“The projects just laid there — dead,” said Maryn Pitt, who became director of the housing agency in central California in 2009. “My predecessors were not really engaged in outputs. To tell you it was a mess would be an understatement.”
The Turlock projects are among dozens of federally funded construction deals that produced few or no homes despite drawing millions from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s affordable-housing fund, according to federal records, interviews and visits to construction sites in dozens of cities.
The projects offer additional evidence of breakdowns within HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which awards grants to local housing agencies for the construction and renovation of homes for the poor. All told, The Post identified about 75 delayed or abandoned construction projects nationwide, including more than 30 empty lots.
That is in addition to the nearly 700 projects cited by a Post investigation in May as showing signs of delay, either because they were launched years ago or had not drawn any federal funding in months or even years. In some cases, the projects were entrusted to inexperienced developers without the financial capacity, land or permits to get the work done.
The first set of 700 deals had drawn some but not all of their HUD funding. The newly identified projects drew all of it — about $40 million. Some of the projects were launched a decade ago or more.
HUD declined to comment specifically on the projects recently identified by The Post. The newspaper last month provided the agency with a list of 119 projects that had drawn all of their HUD funding but appeared to be delayed, defunct or built but not yet sold to low-income buyers.
In a written response, HUD provided summary data but declined to identify any of the projects in question. The agency said that 30 were delayed without justification” and that HUD will require local housing agencies to submit a plan for completion within 90 days. HUD said 22 others will be canceled, with local housing agencies repaying money or accepting a grant reduction.
HUD said that 36 of the projects have been completed, including 12 that are now occupied, and another 18 are proceeding “satisfactorily.” The agency said most of the other projects already had been or will be canceled.
HUD added that it is strengthening its database of open projects so that it can more easily identify those languishing and has asked its field offices to check their status. In a proposed overhaul of HOME regulations released Friday, HUD said it would require local housing agencies to report more frequently on projects so HUD can improve tracking.