Per a request by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, the federal government performed an inspection of 32 low-income housing units in southern Maine, and found that the majority of them did not meet quality guidelines. Collins requested the inspection following the Advertiser Democrat's report on poor conditions at Section 8 housing in the Norway area.
A letter to Collins from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General said that 30 of the units did not meet quality standards, and that several contained health and safety violations, the Bangor Daily News reported. The inspector general's office inspected units that passed MaineHousing and Avesta's own inspections in March 2011, and found that some units should not have been approved for occupancy. Avesta is MaineHousing's largest low-income housing administrator. Some of the units violated fire egress rules and had other safety or health problems, including mold, electrical hazards and improperly installed fuel tanks. The office also said it has concerns on whether MaineHousing "has the capacity to implement its plan of action" to phase out contract administrators and assume responsibility for all 3,200 Section 8 units. The office's investigation is not complete, and the letter was an update on its work. A full report will be released at a later date.
Collins called the failed inspections "shocking" and said it is "appalling that taxpayers' dollars are going to subsidize housing that fails to meet basic safety and health standards," according to the paper. Peter Merrill, interim director of MaineHousing, said the findings are "unacceptable" and that the authority will focus on improving its inspection process. He said five inspectors have been released, and five new ones hired, along with three more pending.