By Maria Saporta
The Atlanta Housing Authority is in the final stages of a national search for a new president and CEO – and that decision could set the stage for the future of affordable housing in the city of Atlanta.
“We’re looking for an experienced professional who can harness our public and private resources to get shovels in the ground quickly and begin to build thousands of new affordable housing units for Atlanta citizens,” said Dr. Chris Edwards, chair of the Atlanta Housing board who also is chairing the search committee, in an exclusive statement.
The new permanent CEO is expected to bring stability to the organization, which has been in a state of transition for years.
Brandon Riddick-Seals, a former AH board member, has been serving as the interim CEO since May, 2018, and he has been a candidate for the permanent position.
Edwards did not indicate in his statement whether Riddick-Seals was among the finalists.
“We have four excellent finalists, and the Board of Commissioners will soon announce a CEO who will work tirelessly with residents, communities, public funders and private investors to build on and greatly expand affordable housing in our city,” Edwards said.
People close to the search process expect a final decision to be made within a month.
“There’s been a national search, and they are narrowing down the final candidates,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in an interview after the March 8 meeting of the Atlanta Committee for Progress. “There’s a lot of interest in that job given our commitment on housing.”
Bottoms said it is a priority to have permanent leaders in the top positions in her administration.
“It’s a priority not just for Atlanta Housing but all our departments,” Bottoms said. “We hope to be either in the process of naming a permanent leader for all the interim positions. That’s our goal.”
The Atlanta Housing authority has been in a state of transition for most of the past decade.
When former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed went into office in 2010, he quickly entered into a power struggle with Renee Glover, who had served as president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority since 1994 and gained national acclaim for transforming Atlanta’s public housing communities.
Glover finally resigned in 2013 with a settlement. She was succeeded by Joy Fitzgerald, who served in an interim role for the better part of three years. In September 2016, the city announced that Catherine Buell would become president and CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority. She held that job for less than two years, when she was pressured to resign.
During all the leadership turmoil, the Atlanta Housing authority did not build new residential developments despite owning hundreds of acres of land throughout the city. Meanwhile Atlanta has experienced a growing scarcity of affordable housing. Rents and housing costs have been increasing at a time when the city has been losing existing affordable housing units.
Mayor Bottoms has announced a $1 billion initiative to address Atlanta’s affordable housing crisis. On a parallel track, a broad-based coalition of different nonprofit organizations known as House ATL, has presented a list of 23 recommendations to help Atlanta become a more affordable city.