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Click here to listen to the MPBN Radio report (3:54 minutes) about the lack of cost control and accountability at Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA). During the past several years, MSHA has funneled state and federal taxpayer dollars to construct a series of low-income apartment projects across Maine costing up to $292,000 per unit. The most recent project, Elm Terrace in Portland, was budgeted at $314,000 per 1,100-square-foot apartment. Growing scrutiny by Treasurer Poliquin and four new MSHA board members, recently appointed by Governor LePage, stalled the project. On Sunday, the MSHA executive director approved the 38 Elm Terrace apartments at a cost to taxpayers of $265,000 each.
MSHA is one of eight quasi-independent governmental Authorities created by the state legislature to provide important services to the people of Maine. A critical function of MSHA is to use taxpayer dollars to finance the construction of "affordable" apartments for the 6,500 homeless and disadvantaged Maine families waiting for a safe, warm place to call home. Spending limited taxpayer dollars on a small number of expensive apartments is unfair to the families-in-need hoping for an affordable apartment, and is unfair to the taxpayers footing the bill.
The MSHA executive director is not accountable to any individual or body for cost-efficiently spending taxpayer money. Even so, the executive director runs a complex enterprise with 143 employees, a $14 million annual operating budget, and $1.6 billion in outstanding bonds sold to investors to fund some of its programs. Once appointed by the governor for a four-year term, the MSHA executive director reports to nobody. As a result, the MSHA board is limited in its oversight of the Authority operations. This lack of accountability is unlike any other quasi-independent Authority, where its executive directors all serve at the pleasure of their respective boards.
Lack of accountability can be expensive, as we've seen at MSHA with its $292,000 "affordable" apartments, paid by taxpayers.
Maine State Treasurer
For related information and media, visit www.maine.gov/treasurer/outreach.