Raleigh Housing Authority director Steve Beam is fifth-highest paid public housing director in the country, according to a federal salary study requested by members of Congress.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development this month released executive compensation figures reported by nearly 4,000 agencies that receive federal dollars to house the poor. The data include salary and bonus figures for 2013, and shows that Beam is making more than his counterparts in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles – agencies that house thousands more families than Raleigh.
HUD’s report lists Beam’s 2013 compensation at $288,666, with a $30,550 bonus supplementing a base salary of $258,116. Of that, $116,649 comes from federal funding.
Housing about 5,200 families through public units and Section 8 rent vouchers, the Raleigh Housing Authority ranks 111th in size in the nation.
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U.S. Rep. George Holding, a Raleigh Republican, has been critical of Beam’s pay and said the new statistics illustrate his concerns.
“The HUD data tells us what we already knew – the RHA’s executive director for years has been receiving a total compensation that greatly outpaces his peers that manage much larger housing programs,” Holding said in a written statement.
Several other housing agencies with top 10 salaries house far fewer families than Raleigh. Torrance, Calif., where HUD pegs the director’s salary at $311,290, provides housing for 690 families. Meanwhile, America’s largest housing authority – New York City – pays its director $196,544, significantly less than Beam.
Sen. Chuck Grassley pushed HUD to release the data, even putting a hold on President Barack Obama’s nominee for assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development until the salaries appeared online.
“There doesn’t seem to be much correlation between the number of housing units and executive compensation,” the Iowa Republican said. “Housing authority salaries are all over the map. I hope the new transparency imposed under pressure will encourage greater scrutiny from the public and lead to more reasonable salary levels where they’re out of whack.”
For his part, Beam said HUD’s new data doesn’t show the full picture of what determines salaries. He points to what’s missing from the spreadsheet: each housing authority’s performance score from HUD, how long the director has served, cost of living in the area, and whether the agency also operates market-rate affordable housing, as Raleigh does.
“It’s very difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison,” he said. “It’s not just about the size of the housing authority.”
HUD rates Raleigh at 97 – a higher score than most other large North Carolina housing agencies. Raleigh’s score is also well above big-city housing authorities like New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
Support from the board
Beam’s supporters on the agency’s board say his salary is justified, pointing to his record: 26 clean audits in a row, while replacing dilapidated public housing for a net gain of 2,000 units and restoring credibility after the 1992 deaths of two Walnut Terrace residents from carbon monoxide poisoning.
But the board didn’t give Beam a raise when they renegotiated his salary earlier this year to curb his use of comp time, which he’d been using to take up to 20 days off a year and attend magic conventions. Beam said he’s provided copies of the HUD data to each board member. In years past, they haven’t had access to national public housing salary numbers and have relied on in-house studies that compared Beam’s pay to other local leaders like the CEO of WakeMed hospital.
HUD’s number is slightly higher than compensation figures released by the housing authority last year and reported in The News & Observer’s “Checks Without Balances” series. The agency listed Beam’s base salary at $240,000 with annual bonuses as high as $42,000, reaching a peak of $280,690 in 2011.
Beam said HUD’s figure includes the value of his health insurance and retirement benefits – numbers that aren’t typically included in base salary data. Housing authority board chairman Kyle Dilday says it appears that other agencies might not have included those benefits.
“Obviously the participants did not complete the request using similar guidelines, and thusly due to the improper completion I am not sure how the data is pertinent,” Dilday said in an email. “The board has more confidence in the studies we have done as comparisons in the past than we do this study, and until it could be vetted for usefulness, this is just one more piece to the puzzle for consideration in future salary discussions.”