|Looming Challenges: Internal Structures and Systems
Duplicative and Ineffective Organizational Structures. The newly appointed management team inherited two almost completely unrelated entities. Little or no coordination has been occurring in areas where, to external observers, opportunities are abundant: both HCD and HABC operate social services programs (including day care), and both maintain separate personnel, housing development, and financial management operations. This compartmentalization inhibits opportunities for more effective and efficient management.
Limited Neighborhood Planning and Partnerships. One of the clear successes of the Schmoke Administration is the successful redevelopment of long-standing troubled public housing projects. In developing Pleasant View Gardens and other similar projects through the federal HOPE VI program’the program has provided HABC with $200 million in redevelopment funds over the last seven years’HCD has been able to change neighborhood dynamics and improve living conditions for low-income people, while creating places that are assets to their surrounding neighborhoods.
Beyond HOPE VI, neighborhood planning and the strategic placement of resources are notably absent. HCD and HABC development efforts (acquisition, disposition and demolition of smaller properties as well as larger-scale development projects), are largely performed piecemeal rather than as part of overall neighborhood improvement and recovery strategies. The corresponding result is that in very few instances have the use of the Department’s development funds resulted in significant impact on the surrounding neighborhood. This absence results in part from the paucity of neighborhood planners within HCD. The Department lacks the planning capacity to be good partners with neighborhoods in developing successful futures for Baltimore’s communities.
Absence of Performance Standards. In examining program performance, our overarching finding is that the Department is not performance-driven. Despite the fact that certain divisions and sections (HOPE VI and CDBG Compliance, for example) have performed quite strongly, their success is due more to the talents of the individuals involved than to a management system based on performance measures. The project team can find virtually no program or activity within the Department that is evaluated regularly on the basis of output measures. For example:
Although the Neighborhood Service Centers are responsible for handling citizen complaints and requests for service, no regular reports are generated describing the number of complaints received and those successfully handled.
Before the appointment of the new management team, there was no norm established for the number of inspections that should be completed daily, weekly, or monthly by housing inspectors.
The staff responsible for property acquisition and disposition’a critical function to see to it that new real estate development can occur in the city’are not held accountable for achieving any particular volume goals.
Property managers within HABC are handicapped in being held accountable for matters like building maintenance, turnover of vacant units, rent collections, etc.’which are handled centrally by HABC’rather than being given full responsibility for what is commonly understood to be property management.
Those operating the Section 8 leasing program are not held accountable for increasing the number of landlords participating in the program, or getting rent payments out on time.
Nonprofit contractors are not monitored closely enough or held accountable for their failure to meet desired outcomes.
Critical Management Information System Needs. The HABC management information system (MIS) is in crisis. According to an internal Inspector General Report, in 1994, HABC senior management determined that the mainframe computer system supporting all HABC and HCD business functions needed to be replaced, and that a new system needed to be put in place prior to the end of 1999 since the old mainframe was not Y2K compliant.
The deadline was not met. As it stands today, the following public housing applications are not part of the new computer system, and a manual system is being used: all tenant rent collections (TARS, for Tenants Accounts Receivable); payments to landlords under the Section 8 program; the tenant accounts data system (TADS); the Housing Authority Utilities Management System; and the Inventory/Procurement/Work Order system. Under a manual system, the Housing Authority cannot reliably count the number of occupied public housing units or utilized Section 8 vouchers and certificates.
The most serious failure caused by the system breakdown has been within the federally funded Section 8 leasing program (in which 13,000 rental certificates and vouchers are distributed to the elderly, families and persons with disabilities). While most other housing authorities run Section 8 at a ‘profit,’ HABC has incurred considerable additional costs due to the system breakdown. Landlords have threatened to evict tenants because the Authority is slow to pay the landlords their rent due, and the Authority has incurred extra costs in overtime for manual data entry (cashiers have had to manually type more than 1,000 court cases to pursue tenants delinquent on rent). In addition to resulting in extra costs, the manual system increases the potential for fraud.
HCD, which is serviced by HABC’s MIS division, also faces critical information technology needs. The Acquisitions and Disposition Division cannot make much-needed progress on the backlog of properties to be acquired and disposed of without the development of a central repository of information about the status of those properties. Housing inspectors need an automated system to record, store, retrieve and transmit housing code violation data in order to more quickly resolve code violations. Without these and other upgrades to the Department’s MIS system, HCD will be unable to implement many of the recommendations included in this report.
Personnel Systems Impede Effective Management. Despite the fact that the Department benefits from some very strong employees, the overall culture needs to be transformed to become far more results-oriented. Employees are not managed to performance goals, with the result that there is barely any basis to discipline poor performance or reward excellent performance. Consider that in an organization as large as the Department’2,200 employees’the project team heard of only half a dozen or so terminations for cause in recent years, and these were for blatantly inappropriate behavior such as drug use and frequent unexplained absences. There were no instances in which someone was terminated simply because they were not performing to management’s standards. To the extent legally possible, more management staff’particularly at the division director level’must be exempted from Civil Service regulations in order to provide the Commissioner and her deputies with more control over staffing decisions. In addition, improved management systems and training programs are needed so that these large organizations can be managed more effectively.
Introduction: Department of Housing and Community Development