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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Homes and Community Renewal, Division of Housing and Community Renewal
Administration of Mitchell-Lama Waiting Lists


Issued: August 17, 2017
Link to full audit report 2016-S-46
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine if Mitchell-Lama Housing Program units are assigned to eligible tenants in compliance with properly established waiting lists. Our audit covered the period January 1, 2014 through February 21, 2017.

Background
The Mitchell-Lama Housing Program (Program) was created in 1955 to provide affordable rental and cooperative housing to middle-income families. There are currently 152 State-supervised Program developments with approximately 68,000 apartments. In exchange for low-interest mortgage loans and real property tax exemptions, the Program required limitations on profit and supervision by the Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), an agency within Homes and Community Renewal. Program apartments are rented or sold to prospective tenants on waiting lists maintained by DHCR’s Automated Waiting List (AWL) system. When there are vacancies, applicants should be offered and awarded apartments in the order they appear on the waiting lists. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements related to income limits, family size, and apartment size before taking occupancy of a unit. In addition, while internal transfer applicants (those already occupying Program units) have priority over external applicants for available apartments, developments are required to offer one out of every four available units to applicants on external lists.

When a waiting list is “open,” the development accepts new applicants; when a list is “closed,” the development does not accept new applicants, generally because the list is already full. We focused our audit on the five developments with closed waiting lists at the time audit fieldwork began.

Key Findings

  • The majority of sampled new admissions, internal transfers, and successions were selected from the AWL and approved by DHCR. However, in most cases, neither DHCR nor the development maintained the documentation required to confirm that tenants were selected in the order they appeared on the AWLs.
  • One development, Knickerbocker Village, did not request or receive DHCR approval for eight of the nine succession apartments it awarded. Moreover, it awarded three apartments to individuals who were not on the AWL.
  • Four of the five developments did not comply with the required 3:1 internal/external ratio when offering apartments to applicants. For example, Knickerbocker Village officials awarded 18 consecutive one-bedroom units to external applicants, while at Amalgamated Warbasse Houses, we found several instances where at least six consecutive internal transfers were selected for the available two- and three-bedroom units.
  • As of July 31, 2016, Westview had 51 vacant units, even though it had applicants on its internal and external AWLs. Ten of these units were vacant for as long as five years.

Key Recommendations

  • Take appropriate action regarding tenants who were awarded apartments without DHCR approval and/or not selected from the AWL.
  • Ensure that occupancy changes are supported by documentation showing the order in which applicants are selected.
  • Ensure that housing developments comply with the requirements for awarding apartments, including (but not limited to) the 3:1 internal/external applicant ratio, the proper use of AWLs, as well as the prompt filling of vacant apartments.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development: The Mitchell-Lama Program - Awarding Housing Units and Maintaining Waiting Lists (2014-N-3)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Kenrick Sifontes
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236