Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday announced four appointments to leadership positions on his housing team, pledging to expand access to affordable housing and upgrade the city’s aging public housing stock.
The mayor named Shola Olatoye as chair of the New York City Housing Authority, with Cecil House serving as the authority’s general manager. The mayor also appointed Vicki Been as the commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Gary D. Rodney as president of the Housing Development Corporation.
De Blasio laid out a range of strategies to expand affordable housing, including launching inclusive housing programs that serve both low-income New Yorkers and the middle class, developing strategies to leverage new capital to spur housing production and preservation, and working across city agencies to boost the effort.
In a release, de Blasio said his administration is working toward a goal of building and preserving 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade and addressing longstanding health and safety repair issues affecting the city’s more than 400,000 housing authority tenants.
“We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities, every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods. These agencies are going to work together as a collective to lift up families and make this one city—where everyone rises together,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor de Blasio says he is committed to fundamentally changing the city’s relationship with its public housing tenants. NYCHA is the nation’s largest public housing authority, and its aging buildings are in dire need of health and safety repairs, and upgrades to make them more resilient.
Leading those efforts will be Shola Olatoye, whom de Blasio called "experienced coalition builder with an extensive background leading community-based development across the five boroughs." Most recently, Olatoye was Vice President and New York Market Leader for Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit that has helped build or preserve more than 44,000 affordable homes for lower-income New Yorkers and invested more than $2.5 billion in and around the city. Olatoye will focus on strategic goals like expanding employment opportunities for NYCHA residents, developing plans to retrofit buildings, and more fully supporting tenants—including the 40 percent of residents over the age of 62.
“I am honored to be asked by the mayor to run New York City’s Housing Authority. Everything we do will be focused on improving the quality of life for our tenants, especially protecting their safety. This is an enormous opportunity. Public housing helped people in my family. I want it to do the same in the future for others,” Olatoye said in a statement.
Olatoye will be joined by Cecil House, who will continue to serve as the New York City Housing Authority’s general manager, a position he has held for the past 18 months. House will focus on reducing repair wait times and improving the resiliency of buildings to severe weather.
“I cannot wait to work with Shola and this administration to make New Yorkers proud of their public housing again. We’ve never had a leadership this committed to making that happen, and to treating our NYCHA tenants with the same respect as every other tenant in this city. We are ready to roll up our sleeves, get to work, and change the way we do business,” House said.
As commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Vicki Been will be charged with protecting tenants, rehabilitating troubled buildings, and finding new opportunities to create affordable apartments. Been is the Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, and is called "a national leader on land use, urban policy and affordable housing." Most recently, she has worked extensively assessing the impact of Superstorm Sandy on housing and neighborhoods.
“We’re going to take a much more aggressive approach to protecting and building affordable apartments that responds to the crisis we’re in. From apartments approaching the end of their subsidy to homes lost to Superstorm Sandy, we need faster and more innovative strategies that seize every opportunity to keep apartments affordable and accelerate the pace of bringing new ones online,” said Been.
Gary D. Rodney is currently Executive Vice President for Development of Omni New York LLC, where he financed community-based affordable housing projects that rehabilitated distressed buildings across the five boroughs. As president of the Housing Development Corporation—the city’s housing finance arm— he will play a critical role in the preservation and creation of affordable apartments. Rodnet said "We will continue to find creative ways to finance the best quality housing that will be affordable to all New Yorkers."