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(Washington, D.C.) January 11, 2022 – The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) is pleased to announce that Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) CEO Jeffery K. Patterson has been named president of CLPHA’s board of directors.
Mr. Patterson was elected at CLPHA’s December 2021 board meeting, and previously served as the board’s vice president. He follows CLPHA’s previous board president, King County Housing Authority (KCHA) Executive Director Stephen Norman, who retired on December 31, 2021.
CLPHA is also pleased to announce that La Shelle Dozier, executive director of the Sacramento Housing & Redevelopment Agency, was elected CLPHA vice president and Maria Razo, executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of San Bernardino, was elected CLPHA secretary at the board’s December 2021 meeting. Ed Lowndes, executive director of the Housing Authority of Kansas City, MO, was re-elected board treasurer.
"I am honored to be elected president of CLPHA’s board and would like to thank Stephen Norman for his service and leadership upon his well-deserved retirement,” said Patterson. “Decades of chronic disinvestment, an aging housing portfolio and racial inequities have long predated the pandemic. Entering the third year of pandemic, these issues have only been magnified.
“We are at a critical juncture,” Patterson added. “Historic housing investments proposed by the White House and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in the Build Back Better Act have stalled in the Senate. CLPHA will continue robust advocacy to ensure these significant housing investments are available to housing authorities across the country who are serving low-income families every day in their local communities.”
“Congratulations to CMHA CEO Jeffery Patterson on being named president of the Board of Directors of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. I was pleased to join him, residents, and city leaders at the recent groundbreaking of the Buckeye-Woodhill Choice Neighborhoods transformation plan, which will provide high quality affordable housing that is connected to economic, educational, and health opportunities in a vibrant neighborhood. I look forward to continuing to work with CEO Patterson in his new role to bring greater affordable housing opportunities to more people and communities in Ohio and across the country,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
“Jeffery has been an invaluable asset to CLPHA in his seven years on the board,” said CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman. “He leads in many ways -- as board vice president and chair of the Racial Equity and Inclusion Committee and Communications Committee, but also more locally through the many boards he serves on in the greater Cleveland area. Jeffery has a deep understanding of national housing issues as well as local challenges and solutions, and his commitment to CLPHA will ensure continuity through this leadership transition. I look forward to working with CLPHA’s new board leadership to advance our goals and policy priorities in these unprecedented times.”
Mr. Patterson has served as CMHA’s CEO for ten years and has over thirty years of dedicated service to the residents of Cuyahoga County. As CEO of one of the largest housing authorities in the country, he is responsible for a $230 million dollar budget, approximately 750 employees, 10,500 units of housing, 15,000 Housing Choice Vouchers, and nearly 55,000 residents and participants of CMHA's low-income Public Housing and Housing Choice Voucher Programs. He also serves on the board of directors for the Housing Authority Insurance Group, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (Chairman), Cleveland Rape Crisis Center (Vice-Chairman), St. Luke’s Foundation, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Foodbank, Unify Labs Inc., University Circle Inc., the Cleveland Public Library Foundation, and the National Kidney Foundation.
About the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
About CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative
Data-driven ”Community Catalyst” initiative in 23 communities convenes partners across sectors to identify and address community and population health needs; 10 of the initiatives are focused on public housing authority partnerships
MINNETONKA, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--UnitedHealthcare today announced a community-based initiative, Community Catalyst, that convenes a broad range of community stakeholders to identify and address specific health care needs of members of the community and residents of publicly assisted housing who are often difficult to reach and serve.
UnitedHealthcare is expanding on its long-term collaboration with the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) by engaging public housing agencies (PHAs), federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), and community-based organizations (CBOs) in their mutual commitment to serve as a catalyst to close gaps in care, address health equity challenges, and encourage a greater positive health impact in local communities. By blending clinical data with firsthand information from community members to identify health challenges, the initiative formally brings together local partners to develop a collaborative community plan to address needs and track progress and outcomes.
