Yesterday Atlanta Housing Authority president and CEO, Renee Glover, resigned. Ms. Glover, according to this Atlanta Journal Constitution article, was well regarded by housing advocates for her ability to move low income residents into mixed income communities and privately-held apartments. Her tenure apparently didn’t rub Mayor Kasim Reed and grass roots advocates for the poor the right way it seems.
According to the AHA’s website:
“Atlanta Housing Authority is organized under Georgia law to develop, acquire, lease and operate affordable housing for low-income families. Today, AHA is the largest housing agency in Georgia and one of the largest in the nation, serving approximately 50,000 people.
Our ability to adapt to change by cultivating strategic partnerships and developing innovative solutions has made us the national leader in the transformation of public housing.
In 1996, AHA created the financial and legal model for mixed-income, mixed-finance transactions that include public-assisted housing as a component. This model is used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOPE VI revitalization program. In Atlanta, it has resulted in six vibrant mixed-income communities, with three more in the pre-development phase.”
It seems that the grass roots advocates had a problem with Ms. Glover’s probably unintended ability to dilute and get rid of their “power base.” The article quotes the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition’s southeastern director, Joe Beasley, as saying “I call her the gentrification queen. She bought into the idea that there were too many poor people in Atlanta. She bought into the hands of the power elite. She drove poor black people out of Atlanta.”
Drove poor people out of Atlanta? Really? I have to take issue with that. There are plenty of poor people in Atlanta, Mr. Beasley. Just roll on through certain sections of the West End and you’ll find poor people doing their best to get by.
I don’t think the problem was with Ms. Glover’s housing policies. I lived in Atlanta almost a decade before Ms. Beasley joined AHA. I visited one of the projects that was eventually torn down during her tenure and I was happy to see the city offer to create living conditions that would incorporate people from all income divisions into one multi-faceted community.
I’ve seen the same attempts to upgrade living environments for low income individuals in Frederick, Maryland where the city tore down the Taney apartment complex with the intent to replace the complex with a mixed income community. Given the surrounding neighborhood and its proximity to downtown Frederick, it was the right move, creating an environment within the scheme of the rest of the community.
Mr. Beasley shouldn’t be concerned about the poor being scattered throughout Atlanta. Quite frankly it’s a good thing because change in environment brings about a change in mindset.
If Mr. Beasley and his fellow advocates are concerned about the poor, they will continue whatever efforts they have embarked on to increase the probability of employment for their constituents, rather than be concerned that housing policies are breaking up their meal ticket that allows them to sit at the table of the very power elite they criticize.