The search for a new Durham Housing Authority CEO + slots open on waiting list and "worst-case housing needs"
Wanted: A new leader for the Durham Housing Authority
Qualifications: Stellar management and financial expertise, particularly in complex real estate deals. Candidates should play well with others and have compassion and imagination.
After six years as the CEO of DHA, Dallas Parks, 69, is retiring in June, leaving a void at the top of one of the most vital public agencies in the city. As it begins its search for a replacement, DHA is holding a public forum on the qualifications for a new CEO at Thursday, April 7, at 6 p.m. at the DHA central office, second floor, 330 E. Main St.
This is a crucial time for DHA and its to-be-named leader. The largest provider of city’s affordable housing, DHA is transitioning its public housing stock to Section 8 properties — a years-long process known as RAD.
HUD launched the RAD program nationwide to address the ongoing and expensive maintenance required for public housing properties. Under RAD, the DHA would still manage the properties, but would not own them. By law, the housing would remain permanently affordable.
The problem, though, is that fewer Durham landlords want to participate in the Section 8 voucher program. As a result, people with Section 8 vouchers, who must use them within a specific time period, can’t find housing.
The new CEO could also be required to overhaul DHA in how its services dovetail with the city’s Community Development Department. At the March 10 City Council meeting, consultant Karen Lado of Enterprise Community Partners, proposed that to properly address the affordable housing crisis, particularly for very low-income households, DHA and the city should find new ways of working together.
“I can't overstate how significant DHA is as a partner,” Lado said. “Well over 90 percent of available units or vouchers serving very low-income households are managed through the housing authority. It can redevelop sites at a higher-density.”
That could include combining both DHA and Community Development into one agency. The City Council would have to approve such a move, which could benefit DHA and the people it serves.
DHA is land rich but cash poor (and short-staffed.) And the city and DHA occasionally find themselves competing for the scarce Low Income Housing Tax Credits. For example, last year, DHA applied for a 9 percent credit for the redevelopment of its Club Boulevard site. Meanwhile the city was planning to sell an acre of land near the bus station for affordable housing, the buyer of which would also likely apply for the same credit. (The city ultimately decided to hold on to the property until it had a firmer grip on its affordable housing plan.)
Lado laid out the dire situation, noting that 15,000 Durham households, most of them renters, allocate more than half of their income on housing costs. This is what federal housing officials call “worst-case housing needs,” and on Monday, they announced a plan to help address them.
Download 10987_EXHIBIT_AFFORDABLE_HOUSING_GOALS_384901_680295 [Figures on severely "cost-burdened renters" are on page 3.]
In a presentation to Congress, HUD reported that in 2013, 7.7 million very low-income unassisted families paid more than half their monthly income for rent, lived in severely substandard housing, or both. Although that number is down from historic high of 8.5 million in 2011, it’s nonetheless up 49 percent from 2003. (HUD's 72-page publication is also worth a read.)
That prompted U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro announced a new federal program Monday, the National Housing Trust Fund, to help create permanently affordable housing for very low-income households. Although the amount is a modest $174 million, each state will receive some funding. Provided the feds don’t cut off funds to North Carolina for its passage of HB2, the state is projected to receive $3.3 million. From there, the state will distribute funds based on eligbility. The funding comes from Freddie and Fanny Mac.
What does this mean for Durham? It’s unclear, but the city, nonprofits and/or the Durham Housing Authority could receive some precious dollars to create new housing for the most vulnerable people.
And now for some good news about affordable housing: About 200 slots became available yesterday when the Durham Housing Authority opened its waiting list under a new system.
McDougald Terrace, Cornwallis Road, Oldham Towers, Liberty Street, Hoover Road, JJ Henderson, Forest Hills Heights, Oxford Manor and Club Boulevard, as well as housing scattered throughout the city.
DHA has changed its general overall waiting list to one that is site-based, says Sherry Harris, DHA compliance manager. That means people who are interested in the public housing program can apply at the site where they want to live.
Since this is a new process, persons who were on the general wait list had an opportunity to apply to a specific site before remaining slots were open to the public. The applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.