A $17 billion housing bill debated in the Senate on Tuesday would give Housing Secretary Jack F. Kemp broad -- and unwanted -- powers to put "troubled" local housing authorities under temporary federal receivership.
At the request of Buffalo Common Council leaders, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., is researching existing law with a view toward asking Kemp to take control of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority while its segregation problems are ironed out.
Kemp last week said he was not interested in taking over local housing agencies, although he did place the Passaic, N.J., housing authority under receivership earlier this year while its leaders were investigated for criminal conduct. Other authorities placed in receivership in recent years included Bridgeport, Conn.; East St. Louis, Mo., and Cleveland.
The omnibus housing bill being debated would simplify the cumbersome and time-consuming process under which the federal government could assume control over a local housing agency.
The legislation permits the HUD secretary to turn over all or part of an authority's operations to a private management company after designating the authority as "troubled." The agency could be so designated for management failings, violations of federal regulations, or any other cause the secretary decided was "appropriate."
HUD also could petition a state or federal court to name a receiver until the problems were corrected. A HUD official who spoke on condition he not be identified said Kemp never asked for such powers.
George K. Arthur, president of the Buffalo Common Council, who wants Kemp to take over the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, said, "We hope that provision of the bill survives the legislative process down there. Putting the authority in receivership is in the best interests of the housing authority and the City of Buffalo."