GAO report shows NFHA wins most FHIP money

According to a March 1997 General Accounting Office (GAO) report to Congress, the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) in Washington, D.C. has received the most Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) money since the program began in 1988.

The GAO listed NFHA on top of the list of 26 fair housing organizations that have been awarded large amounts of money and multiple grants. NFHA has received 11 grants since FHIP began, for a total of $6.9 million. That dollar amount, more than double the amount any other group has received, was called a "lion's share" of FHIP funds in a three-page article in the June issue of Inside Fair Lending.

The GAO report also pointed out that many groups had received grants in consecutive years and grants under more than one FHIP initiative. It specifically referred to NFHA and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council as two programs who have received funding in each year that FHIP has been operating. Both have also received multiple grants in one particular funding cycle.

According to the GAO report, Congress has appropriated $86 million for FHIP since fiscal year 1989. Of that $86 million, 47 percent ($40.5 million) has been used to fund 202 private enforcement grants. Most applications for FHIP funding have been under the private enforcement initiative, according to the report. Of the 202 private enforcement grants reviewed, 181 of them have been for projects involving fair housing testing.

There were 188 education and outreach grants, totaling $22.4 million, awarded by HUD under the FHIP program. These 188 grants were distributed to 128 different organizations.

A $15.8 million share of FHIP money went to fund 56 grants under the Fair Housing Organization Initiative or FHOI. Nineteen of these grants were used to establish new organizations and the remainder to continue development of existing organizations.

The remaining portion of the total FHIP allocation, $7.3 million, was awarded under the Administrative Enforcement Initiative to 37 state and local agencies. Those grants were intended to increase those agencies' abilities to process complaints and perform enforcement activities.

When FHIP was created in 1988, Congress allocated $5 million for the program which was to be evaluated over the next two years. In 1990, FHIP was granted another two years to operate with a steady increase in funds. In 1992, Congress passed the Community Development Act that made FHIP a permanent federal program. Also in 1992, FHIP's budget was increased to more than $10 million. That figure continued to rise and peaked at $26 million in 1995. Since 1995, budget cuts have reduced FHIP to $15 million per fiscal year. Another $15 million in FHIP grants will be awarded in fiscal 1997, according to the Notice of Funds Availability published in the Federal Register on June 26.

The GAO concluded the report on FHIP by saying that HUD was "generally satisfied" with grantees' performance. Of the 206 FHIP grants that were closed out as of November 1996, HUD rated 21 organizations' performance as excellent, 150 as good, 27 as fair, and six as unsatisfactory.

The GAO also reported that HUD has yet to close out an additional 118 grant projects that ended before November 1996. According to the Acting Director of FHIP, closeout reviews of grant projects are "low-priority" items. HUD also claimed that neither federal regulations nor internal HUD guidelines require reviews to be completed within a specific time frame.