UnitedHealthcare and its partners will analyze claims, health care utilization and local data to identify communities with large racial and health disparities and challenges. Working together, Community Catalyst initiative partners will develop common goals and collaborative interventions that enable each organization to leverage its capabilities to address the local health challenge. These interventions will be customized to the community and may encompass food insecurity and diabetes management programs that can include trauma-informed care trainings, telehealth and virtual care services, multilingual educational materials, and social services wraparound support.
To date, the priority challenges identified include food insecurity, health disparities such as health literacy and maternal and women’s health, behavioral and mental health, homelessness, access to health care, and chronic disease and diabetes management.
“The needs of communities are as diverse as the communities themselves, and in order to best impact health outcomes in communities, we are creating approaches that are rooted in data and also reflect the perspectives of the people that live and work in the community,” said Catherine Anderson, senior vice president of policy and strategy, UnitedHealthcare Community & State. “By working closely with CLPHA, FQHCs, and CBOs, UnitedHealthcare is well-positioned to bring the right partners together to align primary and behavioral health with social needs, creating initiatives that not only improve health outcomes but also provide for equitable care for all.”
UnitedHealthcare and CLPHA announced the first cohort of PHAs with planned programs addressing challenges as identified in: Akron and Columbus, Ohio; Austin and Houston, Texas; and Seattle/King County, Wash. A second cohort of public housing authorities now joining the initiative include: Atlanta Housing Authority, Detroit Housing Commission, Indianapolis Housing Authority, Memphis Housing Authority, and New Orleans Housing Authority.
“UnitedHealthcare's expansion of the Community Catalyst initiative to a second cohort of five additional housing authorities demonstrates the value of public housing authorities to reach low-income families and to provide support services to improve community and population health needs,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director, Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. “CLPHA and our member public housing authorities are excited to work with UnitedHealthcare in this innovative and large-scale effort to bring together housing and health systems in an integrated approach.”
Additionally, UnitedHealthcare plans to launch similar initiatives partnering with FQHCs and CBOs to address community health needs in: Phoenix, Ariz.; Maui, Hawaii; Baton Rouge, La.; Montgomery County, Md.; Detroit, Mich.; Jackson and Clay counties, Mo.; Hinds, Copiah, and Warren, Miss.; Chester, Pa.; Richmond, Va.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Providence and Newport, R.I.
Research shows that 80% of an individual’s health is determined by what happens outside of a doctor’s officei. There are specific local underlying causes that trend in a community and create complex health challenges and barriers for individuals and communities, such as: lack of safe and affordable housing, healthy food and financial stability. In the United States, there are more than 2 million people in public housingii. Nationwide, children in subsidized housing have the lowest rate of enrollment into kindergarteniii.
FQHCs are rooted in local communities and critical to closing access gaps. In fact, 29 million Americans receive care at a FQHC each year, including 1 in 12 people and 1 in 5 people on Medicaid. FQHCs serve approximately 23% of UnitedHealthcare Community & State members at more than 1,300 clinics across the country. They are leading the way when it comes to serving our most vulnerable populations, including serving school-based health centers, military veterans, and homeless and public housing patients.
“UnitedHealthcare has provided ongoing support to our health center so we can better serve members of our community,” said María S. Gomez, president and CEO, Mary's Center. “This initiative is an exciting next step in the journey of collaboration, bringing together the key players in the community to help bridge the gap for people with an array of social and health needs that must be met before we can see a marked improvement in the overall health of our communities.”
This Community Catalyst initiative is one part of UnitedHealthcare’s ongoing efforts to address health equity, promote positive health outcomes and expand access to all. The company is also investing in programs and partnerships focused on food, transportation and social isolation, including $80 million to fight the pandemic and support vulnerable minority populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. The company also provides health benefits and delivers care to people through owned and operated health care facilities in South America. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.
