HUD inspector wrapping up 2 probes of RI Housing

Agency's longtime executive director stepped down this month

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A federal inspector general is set to release two reports in the coming weeks that will reveal the findings of separate probes his office conducted into Rhode Island Housing’s financial management.

Marta Rivera Metelko, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general, told WPRI.com Thursday that a report on how the agency administered the HOME Investment Partnerships Program will be released next week, while a report on how it managed the Neighborhood Stabilization Program will be released in two weeks.

Rhode Island Housing has yet to respond to a request for comment sent two weeks ago.

WPRI.com first reported earlier this month that HUD’s inspector general was “conducting an ongoing review” of how Rhode Island Housing administered the HOME program from March 2010 through February 2013. It remains unclear what exactly has drawn the inspector general’s attention. HOME has granted $89 million to Rhode Island Housing since 1992.

The release of the HUD inspector’s reports will come as Rhode Island Housing experiences turmoil in its top ranks. Richard Godfrey, the agency’s longtime executive director, announced Jan. 15 that he would resign at the end of the month. Barbara Fields, a former HUD official, is serving as the agency’s interim director.

Godfrey has apparently already finished working at the agency. A message sent to his email address there Thursday bounced back with the automatic reply, “Richard Godfrey can no longer be reached at Rhode Island Housing.”

The HOME program that the inspector general is reviewing last made headlines in the spring of 2013 when HUD said Rhode Island Housing could no longer use it to fund a nonprofit called SWAP. HUD cited a conflict of interest because SWAP is run by Godfrey’s wife, Carla DeStefano.

The second inspector general report, due in roughly two weeks, will examine Rhode Island Housing’s management of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which pays for the purchase and redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed residences.

Rhode Island has received $25.9 million from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program since 2009, according to HUD data.

The General Assembly created Rhode Island Housing in 1973 as a quasi-public agency to stimulate the housing market. Its outstanding bonds totaled $1.4 billion as of June 30, while its net loan portfolio totaled $1.6 billion.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

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