GAO: 160 Entities Involved in Housing Assistance

by devteam September 21st, 2012 | Share

The Government Accountability Officern(GAO) has completed a study with results that most of us could havernanticipated.  After a review of a numberrnof agencies it found that, “Housingrnassistance is fragmented across 160 programs and activities.“</p

Thernfederal government plays a major role in providing housing assistance tornhomebuyers and renters and to state and local governments.  It incurred about $170 billion in obligationsrnfor federal assistances and forgone tax revenues in FY2010.  Current fiscal realities raise questionsrnabout the efficiency of multiple housing programs and activities across federalrnagencies with similar goals, products, and delivery systems.  The report assesses the (1) extent to whichrnthere is overlap or fragmentation in selected housing programs, (2) federalrncollaborative efforts, and (3) implications of consolidating selected housingrnprograms.</p

GAOrnfound overlaps in the services offered, geographic areas serviced, and productsrnoffered.  For example, programs offeredrnby the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department ofrnAgriculture (USDA) through FHA and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) both providernfinancing for development and rehabilitation of multifamily housing for low andrnmoderate income housing, as does the Department of Treasury.  HUD and Treasury have tax credit programs focusedrnin urban and suburban areas while RHS financed properties are more likely to bernin rural areas.  On the other hand, inrn2009 FHA guaranteed more mortgage loans in rural areas than did either RHS orrnthe Veterans Administration (VA) which also guarantee such loans.</p

GAOrnsays that opportunities exist to increase collaboration and potentially realizernefficiencies among the agencies and two years ago it established an interagencyrntask force to evaluate the potential for coordinating or consolidatingrnhomeownership loan programs at HUD, USDA, and VA.   HUD,rnTreasury, and USDA have been working to consolidate and align requirements forrnrental housing program.  Neither the taskrnforce nor internal efforts have taken full advantage of opportunities to incorporaternkey collaborative practices.</p

GAOrnrecognizes that consolidating programs across agencies carries implications forrnclients, existing programs, personnel, portfolios, and information systems butrnpoints to a suggestion the office made in 2000 that Congress consider requiringrnUSDA and HUD to look at merging some programs serving similar markets with similarrnproducts and now certain aspects of the RHS and FHA homeownership programs arernshowing evidence of growing similarity. </p

Therncurrent statutory framework imposes additional challenges on the agencies’rnability to further consolidate similar programs. Thus, any evaluations of whichrnprograms, products, systems, and processes to retain, revise, consolidate, orrneliminate would involve complex analyses, trade-offs, and difficult policyrndecisions. The task force offers opportunities for these agencies to identifyrnpotential areas for consolidation or greater coordination and which actionsrnwould require statutory change.</p

Basedrnon the study GAO has made identical recommendations to HUD, the Office ofrnManagement and Budget (OMB), USDA, Treasury, and the VA to step up activitiesrnof the task force.  Specifically, OMBrncalled on them to consolidate and align requirements in multifamily programs,rndocument their efforts in annual and strategic plans, and identify specificrnprograms for consolidation.  

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About the Author


Steven A Feinberg (@CPAsteve) of Appletree Business Services LLC, is a PASBA member accountant located in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

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