Officials from the District of Columbia Housing Authority sat before members of the D.C. Council Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization recently to report on the ongoing operations and initiatives of the agency.

DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett listened to testimony and questions from the public when he sat before the committee on February 21 alongside other senior staff members.

“Since taking the helm in October, I have been extensively reviewing all aspects of our agency operations, as well as meeting with residents, staff, service providers, development partners, local and federal officials, and other stakeholders to gain a better understanding of where our strengths lie and where there are opportunities for improvement and innovation,” Garrett said.

Garrett highlighted the agency’s past—bringing millions of dollars of investment into affordable housing through HOPE VI grants, being the first in the nation to use EB5 investments for affordable housing, and bringing back much needed affordable housing in the city by self-developing Parkway Overlook,for example.. He also noted that the agency is a leader in environmental sustainability and is currently working to close the second part of an $80 million Energy Capital Improvement Program that will bring energy-use improvements to 25 DCHA communities.

“I took the helm knowing that there is already a strong foundation but that there are opportunities for enhancing, energizing, and elevating this agency and its core operations. While the federal funding we receive continues to fluctuate on a downward spiral, our year-over-year system needs continue to rise: putting the long-term viability at risk,” Garrett said. “Our maintenance needs are increasing considerably and without adequate funding our housing stock will face rapid deterioration. As the recent capital needs assessment shows, the D.C. Housing Authority needs more than $450 million in capital investments to bring our entire portfolio to 20 year viability.”

Due to these funding challenges, Garrett said, it is critical that DCHA’s core operations are fully optimized and efficient. He said he plans to implement several initiatives such as the Mandatory Maintenance Training Program, a series of refresher online training courses developed by industry expert practitioners that includes skills maintenance staff use in their current duties.

Managers and supervisors also will go through a new professional development course  focused on their day-to-day responsibilities, as well as an overview of critical labor and management relations concepts. These courses will cover topics such as effective discipline techniques and sustaining a productive and responsive workforce.

Enrollment for a new six-month Modified Property Maintenance Apprenticeship Training Program soon will be announced for DCHA customers to join and learn job skills while also working to reduce maintenance backlogs and various deferred building management projects and maintenance activities on DCHA properties while providing program participants the opportunity to earn income, Garrett said. To support long-term employment for participants, DCHA will establish partnerships and secure commitments from local employers to interview program graduates.

“This program highlights DCHA’s commitment and continued efforts to improve the quality of life for DCHA residents by providing job training opportunities while residents earn an income with the goal of creating a path toward sustained gainful employment and self-sufficiency,” Garrett said. “DCHA is excited to leverage existing resources and to develop new relationships with employers to identify potential employment and other opportunities for trainees.”

In addition to improving employee training programs and creating a job skills program, Garrett also has been visiting each DCHA community and meeting one-on-one with customers to listen to their ideas, thoughts, and concerns about the agency and how they think it could improve.

“Nothing is off the table or out of bounds. I have and will continue to take the information back to my staff, we will look into [each] matter, and I will respond to the customer’s issue as soon as possible. My goal is to produce a quarterly report about the issues I was presented and the resolution to each. Good or bad, transparency will prevail,” he told the committee. “Finally, for the foreseeable future I will continue to host quarterly meetings with all front-line site staff – no management. In these settings, site staff will have the opportunity to provide me with feedback and suggestions, criticism, or compliments. An informed, engaged, and committed workforce is the key to the continued success of this agency.”

He continued, “Effective stewardship of our assets and resources is vital to not only the agency’s survival but also for the preservation and creation of deeply affordable housing opportunities for our residents.”

Garrett said he and his team are taking a hard look at existing redevelopments, future projects, and the current viability of DCHA’s assets to make sure they are the most efficient, cost effective, and contain purposeful design that maximize available resources, protect stakeholders, and create long-term affordable housing options in the city. The same goes for policies and strategies already on the books, he said.

“The Board has expressed its continued commitment to many of these principles and has charged me with crafting purposeful, innovative, and effective ways to leverage the resources we have to the benefit of the agency and customers,” Garrett said. “In a climate of dwindling federal resources, we are fortunate to have a Mayor and Council that is also focused on investing in the preservation and creation of affordable housing. We understand, however, that government alone cannot bring all the resources.”

The D.C. Council created a Rehabilitation and Maintenance Fund with local dollars set aside for affordable housing subsidies to be used to supplement DCHA’s capital funding.

He continued, “This is a responsibility that I take very seriously so my team and I are examining each individual project before us, looking at the upside and downside and forging ahead with purpose and determination.”

Last modified: 3/9/2018 2:31:53 PM