Tampa HIV Housing Program’s Redirection of City Reimbursement Suspicious, St. Petersburg Times Reports
Although the not-for-profit Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan bills the city to cover the "residential rent" of Sulphur Springs, Fla., townhomes that house HIV-positive individuals and their families, a "large chunk" of the money goes to property renovation, and only 25 of the 32 units are occupied, the St. Petersburg Times reports. The Tampa City Council, which has requested an audit of the program, "balked" at THAP's recent request for an additional $522,000 in federal funds to fill the vacancies, noting that the city has given $165,937 to the housing program since last year. Michael Ruppal, who runs THAP, said that the program asks the city for rent reimbursements because those funds allow THAP to pay the $15,000 a month its landlord charges for the lease of the townhouses. However, the Times reports that the housing program and the townhome owner, Coastal Bay Properties, are run by the same man, THAP director Chester Luney. "In short, THAP collects rent on vacant properties and then pays itself," the Times reports. Ruppal said that Coastal Bay uses much of the rent money to recoup some of the $330,000 it spent to gut and renovate the Sulphur Springs townhomes, which had been in "ramshackle" conditions. Such renovations are an "allowable" expense under the federal program that funds the HIV housing program, he added (Goffard, St. Petersburg Times, 10/31).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.