About the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
CLPHA is a non-profit organization that works to preserve and improve public and affordable housing through advocacy, research, policy analysis, and public education. Its membership includes 70 of the largest and most innovative public housing authorities across the country, which collectively owns and manages nearly 40 percent of the nation’s public housing stock, administers more than a quarter of the Housing Choice Voucher program, and provides a wide array of other rental assistance. CLPHA members also make vital services available to the more than one million low-income households they serve in federally-assisted housing. CLPHA believes housing authorities are foundational to improving outcomes around housing, families, individuals, and communities. Through their Housing Is Initiative, CLPHA helps build a future where sectors work together to improve life outcomes. Housing stability is a critical first step to improve life outcomes for low-income children, families, and seniors; CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative is based on the premise that sectors can better meet needs when they work together. Housing Is establishes, broadens, and deepens efforts to align affordable housing, education, and health systems to produce positive, long-term results. Learn more at housingis.org and on Twitter @housing_is.
For Immediate Release
April 9, 2021
(Washington, D.C.) April 9, 2021 – The Biden Administration’s recently announced infrastructure proposal, The American Jobs Plan, includes a $40 billion commitment to recapitalize public housing infrastructure. Applying data from a report by Econsult Solutions (ESI), a private data analytics firm, CLPHA estimates that 440,000 jobs will be created and $76 billion in economic impact generated during the time when the $40 billion in funds are spent.
“Investing in public housing infrastructure offers many economic benefits beyond lifting families out of poverty and preventing homelessness,” said Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA). “The American Jobs Plan is the first to provide the size and scale of resources necessary to repair the crumbling infrastructure of public housing. In return local employers, governments, and industries will benefit from an economic activity that outpaces investment and creation of good-paying construction jobs.”
CLPHA commissioned ESI to evaluate the economic impacts of six public housing authorities (PHAs) in diverse markets across the country. Released in late 2018, “The Economic Impact of Public Housing: Ongoing Investment with Wide-Reaching Returns” found that PHAs generate and induce multiple streams of economic activity benefiting public housing residents and their local communities. For every $1 million PHAs spend on capital investments, $1.89 million in economic activity is generated and 11 full-time jobs are supported. CLPHA applied the American Jobs Plan’s $40 billion for recapitalizing public housing infrastructure with ESI’s economic impact numbers and found the American Jobs Plan will generate $76 billion in economic activity and 440,00 jobs — a nearly 2 to 1 ratio for economic impact generated to dollars spent.
“After decades of chronic underfunding and disinvestment in public housing infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan can be game changing. Local communities have an opportunity to experience the benefits of a robust public and affordable housing system,” said Zaterman. “Whether it is improving life outcomes for low-income families, creating positive impacts in surrounding neighborhoods of well-maintained public housing, expanding local and state tax bases, or spurring regional job creation and economic growth, public housing is a benefit. It is clear from the American Jobs Plan that the Biden Administration is committed to advancing public housing.”
About the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
About CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative
(Washington, DC) November 30, 2022 -- Statement from Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, on the importance of finalizing the FY23 appropriations legislation:
“For the millions of families served by public housing authorities, it is critical for Congress to complete the FY23 appropriations legislation before the start of the 118th Congress in January. The leading public housing advocacy organizations, in one voice, call on Congress to get this legislation passed so that our most vulnerable families are not put at risk.
“The consequences of a government shutdown or a series of continuing resolutions, which lock the previous year’s funding levels in place, create uncertainty for PHAs by not accounting for inflation or current shortfalls that could be severe and would amount to a budget cut. It will tie the hands of housing authorities and impact their abilities to provide their residents with safe, secure, and affordable housing.
“These consequences are preventable if Congress passes the FY23 appropriations legislation at the funding levels requested by the public housing organizations in the letter sent to Congress. We look forward to working with Congress as they finalize the legislation.”
David Greer, CLPHA
About the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities
About CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative
(Washington, D.C.) September 9, 2022 – Sunia Zaterman, executive director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities, released the following statement upon the Biden administration's finalization of the rule rolling back the public charge rule:
“Today, hard-working immigrants are more welcome in America. The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities applauds the Biden administration’s finalization of the rule unwinding the Trump administration’s pernicious and patently unlawful Public Charge Rule that included housing assistance against immigrants and their families when applying for an adjustment of residency status.
Federal housing assistance exists to keep families together and to lift them up, not to be weaponized to tear them apart. The cruelty of the rule was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as it caused families to opt out of many critical safety net programs, including federal housing assistance.
