HUD pays visit to La Joya Housing Authority

LA JOYA — Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development paid a visit to the La Joya Housing Authority last week as staff and the board of commissioners said they’re trying to bring the housing authority out of turmoil.

Three HUD officials were at the housing authority from Monday through Friday, inspecting records.

“Anything that federal money touches, they check,” said Claudia Alcazar, the interim executive director appointed to the job just last month on July 15.

“I knew, because of my experience in government, they were going to check financials first which is understandable, that’s what they’re supposed to do,” she said. “They just checked that, basically, and tenant files and our books and bank accounts — everything.”

Alcazar said the HUD officials were also interested in speaking to the staff and the board members but said she didn’t think they ever did so as they were too busy reviewing paperwork.

However, Board Commissioner Sylvia Garces Valdez, confirmed in a message on Tuesday that she did speak briefly with the officials.

“They didn’t tell me anything in particular but did ask if we could provide some financial statements,” Garces Valdez stated, “and of course we did.”

The visit from HUD came shortly after the board of commissioners approved a corrective plan of action that had long been requested by HUD.

The plan of action is meant to document the steps that the housing authority will take to address deficiencies. The plan that the board approved last month had been prepared by their previous executive director, Cristi LaJeunesse.

LaJeunesse stepped down last month, citing in her resignation letter that she was concerned with the direction of the housing authority. Among her concerns was lack of response to HUD’s requests for information.

Part of that information was the corrective plan of action, which was approved by the board during Alcazar’s first meeting as the interim executive director.

The Monitor requested a copy of the approved plan but it was yet to be made available.

Results of HUD’s visit last week won’t be known for another six to eight weeks, Alcazar said, at which point HUD will likely issue recommendations.

“I want to bring the housing authority back up,” she said. “It’s fixable.”