Housing Complex

Gray Snags Old Name For New Housing Chief

Seems like an odd time to be reinventing your mayoralty, with rumors about federal investigations hanging low over the Wilson Building. But today, Mayor Vince Gray has some good news: He's lured Michael Kelly, who served nine years as director of the D.C. Housing Authority before being tapped by its equivalent in New York City, back to head the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Gray's announcement said that the switch was part of an effort to "sharpen his administration’s focus on the District’s need for affordable housing." What about the guy who's been there for more than a year now, John Hall?

In this instance, the problem wasn't a massive public relations gaffe or the taint of scandal; Hall got a soft landing within the Department of Planning and Economic Development. Rather, I'm betting that Hall just didn't have the firepower to move fast enough. Having come directly from middle management at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, he was out of his depth when it came to maneuvering effectively within D.C. government. He struggled to handle compliance with federal grants after a Washington Post investigation found widespread irregularities, as well as rot within his own staff.

"It's taken quite a while for John to get up to speed at the department," says Bob Pohlman, director of the umbrella Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development. "I am sure that preoccupation with all that probably kept him from addressing all the issues that are out here."

It's also likely that Gray would've liked to have Kelly originally, but that Kelly was busy bringing the Philadelphia Housing Authority back from scandal (he stepped down last week, citing family reasons). "I think he would've been a very strong candidate if he had been available back at that time," Pohlman says.

While at DCHA, Kelly was credited with bringing in a slew of federal grants that remade communities like Capper Carrolsburg and Northwest One. He'll undoubtedly play a large role in the crafting of a new housing plan (it's telling that the D.C. Housing Finance Agency's Harry Sewell, not Hall, was picked to lead the effort).

It's a positive step for D.C., especially if Kelly sticks around through the storms surrounding the guy who hired him.

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    Nice work, LDP.

    501 Boyz know this fella

  • Cap City Records Panhandler

    I've heard DHCD has some buildings for sale...?

  • Hopefully Gray is out in 2012

    It was not that Hall could not handle the job. Hall just did not understand the politics of DC. The true story is Hall was trying to fire a friend of Mayor Gray's, who was late to work everyday and basically not working. He was never given all the tools to make the agency successful.

  • Ellen

    This is great news for the city. Michael Kelly is smart, politically savvy and results-oriented. His architectural background gives him an appreciation of design, but he's also very pragmatic about what it takes to get a project done, which included a great staff that he recruited when he was at DCHA. Hopefully, he'll get the resources to be able to bring in good people at DHCD, if necessary.

  • John Thacker

    "Citing family reasons" is an interesting way to put it. In Philadelphia they're reporting that Kelly resigned because he was being accused by PHA staffers of giving huge raises to an unqualified woman with whom he was having an affair.

    http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv/New-DC-Housing-Chief-Resigned-From-Philly-Job-Last-Week-Amid-Scandal-159591045.html

  • Concerned

    Interesting there is no comment as to the reason Mr. Kelly left the job in Philly. Please check into it. At least raises an ethics question.

  • Hopefully Gray is out in 2012

    @ Ellen, well he will not bring his girlfriend from Philly. She moved back to her country after the break up, lol.

  • Out of the Mix

    Hall was hit with having to reform an agency that was getting banged by the Washington Post for improper project management and spending from the moment he stepped into the job. That mismanagement of the federal funds by previous leadership caused the agency to lose millions of dollars and put it at risk for losing more. To fix those problems, he held government employees accountable and did not give funding to developers carte blanche. So no, it wasn’t that Hall was “out of his depth,” it was that he chose to manage the Department responsibly, rather than let DC’s politics drive his actions. Hall’s reward for actually holding employees accountable and not bowing to developers – he was shown the door.

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