory at a press conference Tuesday. Bosque replaces Donna Ayala, who has directed the VIHA receivership team since HUD took over the "troubled" agency in August of 2003.
Michael Liu, HUD assistant secretary said, "Mr. Bosque is no stranger to VIHA. He helped get the housing authority back on track when it had problems in the early 1990's, and he has been instrumental in HUD's current efforts to improve VIHA management, operations, and overall housing conditions for the residents."
Liu said Ayala left because she "wanted to go home," adding that, "As much as she loves the Virgin Islands, this was never meant to be a permanent thing. She's done a wonderful job in really stopping the bleeding."
Liu said when HUD took over VIHA and Ayala was named receiver, the agency was entangled by mismanaged funds.
"We found bills that weren't being paid and vendors that were being paid but not providing services," Liu said. He also said there were numerous cases of inappropriate behavior by employees. "There are investigations that are active at this point."
The agency's financial obligations are now current and a payment plan has been worked out for the $4.16 million owed to the V.I. Water and Power Authority. Liu said VIHA pays WAPA $175,000 every month in addition to its current bill.
"We continue to institutionalize a culture of accountability," Liu said, adding that a national consulting firm, Ameresco, has been hired to conduct an energy audit to look for ways the department can keep costs under control. The 90-day study will carry a price tag of $40,000.
"I am happy to be here. My key priority is to provide better services and quality," Bosque said.
The Puerto Rico native said he plans to improve vacant units as well as those currently in use.
Under Ayala's leadership, 422 public housing units 233 on St. Thomas and 189 on St. Croix have been rehabilitated.
According to Liu, when HUD took over there were more than 800 vacant units with many needing extensive repairs.
In addition to serving as receiver, Bosque will be on the housing authority's board of directors.
Bosque has been a HUD employee for 16 years and has had "numerous" management positions, including overseeing the Puerto Rico Public Housing Administration. He most recently served as special assistant in HUD's Office of Field Operations.
In response to questions from the media, Liu said he could not say when VIHA would get out of receivership, but that this is what they're working towards.
During a teleconference Tuesday morning with Liu and other HUD officials, V.I. Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christensen expressed concerns about how long the receivership will continue. "It seems that return to Virgin Islands control is at least a year and a half away," Christensen stated in a release.
Liu said when HUD does leave, the V.I. government will be getting a "healthy and respected" housing authority.
One of the agency's goals is to move towards homeownership so there is less reliance on HUD subsidies. Christensen's statement indicates she has been briefed on the homeownership initiatives, and that she looks forward to an upcoming report on the state of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority.
Bosque said the agency is currently moving individuals who have been on the waiting list into vacant apartments. Upon HUD's takeover of VIHA, the waiting list was closed, but the agency re-opened its waiting list last summer.
"From time to time we have to close the waiting list," Bosque said, adding that prior to HUD's takeover of VIHA, the V.I. list had never before been closed. He said they have found names of individuals on the list who have died, or who are no longer interested.
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