Housing Group that Serves Low-Income Residents Serves Itself Too

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June 28, 2011; Source: Modesto Bee | It seems like a fair question to ask:  should a nonprofit that provides low-income housing also let its employees and their relatives live in these homes?  According to the Modesto Bee, The Stanislaus Community Assistance Project is under investigation after disclosures that the parents of SCAP’s executive director are living in a home that was purchased and renovated with taxpayer funds at a cost of nearly $340,000.  Similarly, city officials want to know why as many as five other SCAP properties, also purchased with taxpayer funds, are being occupied by staff or family members. 

The paper reports that the parents of SCAP Executive Director Denise Gibbs are living in the group’s 2,383-square-foot home even though they own two other properties elsewhere. More so, it appears little expense was spared on the renovation of the home.  Art Weisberg, a former SCAP board member, said when he toured the home for a fundraiser held there last December he saw that it had Brazilian hardwood flooring, a stone fireplace, solid-surface counters and two stainless steel refrigerators. “When I went though it, I thought, ‘This is awfully lavish for any rental home that’s supposed to go to someone in need,'” he said. 

SCAP’s generous housing practices are drawing fire from at least one city council member.  Councilman Dave Lopez said SCAP should serve the community, not employees that work for it, even though staff members aren’t disqualified from living in the homes if they meet income guidelines. “You can gray-area it all you want, but you know it’s just wrong,” Lopez said. “These programs are supposed to help people out.”

The story doesn’t stop there either.  Last month the newspaper reported that the group had agreed to pay Executive Director Denise Gibbs’ husband, Joe, $627,331 for grant writing services during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.  However, after the news report sparked public outrage, Gibbs agreed to forgo $426,471 of what he said he was stilled owed. The full picture of what is going on with SCAP is expected to be revealed following investigations underway by officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development who are examining how the agency has spent $8.34 million in federal funds and an auditor who is working for the city.—Bruce S. Trachtenberg