Cairo Elmwood Place

Some of the units at the Elmwood Place housing complex are boarded up, pictured here in December 2017 in Cairo.

CAIRO — The Alexander County Housing Authority is the worst rated public housing authority in America, according to the latest assessment scores released by Housing and Urban Development last month. 

There are about 3,400 public housing authorities in the country.

Most housing authorities receive an annual score on a 100-point scale as part of HUD’s Public Housing Assessment System that is intended to identify brewing problems. (Some are exempt from the annual assessment based on their small size or participation in HUD privatization programs). 

In 2016, the latest year available, the ACHA received a score of 19, which was the lowest score among the housing authorities assessed by HUD in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Any housing authority with a score below 60 is designated as “troubled," and about 65 housing authorities received that designation. Such failing scores trigger enhanced oversight activities.

The score is assigned based on an assessment in four categories, each individually scored: management, finances, the physical condition of buildings, and capital fund performance.

HUD published the most recent set of publicly available Public Housing Assessment System scores in December. The latest available scores on HUD's website are from fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for most housing authorities, depending on where they fall in the assessment cycle.

A review of the 2016 and 2017 scores shows that there are five housing authorities in Illinois that have recently been designated as troubled. The only state with more in either 2016 or 2017 is Texas, at eight. There also were five housing authorities labeled troubled in Louisiana, as of the latest available data. There are about 65 overall. 

HUD placed the Alexander County Housing Authority under administrative receivership in February 2016, nearly two years ago. In April, HUD officials announced that they would begin issuing vouchers to about 185 families living at two failing housing complexes — Elmwood and McBride — and helping them relocate. So far, about half of the families have moved.

A decade ago, the Alexander County Housing Authority was considered a “high performer,” having received a score of 94 in 2007. The ACHA was first labeled as troubled in 2013. Its annual score has fallen consistently since then. The ACHA received a 52 in 2013 and 2014, a 29 in 2015, and the above-mentioned 19 in 2016, which is the latest score available on HUD’s website.

HUD spokesman Jereon Brown has said that the agency intends to return the housing authority to local control sometime this year. 

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On Twitter: @MollyParkerSI ​



Molly Parker is general assignment and investigative projects reporter for The Southern Illinoisan.

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