"CLPHA looks forward to continuing working with the Biden administration to ensure the equitable and compassionate treatment of immigrants and their families when seeking federal housing assistance.”
The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities is a national non-profit organization that works to preserve and improve public and affordable housing through advocacy, research, policy analysis and public education. CLPHA’s 70 members represent virtually every major metropolitan area in the country. Together they manage 40 percent of the nation’s public housing program; administer more than a quarter of the Housing Choice Voucher program; and operate a wide array of other housing programs. Learn more at clpha.org and on Twitter @CLPHA .
(Washington, D.C.) August 5, 2022 -- Council of Large Public Housing Authorities Executive Director Sunia Zaterman released the following statement on the Federal Communications Commission’s adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program and the Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program:
"The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA) applauds the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) adoption of the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program and the one-year Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program at its Open Commission Meeting today. CLPHA has worked closely with the FCC to help shape these programs through direct dialogue with members of Congress, the FCC, and submitted comments throughout the regulatory process. CLPHA has also been a long-time proponent for digital equity through working with partners, disseminating information via webinars, spotlighting promising practices at conferences, and conducting outreach on opportunities. Today is a strong step forward for serving low-income families living in assisted housing with improved access to high-quality, affordable broadband and devices.
"These initiatives will improve the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a $14 billion long-term initiative that offers up to $30 a month for the costs of internet service for eligible households and builds on the Emergency Broadband Benefit in order to provide more permanent assistance. Public housing authorities have long understood that digital access is critical to improve life outcomes for low-income families living in assisted housing and we are excited for additional support to get more assisted households connected.
"Public housing authorities offer the most effective avenue to connect the highest number of low-income families to broadband access and accomplish the goals of the Affordable Connectivity Program. At CLPHA’s 8th Annual Housing Is Summit in May, Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Geoffrey Starks noted this point in his keynote speech, 'When I look at the data where we can reach more vulnerable households…, I consistently come back to housing. I see a clear synergy between housing and connectivity; if we are helping a family secure housing, we should be able to help them secure an internet connection as well.'
"In May 2022 Commissioner Starks also visited Nickerson Gardens, a property of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), a CLPHA member. With 1,000 units, Nickerson Gardens is the largest public housing community west of the Mississippi River. He reported that the ACP Pilot Program had connected 78 percent of the Nickerson Garden units to the internet.
"During today’s open meeting, Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel also named CLPHA member the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) and its executive director Vivian Brady-Phillips as an exemplary PHA working on digital inclusion. CLPHA highlighted both HACLA and JCHA during this year’s Housing Is Summit.
"The Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant Program will provide eligible governmental and non-governmental entities with funding to conduct outreach to eligible low-income households in order to increase awareness of and encourage participation in the Affordable Connectivity Program. The one-year Your Home, Your Internet Pilot Program aims to increase awareness of the Affordable Connectivity Program among recipients of federal housing assistance and facilitate enrollment in the ACP by providing targeted assistance with the ACP application.
"CLPHA will work with its members to ensure they are taking advantage of these programs to help residents access not only to affordable, high-quality broadband and devices, but also digital literacy to utilize these resources."
CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman was quoted in BisNow’s recent article “Biden's Budget Includes 'Once in a Generation' Investment in Vouchers, Public Housing. Now Landlords Need to Get on Board,” offering CLPHA’s perspective on the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan that would allocate $30 billion the Housing Choice Voucher program and $40 billion to public housing.
“To propose this level of investment in one fell swoop, it’s extraordinary,” Zaterman told BisNow. “There’s now a strong consensus that more could have and should have been done in 2008 and 2009 for reinvestment,” she added. “This $40B [proposal] does not meet the overall need, but it is extraordinary in the level that it raises the funding from our current baseline.”
Read BisNow’s article. (requires free registration for access to the article)
NPR’s Pam Fessler quoted CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman in a story about the challenges of utilizing the $5 billion in emergency housing vouchers included in the American Rescue Plan. Zaterman told Fessler that while balancing landlord, tenant and taxpayer interests has always been hard, the situation is more dire than ever in the pandemic with millions of Americans struggling with rent. “There is a need for all of our members, a crying need, for additional vouchers that are serving a wide range of populations,” Zaterman said.
