If there is one thing for certain, Eugene Jones Jr. is certain that Atlanta Housing is primed and ready for success.

With the support of a mayor who has made affordable housing one of her primary agenda items, Jones is equally confident in his team and the Atlanta Housing Authority board.

“We have a good vision. We have a good board,” he said.  “Everyone is looking at Atlanta Housing to do some innovative things, but we also need partners in order to accomplish that.”

“What we’re trying to do at Atlanta Housing is to just keep forward in building affordable housing, making sure that we build communities and not just bricks and mortar,” Jones continued. “With the partnerships we have in place now, determining how we expound on that and get more people to the table is going to be a great feat for the Atlanta Housing.”

Jones has built a 35-year record of strong leadership experience, in eight major cities in the United States and Canada, working in public housing operations, new construction, capital construction, resident services, accounting and finance, auditing maintenance, and Housing Choice Voucher programs.

“I’ve been doing this work for nearly 40 years,” he explained. “I’ve been in some tough places. I’ve been all over California, I’ve been in Connecticut. I’ve been in Detroit, Indianapolis and so forth. I was also at the first housing authority under federal receivership in Kansas City.

“Also, I was the first African American to run the largest housing authority in Canada — in Toronto,” he added. “So I know a lot. I don’t know everything, but I have seen what works well and what works badly.”

The Atlanta Housing Board — presided by Dr. Christopher Edwards — unanimously appointed Jones as its new president and CEO on Sept. 10, 2019. Over the last four months, Jones has been acclimating himself to the city and to local government while developing his vision for the Atlanta Housing’s future.

Edwards offered full confidence in Jones’s leadership and ability to etch new territory for Atlanta Housing.

“It was important to me to make sure that we picked the right leader,” Edwards said. “(Jones) is it. To the degree that the board can be supportive of Jones and his leadership, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Chuckling, Edwards quipped, “I have often referred to (Jones) as the Michael Jordan of Atlanta and affordable housing. We want to get shovels in the ground. That’s exactly what we intend on doing.”

Jones specifically commended Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ ONE ATLANTA plans for affordable housing. “We look forward to incorporating what the Mayor is looking for in regards to affordable housing, that we can do it in this city faster, being very innovative but with more partners.”

Edwards echoed Jones’s sentiments.

“Mayor Bottoms has done something extraordinary,” he said. “She has said, ‘This is my top priority.’ She said, “No! My top priority is getting affordable housing done.’ And that’s our priority.” 

In early February, Bottoms and members of her administration announced the launch of the Atlanta Housing Affordability Tracker, a new dashboard that will provide a snapshot of progress made in reaching goals related to the city’s Housing Affordability Action Plan.

Those goals include creating or preserving 20,000 affordable homes by 2026 and increase overall supply and investing $500 million from City-controlled public sources in the production and preservation of affordable housing as part of the larger goal of investing $1 billion 

Last June, Bottoms announced the city’s first-ever affordable housing action plan, putting into action one of her central campaign pledges—investing $1 billion in public and private funds to combat rising housing costs and the displacement of longtime residents.

The 45-action Affordable Housing Action Plan aims to substantially increase the number of Atlanta residents who can afford their housing costs and represents a collaborative and shared effort from multiple City agencies and a diverse group of nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, educational institutions, private companies, residents, and community members.

Jones specifically discussed the authority’s pivot from building 100 percent “public housing,” as it once was called.

“We will not build 100-percent affordable housing anymore,” he explained. “What we will build is mixed-income developments that fit into a neighborhood that you will see that is seamless. You wouldn’t know if there was a public housing or a subsidized resident there, or a market rate over there.

“We’re trying to incorporate neighborhood values in these neighborhoods that we are a part of,” he added.

But these aren’t the only projects Jones has committed to. Jones and his team are exploring a variety of solutions to affordable housing for metro Atlanta, including voucher programs for the homeless and developing more workforce housing for those who work in public service.

“We have a great organization. We have a great staff. And we’re doing some great things,” he said. “But I want to remind everyone that we’re not just doing brick and mortar (projects). We’re doing all types of other things like supportive services as well as public and private partnerships.

“The greatest thing is to have a roof over one’s head,” Jones continued. “And that’s what we are positioning Atlanta Housing to do, to create more opportunities, to create more housing, to create more great housing venues but also work with the communities to make a seamless transition.”

(Photo: Trarell Torrence/The Atlanta Voice)

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