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Atlantic City Housing Authority is city's 'largest slumlord,' former head testifies

  • Government

The Housing Authority is "the largest slumlord in Atlantic City," its former leader testified before a congressional committee on the issues with public housing Wednesday.

"If they were a private concern, they would have been put out of business a long time ago," Matt Doherty told the Committee on Housing and Insurance.

The Atlantic City Housing Authority has long been plagued by issues, with residents left without heat in the winter and air in the summer, no hot water, mold and infestations of varying kinds.

Doherty's short term was marked by his willingness to discuss the issues publicly and acknowledge the authority's shortcomings.

But he was fired quickly, lasting only from May to September of last year.

Despite just months in control, Doherty testified that he saw more than enough corruption and questionable spending, including "approximately $7.4 million allocated to no-bid contracts, which brought about very limited improvements."

"The leadership under Chair Stephanie Marshall and Treasurer Geoffrey Dorsey has cultivated an environment ripe with corruption that has directly contributed to the degradation of living conditions for the residents," he said.

The problem with local housing authorities seems to go beyond the resort, the title of the eighth such committee meeting on the subject indicated.

"The Public Housing Authority Oversight: How Scandals and Mismanagement Harm Residents and Taxpayers."

This meeting was meant "to focus on why so many local housing agencies fail to do the job we pay them to do," explained Chair Warren Davidson before testimony began.

The problems in Atlantic City are far from over for residents of homes run by the authority, Doherty said.

"Over the last two winters, ACHA has failed to provide consistent heating and hot water, and we anticipate similar failures in the coming 2024-2025 winter season," he said. "This neglect stems from a misallocation of funds, diverted away from essential services to corrupt dealings by the board."

Congressman Jeff Van Drew called for a federal investigation into the ACHA in March.

He spoke Wednesday, pointing to Doherty's testimony as "a damning indictment of the illegal practices that left our most vulnerable residents in cold, infested and moldy apartments."

"The Atlantic City Housing Authority has failed the people of Atlantic City," Van Drew said. "The authority has squandered millions of taxpayer dollars through illicit no-bid contracts that failed to deliver any results. ... We must ensure that this never happens again."

The ACHA did not respond to numerous media requests for comment.

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small stepped in at one point in December of 2022, having the city's inspectors go in and check on the issues.

But that hit several snags, including the authority not giving a proper list of the homes that were inhabited and those that were vacant. Access was an issue at the time as well.

 

author

Lynda Cohen

Lynda Cohen founded BreakingAC after working as a local newspaper reporter for more than two decades. She is an NJPA award-winner and was a Stories of Atlantic City fellow.

Sunday, June 16, 2024
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