Sunia Zaterman participated in a recent story on the unique opportunities presented by the new administration to address the nation’s dire affordable housing shortage as part of Fast Company’s Home Bound, a series that examines Americans’ fraught relationship with their homes.
“Our focus now is assembling the tools to give housing authorities more ability to acquire properties and to bring to neighborhoods other types of affordable housing,” Zaterman told Fast Company of CLPHA’s goals to capitalize on this inflection point in the public and affordable housing industry. She added that while the new HUD administration’s more flexible rules help housing authorities create more affordable housing in their communities, the main need facing PHAs and affordable housing providers is more money: “You may have heard this before—money is the key obstacle.”
This week, CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman was quoted in The Washington Post's article "In George Floyd’s old neighborhood, Biden’s war on poverty faces a crucial test." The article examines the potential impacts of President Biden's American Rescue Plan on families in poverty through a focus on Houston's Cuney Homes public housing community, where George Floyd lived much of his life before his killing in police custody.
“If we don’t make a difference in individual lives, then we really haven’t done the job yet,” Zaterman said of the Biden plan's antipoverty efforts. “The folks in the community that George Floyd grew up in — that is our test of whether our models, our resources, our impact has hit our target.”
This morning, CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to discuss public and affordable housing issues and President Biden's proposed American Jobs Plan.
Ms. Zaterman answered questions from host Pedro Echevarria and members of the public from around the country, explaining what public housing authorities do, who they serve, and why increasing funding for public housing, vouchers, and other HUD programs is crucial to preserving affordable housing opportunities, strengthening the social safety net, and improving the life outcomes of low income Americans. She also discussed the positive impacts of the American Jobs Plan -- CLPHA estimates that 440,000 jobs will be created and $76 billion in economic impact generated during the time when the $40 billion in funds from the Plan are spent.
On Friday, April 9 from 8:45 to 9:30 a.m. ET, CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman will appear on C-SPAN's Washington Journal to discuss President Biden's proposed American Jobs Plan, public and affordable housing, and related issues. Read Ms. Zaterman’s statement applauding President Biden’s announcement of the American Jobs Plan here.
You can watch Ms. Zaterman’s interview on the C-SPAN channel or live on C-SPAN's website and ask questions of Ms. Zaterman during the program via phone:
Outside U.S. and Text: (202) 748-8003
Republicans: (202) 748-8001
Democrats: (202) 748-8000
Independents: (202) 748-8002
From Opportunity Home San Antonio's press release:
Opportunity Home San Antonio hosted a grand reopening today of Victoria Plaza Apartments, a 185-unit public housing community serving senior and disabled residents located south of Hemisfair.
The newly renovated community now features an in-house health clinic made possible through a partnership with the Center for Health Care Services (CHCS). This marks the first time in the State of Texas a public housing authority and a local mental health authority have come together to create a housing model of this kind. The clinic will provide mental health care with supportive services, including skills training, psychosocial rehabilitative services and case management, to residents who are actively receiving mental health outpatient treatment with CHCS.
Built in 1959, Victoria Plaza underwent a multi-million dollar renovation with construction beginning in January 2019. Renovations consisted of expanded fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems, and upgrades to the building, including a new electrical system, air conditioning, new flooring and new energy-rated apartment windows, among others.
“The renovations and improvements, along with the health clinic, will have a tremendous impact on the residents of Victoria Plaza and help ensure they have what they need to thrive in this community,” Gabriel Lopez, Opportunity Home Board of Commissioners chair. “We are also grateful for the City of San Antonio’s continued support and excited for the upcoming renovations made possible by city bond funding.”
In addition to Lopez, Ed Hinojosa, Jr., Opportunity Home CEO and president; John Valdez, Victoria Plaza resident; Sergio Ramirez, CHCS in-house clinic representative; Irene Chavez Galvan, Congressman Greg Casar D-35 district director; and Zuleika Morales-Romero, HUD San Antonio Field Office director; spoke during the grand reopening ceremony. Texas Senator Jose Menendez (District 26) also attended the event and gave remarks.
