Columbia Housing Authority Alleges Overpayment for Section 8

An unspecified Excel spreadsheet error leads to incorrect 'over-housing' of tenants and larger than appropriate vouchers issued to landlords.




Financial impact






<1 month


The Columbia Housing Authority CHA was established in 1956 in the City of Columbia, Missouri after being originally proposed in 1950. It implements programs for urban renewal to replace dangerous and unsanitary residences in Columbia’s central city with safe and clean dwellings at rents which low-income persons can afford. CHA assists more than 1,900 households in Columbia and Boone County. The households themselves pay 30% of their adjusted income as rent.


A November 2006 audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General found dozens of Section 8 tenants the housing authority "overhoused". They issued larger-than-necessary Housing Choice Vouchers. Some used an extra bedroom intended for medical equipment or a live-in aide. Other violations were also reported.

All in all he Columbia Housing Authority had to pay $216,352 to cover expenses incurred by over-housing tenants tenants and providing some landlords too much rent. The CHA commissioner Chairman Marvin Kinney indicated that no clear guidance was provided:

My concern is that they issued no guidelines. All they’re saying is, ‘You violated them.’


The CHA’s chief executive officer Phil Steinhaus, disagreed with the charges:

We were following acceptable procedure. We are not arbitrators of whether or not someone’s disability qualifies them for an additional bedroom ... Current procedures and policies did not offer CHA staff enough guidance in examination of proper documentation for requests due to disabilities.

Spreadsheet Error

Steinhaus requested that the over-housing be waived. However, he admitted that a spreadsheet error lead to overpaying the landlords to the tune of $118,387. CHA agreed to pay back that amount. Unfortunately no information is available at this time about the type of spreadsheet error made.

In the end common ground was reached. By the word of commissioner Fred Parry:

If it’s an innocent error. If it’s not negligence on our part, I think we need to challenge it.

Timeline of events


before Nov, 2006

Spreadsheet error of an unknown kind leads to improper calculation of higher than appropriate payoffs for landlord vouchers. Other irregularities and lack of established procedures lead to over-housing of some tenants.


Nov, 2006

Audit by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General finds 99 Section 8 tenants the housing authority 'overhoused'.


Jan 24, 2007

Department spokeswoman requests the charge to be waived and details a stricter plan to distribute rooms.


Feb 1, 2007

Phil Steinhaus, housing authority’s chief executive officer, asks that the fees for over-housing to be waived but agrees to pay $118,387.


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