Atlanta housing chief set to depart after 17 years

AP News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 8:28 PM
Atlanta housing chief set to depart after 17 years

Renee Glover, who put Atlanta in the national spotlight when this city became the first in the U.S. to wipe out all of its large housing projects, has signaled she will be leaving the Atlanta Housing Authority after 17 years at the helm.

Glover did not announce a specific date for leaving but the chief executive officer said in a statement that her planned departure is prompted by new board members _ appointed by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed _ who wish for a leadership change. She said she and the board's representatives were working together on "mutually acceptable terms of separation and an orderly transition."

Reed, who took office in January 2010 and campaigned in part to address poverty in Atlanta, has said the time has come for a new direction for the city's housing authority.

"The city of Atlanta continues to face challenges around homelessness and affordable housing for working families, and it is my goal to address these critical issues in an effective, fiscally prudent and compassionate manner during my term as mayor," Reed had said in a statement. "I will rely upon the expertise of the housing authority board to lead this process."

Glover was chairwoman of the agency when she was appointed its CEO in 1994, taking charge at a time of turmoil for the agency and for public housing in Atlanta. Nearly one in 10 Atlanta residents were living in public housing in 1990 _ the highest concentration of any city in the country. The large and then poorly run AHA was on the Housing and Urban Development department's list of troubled authorities at the time.

In 1992, the federal government created the landmark Hope VI program, which reversed long-standing HUD policy and cleared the way for housing authorities to tear down blighted housing projects and try a new approach. "Mixed-income communities" became the new buzzword.

Atlanta's pioneering transformation was swift and dramatic. Using the 1996 Summer Olympic Games as a catalyst, the city's most notorious and sprawling public housing neighborhoods were razed, including Techwood Homes _ the first U.S. public housing community, built in 1936.

Starting in the mid-1990s, more than a dozen projects in Atlanta were demolished and replaced with communities where market-rate houses and apartments co-existed with far fewer public housing units. Atlanta's last big housing project was torn down in 2010.

The former corporate finance attorney has been lauded as a national leader in transforming communities, but also derided by critics who said the changes displaced the city's poor in favor of development.

Georgia State University urban policy professor Harvey Newman said Glover leaves a complicated legacy.

"If the overall goal was to reduce the concentrations of poor people in the city, then that was accomplished," Newman said. "But the privatization of public housing was not necessarily done for reasons of efficiency or to improve housing availability for poor people."

But he said many big cities _ New York and Philadelphia, Chicago and Minneapolis among them _ attempted to follow elements what became known as the "Atlanta model."

"People in the housing authority community nationally hold her in high regard," Newman said.