The head of the Texas agency that oversees programs to help low-income households has turned in his resignation. Michael Gerber was the longest-serving executive director of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs.
“He felt it was perhaps time to take a break,” said Gordon Anderson, spokesman for the agency. Given that it is a “tough job” with “long hours required,” Anderson said, Gerber resigned so he could spend more time with his two daughters.
Texas Watchdog originally reported the news, alongside accusations that the agency “failed to handle billions of federal dollars to rebuild homes in the wake of Hurricane Ike and oversees a federal stimulus program plagued by questions of fraud and mismanagement.” According to the non-profit investigative website, the housing agency has been looking into cases of “alleged fraud and bad workmanship,” and has taken away funding from some of the groups originally contracted to help weatherize homes.
Anderson says the accusations are false. The allegedly “troubled” Weatherization Assistance Program uses federal stimulus money to help elderly individuals, disabled persons and low-income households save money on energy bills by installing home improvements to increase energy efficiency. More than 40,500 homes have already been weatherized through the program, even though the federal Department of Energy only requires 37,699, Anderson said, and there are still funds remaining. The program is on track to finish spending all of the funds by March 2012, he said.
Some of the organizations contracted to help weatherize homes have struggled, he admits, but he counts the Sheltering Arms Senior Services, which Texas Watchdog accused of poor workmanship in May, among the “handful of superstar agencies.”
“With the stimulus funds came a set of some new requirements that weren’t necessarily in place previously,” said Anderson. The local agencies implementing the weatherization program needed time to hire more contractors and teach contractors about the new requirements, such as the legal standards for preserving historical buildings.
There was a “learning curve, not only here at the state level, but certainly at the local level,” as the people performing the home analyses and installing the weatherization material in homes learned the new guidelines, he said. “We continue to see improvements not only in the rate at which we’re spending the funds, but the quality of the work.”
Tim Irvine, the chief of staff and “number two man at the agency,” has been appointed interim executive director until the board decides on a replacement, said Anderson. “I’m unable to tell you at this point what direction our board will go and at what point they will decide.”