State to Take Purse Strings In Cambridge Public Housing
The Massachusetts Department of Community Affairs announced last Tuesday that it will take direct charge of the Cambridge Housing Authority's budget for a month to help reorganize the agency.
In a letter last month DCA Commissioner Lewis Crampton informed Mary Castriotta, chairman of the CHA, that the CHA's severe financial difficulties prompted the unprecedented move.
"With some sense of trepidation," Crampton wrote, the CHA has accumulated "far and away the highest perunit deficit that has ever been recorded in the history of Massachusetts public housing."
The Cambridge Housing Authority receives financial assistance from the state, making it subject to DCA action. After a meeting with Cambridge housing officials last Tuesday, Crampton announced that for a month five or six DCA officials will authorize all CHA expenditures, control occupancy and rental plans and overhaul the current operating budget. The CHA will be placed indefinitely on a schedule of weekly budgets, weekly DCA reviews and monthly financial reports.
In his letter to Castriotta, Crampton justified the move, saying, "We see no other way to prevent the collapse of the state-aided program in Cambridge."
Cambridge Housing officials said yesterday that the state move was welcome.
"Mr. Crampton made it very definite that they were not taking over. They were offering advice," John Donovan, assistant executive director of the CHA said.
"The projects are in a bad way," he said. "Inflation has knocked the crap out of us and there's been a lot of vandalism in the projects."
George P. Yuse, director of leasing and occupancy yesterday said that inoccupancy in Roosevelt Towers is near 35 per cent because of vandalism.
One CHA official said he anticipates a $457,000 deficit for the year ending June 1974. The monthly deficit for a state-funded CHA housing unit is $71.34, Sheldon Isreal, an official of the DCA said yesterday. The highest previous deficit shown by a housing authority, he said, was $55 per unit per month. "We had increased [Cambridge's] budget 67 per cent from 1973 to 1974," Israel said. "They were overspending the increase by nearly 40 per cent."
In his letter last month, Crampton wrote Castriotta, "Cambridge has already spent more than its allocated funds. There is no more money for Cambridge."
DCA officials could not predict yesterday how much the state's action will cost. Isreal said, however, that it should save time and money in the long-run.