Tampa City Council Stalls Federal Funding for HIV Housing Expansion, Awaits Operating Group’s Audit Results
Tampa's housing authority has shelved a contract that would grant the Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan $522,000 in federal funds to expand housing for people with HIV/AIDS while a "long-awaited" audit of the group is completed, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The funding would allow the group to add an additional seven apartments to the 25-apartment facility that it operates for people with HIV and their families. The contract was scheduled to go before the City Council for approval tomorrow and then to the mayor's office, but the housing authority decided to delay the council vote until after it receives the audit, which should be ready next week. THAP, which is three years behind on its audits and has received "millions" from the housing authority for various projects, has come under "harsh scrutiny" over the last several months for connections between THAP Director Chet Luney and city housing chief Steve LaBrake and his top aide Lynne McCarter. Luney has admitted to "performing and soliciting favors" to help the two build a "dream home" in South Tampa, leasing one of McCarter's properties so that she could obtain a home loan and having a pool dug at her home for free. City officials stressed that they do not want or plan to block the housing funding, but want to ensure that THAP is properly monitored. The agency already receives $450,000 from the city through the federal Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS program and houses 48 people at its facility, which consists of "modest" townhomes. Because of the default on past audits, the new contract stipulates that THAP must conduct an audit within 90 days of the end of the fiscal year or face the loss of the following year's funds. While it awaits the audit, the council is scheduled to vote on allotting HOPWA funds to Catholic Charities and the Harbor Behavioral Health Care Institute. However, Michael Ruppal, director of THAP's HIV housing program, said that while the other groups concentrate on women and children, his organization is the only one that provides housing to men and families, providing a solution to an "absolutely desperate" situation (Goffard, St. Petersburg Times, 10/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.