Secretary Donovan Stresses Need to Preserve Public Housing

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan delivered the keynote address at CLPHA’s well-attended fall meeting last week, telling the packed room about the accomplishments of the past 21 months and the challenges that remain. His major focus was on the urgent need to adopt preservation legislation to protect public housing – a portfolio he described as a “national treasure.”

He began by thanking PHAs for what they have accomplished with Recovery Act funds — renovating 245,000 units, almost one-quarter of all the stock. He said he had visited 40 states during his tenure and that it was “most rewarding” to see the range of smart investments housing authorities are making.

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Recovery Act Capital Funds Having Significant Economic Impact

Opening the Thursday afternoon session of the CLPHA meeting, Richard Voith and Michael Mariano of the Econsult Corporation presented preliminary findings of the economic impact of the $4 billion in Recovery Act capital funds awarded to PHAs. Their findings build upon the CLPHA-initiated 2007 Econsult study: Assessing the Economic Benefits of Public Housing.


The 2007 report found that, on average, every dollar spent by PHAs on capital repairs and maintenance generated $2.12 local economic activity. The analysis also found that every $1 million of spending on capital repairs and maintenance supported 14 jobs in the region. This study has been noted numerous times as evidence that PHA spending is an economic generator. In fact, it was cited in the Recovery Act committee report as justification for making such a significant investment in public housing capital funding budget.

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Linking Services and Housing

With growing interest in supportive housing and housing for special needs populations, CLPHA joined with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Building Changes to present the panel “Linking Services and Housing: Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges.”

Stephen Norman, Executive Director of the King County Housing Authority, moderated the panel.  Traditionally, he noted, services have focused on getting people ready to live in permanent housing.  Once that goal was achieved, the services for those whose permanent housing was PHA-administered often fell away, leaving the PHA to deal with the residents’ needs.  With the proliferation of national and local plans to end homelessness, a focus has shifted to Housing-First-type models, which acknowledge that ongoing services are often needed for success in permanent housing.  There has also been increasing recognition that PHAs house at-risk populations who need services to remain stable and prevent their becoming homeless.

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Moving Forward with Service Partnerships

Following the close of the official CLPHA agenda on Thursday, representatives of more than 20 CLPHA member housing authorities and CLPHA staff joined staff from the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Building Changes for an informal follow-up conversation on the panel earlier in the day.  CLPHA members shared their experiences with creating supportive housing projects, including ways that collaboration with CSH has helped them to put those projects together, and ideas that they are currently considering. They raised the issue of challenges that they had encountered at home and the group brainstormed potential solutions.

The group had a sense that PHAs are in prime position to serve special-needs populations, many of whom they already house, as well as to redefine supportive housing to include providing support services within public housing that would prevent their residents from becoming homeless.  As understanding of the benefits of supportive housing approaches grows, service providers are looking to create these kinds of programs.  PHAs can offer an operating subsidy to make the projects work—which gives them the ability to negotiate for the wrap-around services that the residents of the development would need.  An ongoing concern, however, is that services usually cannot be committed long-term, so PHAs need both to find partners that they can trust to fight for funding and to determine appropriate exit clauses for their deals.  Work to align various state and local service streams is also needed.

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Assistant Secretary Henriquez Emphasizes New Ways of Working

HUD Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra Henriquez closed the first day of the CLPHA meeting by outlining the practices, policies and principles guiding her office's oversight of public housing. Echoing HUD Secretary Donovan, she thanked housing authorities for their work and said the department is committed to making the affordable housing community “as successful as possible.”  “We want public housing to fit into the rest of the world’s real estate landscape.”

HUD expects increased Congressional scrutiny in the future, with lawmakers wanting more data and accountability, she said. “The new Congress will want HUD to operate even more as a business.” Housing authorities will also be under increased pressure. HUD’s five-year strategic plan calls for housing authorities to house an additional 33,000 families and have an additional 112,000 vouchers in use by the end of FY2011 -- using existing resources. "The voucher program is a budget-based program," she said, a sentiment she repeated several times.  She touched on a number of HUD initiatives that she noted would be discussed in more detail the following day, including the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, Physical Needs Assessments (PNAs), and new tools to better optimize voucher resources. 

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HUD Panel

The opening panel on Friday morning provided CLPHA members the opportunity to listen to HUD staff discuss the department’s plans. Dominique Blom, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing Investments; Milan Ozdinec, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Housing and Voucher Programs; and David Vargas, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Real Estate Assessment Center represented the department.

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Congressional Panels Hopeful But Realistic

Speaking at the CLPHA fall meeting less than four days before the mid-term election, House and Senate authorizing and appropriations committee staff offered their views on how the upcoming elections could affect the prospects for housing and funding legislation when Congress returns on November 15 for a lame duck session.

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Member News

The Oklahoma City Housing Authority and its partners have been awarded the 2010 Leading-Edge Care and Services Award from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA).

The Newark Housing Authority (NHA) received an Excellence in Housing Award for “Best Creative Partnership” at the 2010 Governor’s Conference on Housing and Community Development.  The housing authority was nominated by the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

The San Antonio Housing Authority is part of a partnership that received one of only 21 Promise Neighborhood planning grants from the Dept. of Education; there were 339 applicants.

CLPHA President and New York City Housing Authority General Manager Michael Kelly has been awarded the 2010 M. Justin Herman Memorial Award. It is NAHRO’s highest and most prestigious award.

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Thank you to the CLPHA fall meeting sponsors

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