The Marin Housing Authority board has postponed awarding a contract to a management firm because of complaints about the company’s performance.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the board reviewed a proposal by the authority’s staff to grant Nan McKay and Associates a new one-year contract of up to $425,000, with four additional one-year option periods. The company has been working for the housing agency for the last five years.
But the board, which consists of all five county supervisors and two public housing residents, delayed a decision on the proposal until its meeting on Feb. 13 after listening to complaints from the public.
The contract called for the company to oversee the annual recertification of 496 public housing households and 2,300 voucher households. This includes ensuring that housing recipients are meeting family composition and income requirements.
Nan McKay and Associates is a national company based in San Diego and conducts most of the recertification process via the internet. In November, the company was sued for alleged breach of contract by San Francisco, which had agreed to pay the firm $32 million to manage its Section 8, housing-choice voucher program from 2019 to 2022.
“Almost immediately after winning the bid, NMA began missing deadlines, failed to hire qualified staff to perform essential duties, failed to digitize tenant files, and never established a functional customer service program — all of which were required by its contract,” Tonia Lediju, chief executive of the San Francisco Housing Authority, said when the lawsuit was filed.
The company’s president, Nan McKay, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
During the Marin Housing Authority board meeting on Tuesday, Cheryl Lynne Rubbo recounted how she and her husband emailed their recertification materials to the McKay firm last year, only to receive a letter back a month later telling them they were being evicted.
“I had no idea why,” Rubbo said. “It was very traumatic. We had no place to go. We would have been out on the street.”
Rubbo said the Marin Housing Authority staff determined that the required paperwork had been properly submitted.
“Nobody had bothered to find it,” Rubbo said. “I pray that it doesn’t happen again.”
Carrie Smith, a Marin Housing Authority housing locator, described three similar stories.
In one case, Smith said, a Spanish-speaking mother of three children “erroneously entered the wrong payment standard, causing her to pay an extra $3,100 in rent.” A few months later the woman was mistakenly issued a notice informing her that her housing voucher was being terminated.
Smith said that in another instance, the McKay company terminated the voucher of a senior while she was hospitalized because a signature was missing from her recertification paperwork.
Smith also relayed the experience of another voucher holder who was threatened with eviction for missing two inspections of his apartment. Smith said she investigated and discovered that the tenant had been present for both inspections, but the inspector hadn’t been able to gain entry to the complex. Since the tenant lacked a phone, the inspector couldn’t call him.
“Rather than going to the management office to gain entry, he marked it as a no-show and left,” Smith said.
Kimberly Carroll, director of the Marin Housing Authority, said Friday that the agency “has a separate contract with Nan McKay for inspections.”
Carroll did not respond to a request for details regarding that contract.
Another Marin Housing Authority tenant, Tasharah Benjamin, said she discovered she had been paying a higher rent than she should have based on her income after applying for the agency’s self-sufficiency program. Benjamin said Nan McKay and Associates sent her numerous notices telling her it hadn’t received her recertification materials last fall before finally verifying she was in compliance.
“But now I’m not sure,” Benjamin said, “because my rent is the same as it was when I moved in, but my income hasn’t changed.”
Carroll said the McKay firm is not responsible for a mountain of back rent that the housing agency is still struggling to collect. In October, the agency revealed that some 63 public housing households that it oversees owed a total of $326,000 in rent and as a result it would be threatening residents owing rent with eviction.
Carroll wrote in an email that the agency has so far dispatched pay-or-quit notices to 54 tenants, including 44 in January, and will be sending out additional notices this month. So far, $97,000 of the money owed has been collected.
Carroll said that some portion of the money owed might not be collected, however, because tenants were overcharged based on their income. She wouldn’t specify an an amount but wrote that rent owed by three tenants is being written off.
Carroll said that so far no further legal action has been taken to collect the money owed, but that is likely to change this month.
The Marin Housing Authority’s commissioners reacted with dismay to the testimony regarding Nan McKay and Associates.
“You very much have got our attention and the staff’s too,” said Supervisor Katie Rice.
Sarah Canson, one of the tenant commissioners, said, “I myself have had the same problems. Nan McKay has been underperforming for us and not representing us well.”
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During the previous two reauthorizations of the McKay contract, Carroll committed to bringing the work back to the housing agency’s staff. However, Carroll says it has been difficult to hire employees to do the work, and only two companies responded to the agency’s last request for proposals.
Carroll said the Marin Housing Authority plans to assign 500 of its cases to the other company that responded, Scott Miller Consulting. But Carroll said that company isn’t ready to take on all the work.
“They’re just getting started,” Carroll said, “They have two employees total.”