Foundation shaken at Housing Authority
October 17, 2008 · Updated 12:16 PM
t Developments impact Angel, Abel legislative race.
The sudden retirement of Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority (KCCHA) Executive Director Norm McLoughlin resulted from a series of bad administrative decisions along with the national housing crisis, according to sources.
“Time will tell what happens next,” said South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel, who is the current KCCHA board chair. “We have a lot of work to do, beginning with a budgeting and staffing plan.”
KCCHA had made several property investments and was unable to pay off loans. As a result, the KCCHA board instructed the agency to sell off properties in order to make those payments.
McLoughlin will be replaced in the short term by KCCHA Finance Director Debbie Broughton, who will become interim director.
Angel said she did not think Broughton would take the position on a permanent basis, but suggested the hiring of a more long-term interim director to take charge while a more thorough search is conducted.
“We need someone to get us over the hump,” Angel said. “I’m not sure that we will be able to get someone permanently, as they may not want the job without knowing fully what they are getting into.”
Kitsap Association of Realtors executive Mike Eliason disagreed, saying the current housing crisis has put a lot of qualified people out of work and that it would not be difficult to draw from this talent pool.
Angel said on Thursday the problem was a result of several diverse factors. One, however, is the fact that the KCCHA board “was not given the data it needed in order to make a proper decision.
“These problems go back a while,” she said, adding that it took “a lot of digging” by herself and North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer in order to discover the scope of the problem.
Eliason said KCCHA’s actions may have been ill-advised but became more so when the housing market tanked.
“If the market was healthy, they wouldn’t be in this predicament today,” he said. “Their purpose was to manage housing for low-income people and they got into trouble when they tried to operate outside of this charter.”
The situation became a political football when former Port Orchard Mayor Kim Abel, who is opposing Angel for the 26th District Legislative seat, recruited legislators and state authorities to outline a possible assistance plan.
“It’s vital that we figure out a solution to avoid putting the taxpayers on the hook for another bailout plan,” Abel said in a press release. “If the Housing Authority is forced to dissolve, it could potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars. That’s why I have worked to bring together our Kitsap legislative delegation to put a plan in place.”
Abel plans to approach the State Housing Finance Commission and the Department of Community Trade and Economic Development to help prevent the Housing Authority from defaulting on its loans.
Specifically, she would seek to refinance the short-term construction loans that KCCHA has on the Bremerton Harborside condominiums into longer, more manageable loans, according to the release.
“We need to make sure that people in lower-income homes aren’t threatened by this situation,” she said. “We need to assure them they will not become homeless.”
Abel said that Angel, as current head of the KCCHA board, should have acted more quickly.
Angel counters that she has only held that office since January, and that her predecessor — coincidentally, Abel — should take some of the responsibility.
Nevertheless, Angel said the process of assessing blame is “irrelevant.”
Eliason also distributes the blame, saying that commissioners and mayors are required to serve on so many boards they are unable to give each one enough attention.
As as result, the agency staffs end up making ill-advised decisions.
Angel disagrees, saying she is able to spend time on all her board obligations — even if it keeps her up past midnight on a regular basis. She does acknowledge that communication isn’t always perfect.
“The board wasn’t able to make the right decisions,” she said, “because we weren’t given accurate data.”