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Housing division slowly healing

Six years later, the effects of a corruption case still hamper the agency.

By JANET ZINK
Published April 20, 2007


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TAMPA - It's been nearly four years since former Tampa housing chief Steve LaBrake was indicted on corruption charges.

But the city's housing division is still struggling to recover from the train wreck LaBrake left behind.

The affordable housing program has been slow to reach full speed in part because the city had to pay $4.4-million back to the federal government over the last several years because of LaBrake's missteps, said Cynthia Miller, director of Tampa's Growth Management and Development Services Department, told the City Council on Thursday.

"Think of what our community could have done with that money," Miller said.

LaBrake left his city post in 2001, and now sits in federal prison, about two years into a five-year sentence for bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud.

But audits of the department following LaBrake's tenure revealed poor record keeping and misused federal funds, which Miller said has shackled activity in the department.

This year should be better, said Miller, who was an internal auditor for the city when Mayor Pam Iorio hired her in late 2004 to head the housing division.

Miller put new processes and record-keeping procedures in place, and after years of spending only a fraction of the money available through the Housing and Urban Development Department, the city expects to tap into nearly all of its $2.3-million allocation in 2007.

So far this year, the affordable housing program has helped 94 homeowners rehabilitate homes, provided down payment assistance to 45 families, and helped nonprofit groups start construction of 29 single-family homes.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or 813 226-3401.

[Last modified April 20, 2007, 00:45:36]


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