June 6, 2012 3:38PM

Public Housing Director Paid $644,241

When you work at a non‐​profit, like Cato, you accept part of the deal is being paid below‐​market wages. Not that I’d reject a raise, but I actually think it improves the organization. No one is here for the money. You’re here for the mission. When one hears, however, of public employees, especially those in “mission‐​driven” organizations, being paid out‐​sized compensation, you can’t help but wonder what happened to the devotion to the mission.

In response to public complaints, HUD conducted a survey of public housing authority director compensation. The average salary, not including benefits for a housing authority director, who manages over 1,250 units, was $115,615 (2010). Certainly in excess of the median household income, but not extreme for senior public employees (who in general are over‐​paid).

A few “outliers” did stand out. The Atlanta public housing director apparently received, in 2010, $644,241 in total compensation. Now of course, that director is claiming that such a number is “misleading” as it includes bonuses and pay‐​outs for unused vacation. You can find her defense here and judge for yourself. I would certainly say from having met her on a few occasions, she is one of the more competent and hard‐​working housing authority directors. But worth $644,241?

HUD’s reaction to all this? To cap the federal contribution to $155,500. Given that housing authorities are themselves creatures of state law and their directors usually appointed by mayors or governors, it is not clear to me why there should be any federal contribution to their compensation. Let’s cap the federal part at zero. If a city, county or state wants to continue to receive federal housing money, the least it can do is manage to pay the salary of its director. While I’m no fan of federal housing programs, I’d at least like to see said funding actually go to those in need.