HUD Will Post Officials' Salaries Online

“Transparency changes behavior,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in an April 11 statement. “HUD needs to embrace that idea. I’m looking forward to the public release of housing authority salary data." “Transparency changes behavior,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in an April 11 statement. “HUD needs to embrace that idea. I’m looking forward to the public release of housing authority salary data." J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The most recent salary data for the top officials running the country’s 4,000 public housing authorities will be posted online by mid-May, according to the Housing and Urban Development Department.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan confirmed that the department will publish 2013 compensation information of the highest-paid PHA officials on its website by May 16. The housing authorities had to submit their data to HUD by Feb. 28; headquarters staff is assessing and organizing the information now, said Donovan, in an April 10 letter to Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley on April 1 said he would put a hold on the nomination of Katherine M. O’Regan as HUD’s assistant secretary for policy development and research because of the department’s failure at that point to respond to his request and release the salary data. 

“I want to assure you that my staff is in the process of validating this data to ensure both its accuracy and consistency and that the department will not only share this data with you, but also make this data available to the public in a searchable, standard electronic format, as you requested,” Donovan wrote last Thursday.

Grassley since has released his hold on O’Regan’s nomination.

“Transparency changes behavior,” Grassley said in an April 11 statement. “HUD needs to embrace that idea. I’m looking forward to the public release of housing authority salary data. Too many housing authority executives exploit the lack of transparency and oversight to pad their own nests at the expense of those who need safe, affordable housing.”

In 2013, HUD published a notice in the Federal Register asking public housing authorities for more comprehensive data on how they pay their executive directors, including a breakdown of base salary, bonus and incentive compensation, and which payments are made with federal funds. More than 4,000 PHAs nationwide manage public housing programs.

After reports surfaced in 2011 of excessive compensation at some PHAs nationwide, Congress imposed a $155,500 salary cap for fiscal 2012 on the amount of federal funds that can be used to pay PHA executives. HUD decided to extend that cap and close a legislative loophole so that total cash compensation, not just base salary, falls under it. PHAs can pay their executives more than the $155,500 cap using nonfederal funds if they choose.

The department collected 2010 salary data in August 2011 from public housing authorities across the country, and also has collected 2012 data. HUD did not gather 2011 salary information because the cap didn’t take effect until 2012. Currently, publicly available data on HUD’s website does not list the compensation for executives at individual public housing authorities, but rather aggregate data.

HUD previously has provided more detailed information upon request than what is currently posted on its website. The 2010 data, which reflect total cash compensation including bonuses, showed that 97 percent of PHA executives earned less than $155,500. The average cash compensation of a housing authority executive director was $82,299 in 2010. HUD acknowledged, however, the data also showed “outlier PHAs that pay certain employees a level of compensation that is clearly excessive.”

The executive directors of the public housing authorities in Atlanta; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; Chelsea, Mass.; and Daytona Beach, Fla., were the top five highest earners in 2010, according to HUD’s survey. The federal government spends roughly $6 billion to $7 billion annually on public housing.

Clarification: The original headline on this story implied that PHA executives are federal employees. They are state and local officials, though HUD provides funding for the housing authorities. 

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