D.C. Housing Finance Agency Director Carolyn Oakley has resigned, accusing the HFA of catering to developers at the expense of the low- and moderate-income families it was intended to serve.
". . . My personal values, which are lodged in service to the lower- and moderate-income citizens of the District, no longer allow me to participate as head of an entity in a climate that considers perceptions of the development community its overriding concern rather than the needs of its citizens," Oakley said in a letter Friday to HFA Chairwoman Theresa L. Watson.
This is the third time in the last week the Barry administration has been confronted with problems from within the D.C. government in connection with its dealings with development projects. Last week the Redevelopment Land Agency solidly rejected a negotiated agreement with developers of the much-coveted Portal site, saying the mayor's office went too far in giving the developers concessions on the city-owned land.
D.C. Auditor Otis Troupe, meanwhile, said he was starting new probes into two District-run housing projects, charging that there is a pattern of mismanagement in the D.C. housing department and funds given out to contractors that remain unaccounted for.
Oakley, who has been the HFA's executive director since the agency's beginning two years ago, resigned effective Sept. 30.
Neither Watson nor Mayor Marion Barry, who is on vacation, could be reached for comment last night. D.C. Housing Director James E. Clay declined to comment on the resignation.
In an interview yesterday, Oakley said that she is tired and frustrated with the pace of low-income housing development in the District and that Barry's administration has lacked direction in its low-income housing goals.
"The city has to come to grips with where it is going to go" with housing, Oakley said. "Unless the administration makes major changes, whoever sits in my chair next will be very frustrated."
Citing an example of the frustration, Oakley said the city's has funded HFA only with loans, which the agency must pay back with interest. That "just blew my mind," she said, particularly when the HFA was a new agency trying to get off the ground.
The two-year-old HFA was created to increase the supply of low- and moderate-income housing by providing low-interest financing for construction and rehabilitation.
Oakley said Congress has tried to limit the use of tax-exempt bond financing--the main method the HFA uses to get funds to lend to developers--to low- and moderate-income families. The District "should commit itself to that goal," she said.
Oakley said she recognizes that developers are themselves frustrated with high interest rates but said the city should not listen only to developers, who would like to use low-interest financing for more profitable types of development. She said she was not speaking of any one project or development in particular.
She said she plans to start her own housing consultancy with partners whom she declined to name.
"I'm tired. It's very hard to start a new housing finance agency," she said. "I'm ready to do some other things."