The Obama administration is clamping down on excessive pay at public housing authorities, setting caps that extend and expand limits imposed by Congress. The action comes in the wake of reports last year of huge salary packages at a handful of housing agencies, including two executives who were paid more than $600,000 each.
After conducting a national compensation survey, the Housing and Urban Development Department plans to set a maximum salary ceiling of $155,000 for public housing agency officials, according to two senior administration officials. The cap applies to the portion of executive salary paid with federal money. It does not require congressional action.
The national survey of 2010 salaries found that while most local public housing officials were compensated in amounts at or under the new limit, a few top local housing officials were getting at least twice that amount. The officials spoke Monday on condition of anonymity to discuss a plan that had not yet been made public.
Among those receiving large pay packages were top executives at housing agencies in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Chelsea, Mass. All the executives at those agencies have left their jobs.
Those salary packages caused a furor last year, prompting calls for an investigation by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The highest 2010 compensation package was for the top executive at the Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta, who received a total compensation package of $644,214, including salary, bonus and other benefits. Others included $606,320 for the top official at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, $417,688 at the Philadelphia Housing Authority and $357,635 at the Chelsea, Mass., Housing Authority.
Local media reports of those payments last year caused a furor in Congress, which set a $155,000 salary cap on housing agencies for the 2012 fiscal year. The administration's plan aligns those limits to the federal government pay scale, makes them permanent and applies them to bonuses and other means of compensation as well.
Agencies can still supplement a top officials pay with state or local government money.
The senior administration officials said the Los Angeles housing agency has lowered its top salary to $260,000 and the Philadelphia agency has set its top pay at $225,000. Chelsea, Mass., a suburb of Boston with a population of about 35,000, has lowered its top pay to $135,000.
While the top limit planned by the Obama administration would be $155,000 for agencies managing more than 1,250 public housing units, HUD would set lower limits for smaller public housing agencies. Housing authorities with between 250 and 1,250 units could pay a maximum of $125,926, and agencies handling fewer than 250 units could pay no more than $88,349.
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