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Computer Glitch Causes $40K Problem for Durham Housing Authority

Posted January 19, 2007
Updated January 20, 2007

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— In six years of owning rental properties in Durham, Jimmy Powell has never had a problem -- until now.

"You get a call that says you'll have a check by the end of the week, and the check doesn't come," Powell said.

Powell is one of about 900 landlords in Durham that has a contract with the Durham Housing Authority to provide subsidized housing.

But for the past few months, about 150 of those landlords haven't received payments. On just one house, Powell is out $2,700. He owns five.

"When the mortgage is due, the mortgage is due," he said. "And banks aren't as sympathetic or flexible when the mortgage payment needs to be in."

The Durham Housing Authority says the problem is with its computers. Last year, it upgraded computer software but had trouble converting nearly 2,800 properties to the new system.

Now, housing authority employees are having to enter all the information by hand, creating a backlog.

"It's not fair to them. There's no doubt about that," housing authority communications director Jean Bolduc said, adding that the staff is working every day to get caught up.

On top of the $250,000 in rental payments to landlords, the housing authority will voluntarily pay interest and late fees on all of the money it owes. That will end up costing an estimated $40,000.

The housing authority hopes to have the computer problem fixed by next month.

"There reaches a point where you've got to open up every file, go through the pages and make sure it's right," Bolduc said. "It's going to be right."

But until then, landlords, like Powell, have to wait and hope for the best.

"Maybe when I get home this evening, I might be lucky," he said. "There might be a check in the mailbox."

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly indicated the Durham Housing Authority would voluntarily pay late fees at cost to the city of Durham.  The Durham Housing Authority is a municipal corporation funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is not funded by the city of Durham.
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