The District of Columbia government spends more than one-third of its federal community development housing funds for administration of the program - a larger percentage than any other major city in the country, according to a recent congressional study.
While the District was spending 34.1 percent of the money from 1975 to 1977 on overhead, the city with the second worst record, Milwaukee, totaled 27.5 percent.Honolulu, whose 750,000 population is slightly larger than the District's was the best in the country with 3.7 percent administrative costs. San Antonio was, second with 5.2 percent.
The District was awarded $100 mililion in community development funds in the three-year period and spent $34.1 million of it for planning and management development and administrative costs according to the report by the House Appropriations Committee.
The District has often been criticized by federal officials, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Patricia r Roberts Harris, for high administrative costs of its housing program and its failure to apply for available federal grants.
When the District failed to apply in time for urban development grants earlier this year, but said it did, Harris observed the District of Columbia has a very good press operation going that does not conform to the reality of its applications."
The District submitted applications for later urban development grants, but those are still being studied, in part, Harris said recently, because the city has the highest administrative costs of any city in the country."
City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, one of the chief contenders in the Sept. 12 Democratic mayoral primary, yesterday released part of the study. He cited it as an example of the "bureaucratic waste and fat" in the administration of one of his major rivals in the election, Mayor Walter E. Washington.
"After the federal aid intended for housing trickles ownthrough the bureaucratic sieve in the District Building, there's not much left to nourish the people at the grass roots," Tucker said.
"First the mayor's office has a terrible record when it comes to getting federal aid, compared to other cities. Second, when it does get that aid, more of it goes into administrative overhead and less into actual program work than any other city.
"That one dollar out of every three should go for bureaucratic overhead is outrageous," said Tucker, who is also opposed in the primary by D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry and four other candidates.
The mayor could not be reached for comment. But John Stone, director of administration for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development, disputed some of the findings of the House committee's report.
He said that the city's community development overhead costs were overstated by $1 million and that the city actually received $116.3 million in aid, with the extra $16.3 million being kept by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as repayment for urban renewal loans to the city.
Stone said that if the revised figures are used, the city's overhead is 28.5 percent. "We're still No. 1, but more in line with the others," he said.
"The implication is that we're sitting over here and doing nothing and being fat," Stone said. "That's just not true."
He said that since the start of the community development block grant program in July, 1975, the District had trimmed its staff for this specific program from 1,544 to 1,367.
By contrast, Hoaliku Drake, the director of Honolulu's human resources office, said the Hawaiian city has a "very lean staff on all federal grants."
"In Honolulu," she said, "our workers do more than one job."
Sarah Underwood, director of community planning and development for HUD's D.C. area office, said that part of the Distric's high overhead can be attributed to the higher wages that are paid here, and the fact that the District pays for staff members to assists citizens in developing housing programs.
She said the the local money had been used for such things as housing rehabilitation and street, sidewalk, water and sewer improvements in neighborhoods with housing for low-and moderate-income residents.
Nonethelss, she said. "There's some room for improvement in the management - more care on the part of the administrators in their use of the staff."
The House study concentrated on 12 major cities, all of which had received at least $10 million in community development funds during the three-year period. The 12 included six with the worst overhead costs and the six with the least.
The report said that it considers the planning and management and administratives costs "to be non-program in nature because they do not contribute directly toward the accomplishment of the national (housing goals)."
During the three-year period covered by the study, 509 cities received $8.4 billion under the community development program.