- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - More than a decade after chronic mismanagement led to a federal takeover, the Housing Authority of New Orleans will officially return to local control July 1, city and federal officials said Wednesday.

The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1kLBugV ) reports U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed a transition agreement authorizing the formal hand-off.

Last month, Sandra Henriquez, HUD’s assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing, said HANO would be released from federal control this summer because it’s “wholly better” now than when seized in 2002. Donovan echoed that sentiment Wednesday. He says both HANO’s financial and operational management has improved to a point that he feels comfortable returning it to local control.

David Gilmore, a federal contractor and one in a long line of federally-appointed administrative receivers to lead the agency, left the job in April. Two HUD staffers are now temporarily running HANO.

Before the transfer is complete, a board of seven commissioners needs to be seated. Three Landrieu appointees, Dwayne Bernal, Toni Hackett Antrum and Vonda Rice, were announced last month. The other four members are expected to be announced soon. They will need to be confirmed by the City Council.

Once in place, the board will sign off on a new leader for the agency. Landrieu said the search for an executive director is underway and he is hopeful someone will be named to the post before July 1.

The federal government took control of HANO in February 2002, after finding it in default on its contract with HUD. Public housing authorities typically are governed by a locally appointed or elected board of commissioners. The agencies are required to comply with federal housing regulations and are bound to an annual contract with HUD that provides for their funding.

Nationally, HUD still has seven housing authorities in administrative receivership, meaning HUD assumes the role of the board of directors. One public housing authority is under a judicial receivership, where the court selects a receiver.

The city is inheriting a portfolio that currently includes nine housing developments containing more than 3,500 units. About half of them, 1,812 units, are public housing. The rest are either affordable or market-rate apartments.

The housing authority also provides rental vouchers to about 17,700 families through its Section 8 rental-assistance program. The agency employs 263 people.

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Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com