PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY RETURNED TO LOCAL CONTROL
AFTER TWO YEARS UNDER FEDERAL RECEIVERSHIP New Board of Commissioners Formally Take Office
PHILADELPHIA – After two years under federal receivership, U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez today officially returned the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) to the City of Philadelphia and welcomed the newly appointed 9-member Board of Commissioners.
“We are here today because of the untiring efforts of HUD’s receivership team, in particular Estelle Richman, and a new management team at PHA to restore the credibility of this agency for the citizens of Philadelphia,” said Henriquez. “It’s a great day for the City, the housing authority, HUD, and most importantly, the residents who rely on the housing and services PHA provides.”
In a ceremony at the housing authority’s board meeting today, Henriquez presented a declaration to the City releasing PHA from federal control. Joining Henriquez was Suzanne Biemiller, First Deputy Chief of Staff to Mayor Michael Nutter, former HUD Senior Advisor Estelle Richman, who served as Chairman of the PHA Board during the receivership, and PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah.
“I want to thank U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Assistant Secretary Sandra Henriquez and Estelle Richman, the Secretary’s senior advisor who acted as PHA’s sole board member through this time of transition. I deeply appreciate their cooperation and support. Now, with PHA’s return to local control, the City of Philadelphia has the opportunity to better coordinate housing policy, related investment decisions and neighborhood revitalization in a transparent and coherent manner that involves all housing agencies and stakeholders for the benefit of the people who live in PHA housing and all Philadelphians,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Equally important, the re-establishment of local control with a new governance structure means real accountability. The Authority in all its actions is responsible to the Mayor who, in turn, is answerable to the voters. This significant reform could not have been achieved without the strong support of the Philadelphia City Council, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania Senate and Gov. Corbett. Under PHA President Kelvin Jeremiah’s leadership, PHA has instituted strong internal controls, and now with a talented PHA Board of Commissioners prepared to carry out its duties, a new era of accountability, responsibility and transparency begins that will benefit PHA residents and staff and all Philadelphians.”
“I take pride and pleasure in having this opportunity to leave this agency with the team we have in place,” said Richman. “The time has come for HUD to step aside and allow this agency to continue the progress it has made independent of the federal government.
“Thanks to the collective leadership and the support of HUD, Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke, PHA is ready to revert to local control after more than two years in receivership. This, along with strong internal controls, an experienced executive staff and a dedicated board, has truly equipped the agency to operate efficiently and effectively for years to come.” said Jeremiah. “I believe this committed board, with its wide range of experiences in the community, can govern the agency in a thoughtful and highly ethical manner. Today marks an important achievement for PHA and its staff. We are no longer looking to the past with regret and disappointment. Instead, we are looking forward to the future, to seize the opportunities it holds, and to take back PHA’s good name and reclaim its legacy.”
HUD took over PHA in March 2011 and named Richman PHA Board Chair to oversee operations of the agency as the one-member Board. A new management team was put in place and successfully established policies and procedures that moved the agency forward that restored credibility to the agency.
Over the last two years, PHA has put in place stricter internal controls, a stronger management structure, and a robust audit and compliance department. The agency also has a fully functional Human Resources Department and Office of General Counsel. The Human Resources staff has trained all employees on the rules of engagement, including, but not limited to, standards of ethical conduct and Equal Employment Opportunity policies.
In 2012, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a measure to increase the number of board members from five to nine and gave the Mayor the authority to appoint all Commissioners with City Council approval. Two of the Commissioners are PHA residents. In the same year, Mayor Nutter appointed the following individuals to serve on the PHA Board of Commissioners: Lynette M. Brown-Sow, Vice President of Marketing and Communications Community College of Philadelphia; Leslie D. Callahan, PhD, Pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in North Philadelphia; Rev. Bonnie Camarda, Director of Partnerships for the Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware; Hon. Nelson A. Diaz, partner at Dilworth Paxson, LLP; Shellie R. Jackson, PHA resident; Joan Markman, Esq., Chief Integrity Officer for the City of Philadelphia; Kenneth A. Murphy, Esq. partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP; Vernell Tate, PHA resident and president of the resident council at Spring Garden Apartments; Herbert Wetzel, former Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority, housing expert for the Philadelphia City Council.
The new board, which over the past few months have attended board and residents meetings, has received extensive training from PHA and HUD, including sessions on Ethical Conduct, Conflict of Interest, EEO and the Fair Housing Act. Last month, Richman appointed Jeremiah, an expert in compliance and investigations, the president and CEO of PHA.
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and http://espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDgov, on facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.