There are interesting idiosyncrasies when it comes to reading about government and how it benefits society. In the last week, two stories ran in local media:
“After waiting list hits 10-year mark, affordable housing provider Many Mansions closes list”
“Former Naval Base Ventura County employee admits to $1.2M kickback scheme”
While these two stories don’t appear to be connected, they are a revelation on how government has considerable vulnerabilities that weaken its ability to serve society and our communities in the altruistic fashion by which it was designed.
With regard to Many Mansions based in Thousand Oaks, the organization provides affordable housing financed in part through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, which is overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). While many tax credit professionals rely on rent and income limits as reported by HUD and the California Tax Credit Committee, they also refer to a copyrighted calculator by Novogradac and Company to set rent and income limits for tenants. While Many Mansions has 514 units housing over 1,300 individuals, it still falls severely short of demand, given the waiting list of 10 years is now closed with 2,000 households on the list.
Many Mansions projects, however, are no different than other affordable housing tax credit projects, such as Working Artists Ventura. In fact, Ventura County has thousands of these LIHTC units, which are also funded in part by private developers via a public-private partnership. This 30-plus-year-old federal program was created all for the sake of addressing the country’s overwhelming housing crisis — Ventura County is surely hit harder than many other areas — which has only gotten worse over the last 10 years since the Great Recession.
The questions that we as a community and as a society should ask ourselves is this: If this is the best we can do to address the housing crisis, and the demand has only gotten worse, what is wrong with this government program? We can say that pay isn’t keeping up with housing costs, but why? The housing crisis plagues the entire country.
As for the former Naval Base Ventura County employee (who admitted to benefitting from a $1.2 million kickback scheme), this is a good example of how absolute authority is corruptible. This situation arose out of an agreement between a public employee, Fernando Barroso Sr., 69, of Oxnard, and a local businessman, Theodore Bauer. The plan: Barroso would issue and approve work and purchase orders for Bauer’s companies while Bauer created false invoices and Barroso would approve payments for work that was never done. The two would then split the funds. This scheme worked for 10 years. It’s not clear which projects should have been done, but surely, society and the base lost. Now both have to cover the cost of what was lost in not only money, but time and energy as well.
At the cross section of these two different stories are people who fail to hold others accountable. Why is tax credit housing the solution as our housing crisis swells? Why didn’t anyone at the base hold Bauer accountable for the projects he was signing off on? If a problem worsens over time, surely, there is a problem with the supposed solutions.
Local media can only do so much to keep the checks and balances in place, but in the end, accountability and progress should be a constant when it comes to government. Clearly, they are not.
It is only a complacent society that looks at serious issues that continue to get worse and say, “Not my problem,” and just keep passing the baton to the next person who should be held accountable. That baton will never rest until it sits in the lap of someone who cares enough to say something and, better, do something.
This version has been updated to clarify that Novogradac does not oversee the LIHTC program.