Last month, Antonio (Tony) M. Pérez, CLPHA board member and secretary-executive director of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM), announced his resignation from his role at the housing authority. Since 2000, Mr. Pérez’s visionary leadership has guided the agency in its mission of fostering strong, resilient and inclusive communities by providing a continuum of high-quality housing options that support self-sufficiency, good quality of life, and the opportunity to thrive.
“Tony has been a committed and compassionate leader in Milwaukee, on the CLPHA board and in the national housing policy arena,” said CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman. “His thoughtful and steadfast advocacy on behalf of our nation's most vulnerable individuals is unmatched. His untiring support for CLPHA's Housing Is Initiative and cross-sector partnerships has made improving lives, strengthening neighborhoods a reality in Milwaukee. His wisdom, erudition and joyfulness lifts up all those who know him. We are profoundly grateful to Tony for his service and his vision.”
Known for his compassionate leadership throughout the Milwaukee community, Mr. Pérez has been part of Milwaukee’s social fabric since 1979, serving as a social justice advocate, mentor, community leader, and accomplished professional.
“It has been my honor to work with Mr. Pérez during his entire tenure with the Housing Authority. His commitment to public service and his desire to improve the lives of those most in need in our community is to be commended. He can trust that we will continue letting HACM’s mission be our north star,” said HACM’s Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Mark Wagner.
During his tenure, Mr. Pérez led the agency in numerous endeavors to preserve its affordable housing supply. The agency secured over $500 million dollars in federal, state, and private grants to develop affordable housing and revitalize existing properties to preserve affordable housing for generations to come. This includes the $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhood grant awarded in 2015 to support development of the Westlawn Gardens neighborhood.
Mr. Pérez made conservation and environmental stewardship a core tenet of HACM’s development projects, and HACM gained a reputation as an international leader in using green design practices to conserve resources and build healthy, sustainable communities.
Mr. Pérez’s passion for creating opportunities to help people achieve their goals and dreams is evident to everyone who knows him. Housing stability is the foundation, but his steadfast commitment to providing residents with programs and services to improve their quality of life and propel them out of poverty helped make the agency truly stand out as a national leader.
One such example of his commitment was his vision for HACM’s @Promise Resident Training Program, an initiative designed to provide low-income HACM residents with a new pathway to self-sufficiency. The program builds upon the stability of HACM’s quality, affordable housing by also offering on-the-job training, life skills development, and post-secondary education that together can transform residents’ lives. @Promise provides motivated residents with the opportunity to overcome barriers that could otherwise keep them locked into a cycle of poverty.
The name of the program stems from a realization that Mr. Pérez had several years ago. “Many of our young people are perceived as ‘at risk.’ I choose to call them ‘at promise’ instead. The idea here is how many of these promises will go unfulfilled, not because these individuals didn’t try, but because no one lent a helping hand,” explained Pérez. “We can be that helping hand.”
Prior to joining HACM, Mr. Pérez founded the Milwaukee Community Service Corps, a nonprofit vocational training organization that continues to provide low-income urban youth with education, life skills and on-the-job work experience in a holistic program of development. During his time at MCSC from 1991 to 2000, more than 900 participants found jobs and received more than $4.5 million in income.
Among many other achievements, Mr. Pérez played a key role in the development of the Milwaukee Job Corps Center, which provides young people the skills they need to become employable and independent and places them in meaningful jobs or further education.
Pérez had served as executive director of HACM since 2000. Willie L. Hines, Jr. will continue serving as the housing authority’s acting secretary-executive director while HACM’s Board of Commissioners continues the process of confirming Pérez’s successor.