Report: Homeless Housing Guidelines Abused
Dec. 01, 1990
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Texas businessmen and church leaders are living in fashionable homes with government subsidized rents because of loopholes in federal homeless housing guidelines, a newspaper reported.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in a story for Sunday editions, said people who have too much money to qualify for welfare, food stamps or other housing assistance qualified as homeless under a program intended for the poor.
''Obviously, these kinds of abuses are unacceptable,'' said Walt Sevier, a regional deputy administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. ''I don't want to overreact, but that is simply obscene.''
The Star-Telegram found that the vaguely defined HUD program aimed at providing temporary shelter to the nation's homeless poor has helped some of them, but also has resulted in abuses.
HUD Secretary Jack Kemp launched the program after he took office in February 1989. It makes available up to 10 percent of 50,000 foreclosed homes the federal government owns nationwide.
Under the program, HUD-approved sponsors lease the homes for one year to those who qualify for the assistance. The sponsors are given additional two- year options to buy the homes at a price 10 percent below market value.
After purchasing the homes, the sponsors can resell them at market rates.
Among examples of abuse cited by the newspaper:
-Businessman and part-time street minister Roy Gray of Keller rents a $92,500 home in the upscale Dallas suburb of Rowlett for $1 a year.
-The net worth of Bill Robinson's non-profit company will soon exceed $1 million, but the businessman and Baptist minister has moved into a two-story home in Arlington appraised at $92,000, the newspaper said.
-Robert Holton, a construction contractor, pays $348 in monthly rent for a four-bedroom, $85,500 home that he ''thought would be adequate to house our furniture.''
HUD regulations define a homeless person as virtually anyone without a permanent home, regardless of income, and agency failed to set limits on size and value of homes, the newspaper said.
Agency officials said they are investigating whether Gray and Robinson violated federal conflict-of-interest rules by using their positions as church-affiliated HUD sponsors to lease the government homes for themselves.
The two are key officials in a small circle of area churches and non-profit organizations linked with HUD to provide housing for the homeless.
Gray and Robinson have said they had no profit motive in deciding who would benefit from the program. Gray said he had ''no apologies'' for his housing placements and said all met HUD regulations.
''We've got people in houses anywhere from zero income - you know, people who didn't even have a job - to, I think the highest one is about $2,000 a month,'' Gray said.
A small charismatic church near Keller, Calvary Christian Center, become the nation's largest sponsor for HUD's homeless-housing program almost overnight, the newspaper said.
The center holds the leases to 97 government homes. Gray, as program coordinator for the church, has placed friends and family members in HUD homes, the newspaper reported.
The Star-Telegram said at least four Dallas-Fort Worth area pastors or members of their families are living in HUD homes meant for the homeless.
All the pastors said they or their family members qualified for a HUD home under the government's guidelines because they were either strapped for cash or facing eviction from previous homes.
''It could be such an incredible, wonderful program,'' said Jan Johnson, director of Community Enrichment Center, a homeless sponsor affiliated with the Richland Hills Church of Christ.
''It's really sad if it's been abused,'' she said.