News Details

Gregory P. Russ: Thank You Message as Outgoing President of PHADA

PHADA President’s Forum: Thank You from Your Future Past President

PHADA Advocate, May 6, 2015
(Vol. 30, No. 8)
By Greg Russ, outgoing President of PHADA

 

Keep Up the Good Fight

This is my final column as PHADA President and I wanted to take the opportunity to thank some of the people who assisted me along the way. It truly has been an honor to serve in this position. I look forward to working with PHADA’s new leadership and continuing the association’s efforts to secure meaningful policy changes in these challenging times.

There are many people and other groups that should be recognized. First and foremost, there is the very supportive Board of Commissioners and staff at the Cambridge Housing Authority. Their cooperation and support made my Presidency much easier when tending to PHADA responsibilities. They include: all the CHA board members (Gerry, Warren, Susan, Tony, and Victoria), Michael Johnston, Deputy Executive Director, Sue Cohen, General Counsel, Terry Dumas, Director of Planning and Development, and Shirley Sanford, Executive Assistant.

I want to thank PHADA Past President Cindy Naber (York, NE), and your next President, Nancy Walker (Laurinburg, NC) for their support during my term. Both are great people and understand our work in ways that make the PHADA message real and very powerful.

All the other past Presidents have been very supportive and helpful, but I must acknowledge Jon Gutzmann (St. Paul, MN) who got me involved in PHADA in the first place. In addition, I really appreciate and have enjoyed working with all of our committee chairs, the Executive Committee, Trustees and the others who give their time to the organization so that it runs with a welcome routine – one that runs exceptionally well. All the members of the Executive Committee and Board of Trustees are listed on the masthead directly to the left of this column. My thanks to all for the support, ideas, and conversations that inform and improve the organizational “thinking.”

My sincere thanks also to the hard-working and talented PHADA staff. They include: Tim Kaiser, Kathleen Whalen, Jonathan Zimmerman, Jim Armstrong, Godfrey Swindall, Norma Bellew, Yaniv Goury, Gwen Lyda, Stephanie White, Crystal Wojciechowski and our counsel at the law firm of Coan and Lyons, especially Ray James. What a great crew and just such a pleasure to work with this group.

I also want to acknowledge my counterparts at CLPHA and NAHRO, Steve Norman (King County, WA) and Preston Prince (Fresno, CA). The two other Presidents and I talked frequently during our respective tenures, and my hat is off to both for their commitment and drive. It is critically important that the three industry groups continue to collaborate in order to further our shared objectives especially now with the budget pressures likely to be applied to our programs.

Most important, I want to thank all PHADA members for your continued support and involvement. I have been proud to lead this great organization the last two years, and look forward to continuing PHADA’s work in the years ahead.

 The Road Ahead

We have experienced large amount of turmoil the last couple of years. More changes and challenges are on the way. Still, we also have some real opportunities, several of which I have covered in recent columns. On a positive note, we have had some success such as securing legislation that precludes HUD from instituting the unworkable Physical Needs Assessment (PNA), and implementation of needed reforms like biennial inspections, tri-annual recertification legislation (pretty amazing that this simple business process reform takes an Act of Congress), as well as an expansion of the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD). Frankly, we still have a long way to go. If the Administration and Congress are not going to adequately fund our needs, then we must continue pushing for a major reshaping of the rules and regulations that govern our operations.

We are watching a great change in our programs and our business and I believe over the next few years the funding pressures will push even more change our way - welcome or not. But in the midst of this difficult transformation it is hard to watch as HUD struggles and fails to turn its own ship around. HUD is truly adrift as it offers no real direction on dealing with the overall Capital need (RAD excepted, but RAD has a sweet spot and not all properties can benefit). The Department continues to issue more rules that offer limited solutions for the issues on the ground while creating hundreds of thousands of hours of extra work. I have watched with dismay as the Department leadership systematical departs from the MTW Statute and dismantles the Moving to Work program – expansion of MTW is one of PHADA’s primary legislative initiatives. In my view the Department is untethered -- working in a vacuum disconnected from our public housing communities and the voucher clients we serve. As the budget reductions squeeze the regulatory framework something has to give; HUD has yet to signal that it understands this basic operating equation.

So we are left grapple with these issues back home and to do so we must step up and fill the vacuum. We must raise our voices within PHADA and outside PHADA to drive and shape these events. We can do this. We are connected to each other by this work but there is more to it than that – we must recognize that within our community is a strength that belongs to us and when we turn and move together we are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Stay strong and thanks for the opportunity you gave me these past two years. 


About PHADA

Founded in 1979, PHADA represents the professional administrators of approximately 1,900 housing authorities throughout the United States. PHADA works closely with members of Congress in efforts to develop sensible and effective public housing statutes and obtain adequate funding for low-income housing programs. The association also serves as an advocate before the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a variety of regulations governing public housing nationwide.

Visit PHADA's website: www.phada.org