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What Successful Innovation in Housing Looks Like
Posted by Staff on October 22, 2015


One of the witnesses at today’s committee hearing on the Future of Housing in America is Renee Glover, who has been actively involved in affordable housing for more than 30 years from several different vantage points:  the private sector, the public sector and the international non-government sector.  From nearly 20 years, she was CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

In 1994, when Glover took over at the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), the organization was considered corrupt and ineffective. Atlanta was suffering from a major public housing crisis with the highest percentages of residents in public housing in the US and rampant crime and despair.

Things were so bleak for Atlanta’s public housing projects, some of which dated back the 1930s, that Governing Magazine referred to them as their “own dismal universe of poverty and crime — walled off psychologically and sometimes physically from the rest of the city.

Glover changed all that. In preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games, AHA established an innovative, long-term blueprint for a coordinated approach to its housing challenges. The plan was based on a new model of developing mixed-income, mixed-finance housing. AHA began demolishing its old public housing projects in 1995 and, by the end of Glover’s tenure, had torn down almost 15,000 units spread over 32 dilapidated projects. In their place, AHA constructed modern townhouse developments where lower-income residents would share their neighborhoods with middle-income residents. To fund this transformation, Glover leveraged AHA’s limited federal funds into private investment dollars to revitalize struggling neighborhoods. This approach to public-private coordination also allowed AHA to decrease its payroll from 1,400 people to 380 in her first 13 years.

As a result of her efforts, Glover successfully converted AHA from being a HUD-labeled “Troubled” housing authority in 1994 to a “High Performer” in 1999, a status it still maintains today.

ATLANTAS HOUSING SUCCESS TIMELINE


1990 – HUD places the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) on its list of “Troubled” housing authorities based on its inability to maintain housing quality, collect rents, occupy vacant units, and provide a safe environment for its 16,500 inhabitants.

1994 – Glover appointed as AHA’s president and CEO; AHA’s then-score on HUD’s annual management assessment program used to evaluate all public housing agencies: only 36 out of 100.

1995 – AHA adopts a new multi-year strategic plan to transform the delivery of affordable housing by deconcentrating poverty. It begins tearing down outdated housing projects and replacing those units with privately managed mixed-income developments.

1998 – HUD removes AHA from its “Troubled” housing authorities list.

1999 – AHA scores 100 out of 100 on HUD’s annual management assessment program, earning its “High Performing Agency” designation.

2003 – AHA awarded “Moving to Work” (MTW) status by HUD, granting it more local flexibility to innovate in its use of federal funds by exempting it from layers of Washington red tape. According to HUD, MTW authorities “are expected to use the opportunities presented by MTW to inform HUD about ways to better address local community needs.”

2005 – To promote greater self-sufficiency, AHA uses its MTW flexibility to institute a work requirement that able-bodied residents must maintain continuous full‐time employment or participate in a combination of school, job‐training and/or part‐time employment for a minimum of 30 hours per week.

2011 – AHA demolishes the last of its public housing projects, the Palmer House high-rise, ending a failed eight decades long experiment. Atlanta had been the home to the nation's first public housing community, Techwood Homes, built in 1936.

2015 – According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, as of today the Atlanta Housing Authority has “sponsored 16 master-planned, mixed-use, mixed-income communities, in partnership with private sector real estate developers and other investors, leveraging $300 million of federal funds into over $3 billion of private investment and economic impact.

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