“What I see today is respect for our senior citizens," said Menendez. “Thank you to Opportunity Home and their leadership. It is key that our seniors are important enough to invest in this historic building. Thank you for standing up for our seniors and making it possible for them to live in their neighborhood and close to their families.”
“Opportunity Home has increased the number of affordable units they have, but they have also thought about the properties they currently have, making sure they live up to the standards that everybody wants to live up to,” said Morales-Romero.
Earlier this month, staff and resident leaders from the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh visited Washington, D.C. on a leadership retreat. HACP’s team made the rounds on their 3-day visit: they met with Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) and Congresswoman Summer Lee (D-PA) on Capitol Hill, peers from the District of Columbia Housing Authority, HUD officials, and CLPHA staffers. We hope that HACP had a fun, informative visit to our nation’s capital!
CLPHA was proud to sponsor the 9th National Conference on Housing Mobility, held last week in Washington, D.C. Nearly 150 public and affordable housing leaders, researchers, and policymakers gathered to share best practices, innovations, new research, and policy prescriptions for housing mobility programs across the country. CLPHA Executive Director Sunia Zaterman opened the conference with remarks welcoming attendees and reiterating CLPHA’s commitment to championing investments in housing mobility.
A highlight was the conference’s keynote remarks from famed researcher Dr. Raj Chetty, director of Harvard University’s Opportunity Insights think tank. Dr. Chetty reviewed his groundbreaking research on the impacts of moving from low- to high-opportunity areas on low-income families, demonstrating through data how expanding access to more affluent neighborhoods can help improve economic outcomes for voucher holders, and especially for their children. Dr. Chetty also previewed his latest, yet-unpublished research on the impact of HOPE-VI on the earnings of adults who spent their childhoods in the program.
From left: Gerard Holder, CLPHA; Sunia Zaterman, CLPHA; Dr. Raj Chetty, Opportunity Insights; Sarah Oppenheimer, Opportunity Insights
Two CLPHA members, INLIVIAN and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, presented on their mobility initiatives. INLIVIAN discussed how, thanks in part to their advocacy, Charlotte’s city council voted in 2022 to ban source of income discrimination for properties receiving city funding – a policy victory that greatly helps to expand housing choice INLIVIAN’s voucher holders. CMHA updated attendees on the progress of their mobility program under HUD’s Community Choice Demonstration, noting that over 300 low-income Cleveland families have signed up for the pilot.
CLPHA thanks our cohosts Mobility Works, the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), and the National Association of Housing & Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) for putting together a wonderful, insightful conference!
Last week, HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) awarded $16.1 million in HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to 71 PHAs across the country. The HUD-VASH program provides housing and an array of supportive services to veterans experiencing homelessness by combining rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
Twelve CLPHA members received HUD-VASH awards, totaling 319 vouchers and over $3.6 million in funding. CLPHA congratulates the following members on their awards:
In advance of CLPHA Board Member and Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura CEO Denise Wise’s upcoming, well-deserved retirement, CLPHA interviewed Ms. Wise about her career and her perspective on the public housing industry.
How did you get into the public and affordable housing industry? What has your career been like?
I started out as a banker. I moved to Milwaukee and happened to see a job at a community development corporation, and I thought, “I’ve got this.” It was a humbling experience because no, I did not “have it.” At that job we would purchase foreclosed properties from the City of Milwaukee for a dollar, gut rehab them, and sell them to first-time homeowners. We also did development of affordable multifamily housing. The job made me realize that this is what I wanted to do – I wanted to work with low-income populations in the affordable housing industry.
I asked myself, “If I want to grow in this industry, what is my next step?” I worked for a while as a consultant to HUD, advising troubled public housing agencies on how to fix the issues that got them to that point. My banking background really helped me there.
I realized that to continue to grow I needed to work for a housing agency. I moved to Gunnison, Colorado in the mid-1990s to lead their small housing authority. It was a unique environment because it was near a resort community that was going through a lot of changes. There were a lot of second homeowners in the area, and it was my first exposure to inclusionary housing. We had a hearing with the county’s board of supervisors about inclusionary zoning, and it was packed with homeowners, which surprised me at the time. One of them said that our plans were going to “turn the neighborhood into a Cabrini-Green" and I thought, “What are they talking about?” I was able to talk with a lot of these second homeowners after the meeting, and it gave me some context about where they were coming from. So, keeping these concerns in mind, we were able to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance, the first of its kind in the area.
I decided I wanted to try working at a bigger housing authority, and I moved to the Hawaii Public Housing Authority – obviously much, much, bigger. After two years there I came back to California, where I’m originally from, due to some family members’ health issues. The Housing Authority of the City of San Buenaventura happened to have a leadership opening, and Ventura was conveniently located near family, so I took my current job at HACSB.
Though the various positions I’ve served in have had different challenges and bureaucratic structures, I’ve learned throughout my career that the most important thing is to focus on the residents and their needs. If you center the residents, any decision you make will be the right decision.
What achievements or projects are you most proud of in your career?
I think in order to do amazing things you need an amazing team. Some of the biggest accomplishments in my current position at HACSB involved working with the police department and developing a solid partnership. We’ve tried in our family communities to have police work and be seen as our community partners, rather than threats coming to take residents’ family members away.
Also, before I came to HACSB the housing authority had never done an acquisition rehab. We purchased a building that was on a key street in Ventura. This building had been a wreck – over 317 code violations, a heavy user of public services (primarily the police department). One half of the building had about 28 8-by-10-foot rooms with about four people living in each room, and there were only two toilets and two showers for them all to share. It was in horrible shape. Now, the complex, El Portal, is comprised of 28 permanent supportive housing units. We work with VASH, our coordinated entry system, our local behavioral health department, our Continuum of Care, and our county’s homeless services agency. Not only has it turned that building into a bright spot in the community, but it also houses and serves some of our area’s most vulnerable individuals.
Developing local partnerships have been some of the accomplishments I’m most proud of, because a housing authority can’t be everything to everybody. I could talk more about some of the brick-and-mortar developments we’ve built, but the things that make us more than brick and mortar are the partnerships we build in the community that help our residents receive as much benefit and enrichment as we can provide.
What have been some of the biggest challenges in your career?
Politics and political will. It’s hard to go into a new city and learn its politics. And from there, where is the political will? Where is the money coming from? Who has skin in the game? It’s important to understand where the political will is in your community so that you can work with your board to influence it. Furthermore, you need to leverage the influence and connections you have or build that influence if you don’t have it. In doing this it’s both challenging and important to educate your community about who your housing authority is serving. Our residents are integral to our community – they work in our hospitals, they serve us our food, they clean up after us. They are just as much equal citizens as the next person, and it’s important to convey that to our community.
What do you see as the future of the public and affordable housing industry? What are its biggest needs, and what should it prioritize?
The industry’s greatest need is to change HUD, to have HUD understand better how PHAs are changing – we are no longer the traditional housing authorities we used to be. HUD telling us to implement some of these new programs and policies without helping housing authorities be more flexible is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It protracts and confuses our processes and impedes us from achieving our shared goal of serving low-income populations. Also, the populations we are serving and their needs are changing, and we need to get HUD to better understand how they’re changing. HUD and housing authorities need each other, and I believe that we’re out of sync. While sometimes we have encouraging conversations with the highest levels of HUD, what they say doesn’t always filter down to the bottom of the agency. In order for us to continue to serve low-income families, this needs to change.
For housing authorities, those that are more traditional, that only have public housing and HCV programs, really need to consider how they’re going to survive given the current funding landscape. There also needs to be more support from HUD for PHAs that have undergone RAD conversions. A lot of capital has gone into these RAD units to rehabilitate them, so we want to ensure that they have the support to be successful.
What are your post-retirement plans?
For six months, nothing! Then, I’m taking my 89 year-old mother back to Portugal. After that, who knows? For now I’m looking forward to the free time, sleeping in, and being able to take a true vacation.
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