Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Monday that he is replacing a majority of the board members overseeing the Atlanta Housing Authority — a critical agency that provides affordable housing in the city.
Dickens tapped two former government executives, a seasoned technology manager, and the leader of a nonprofit real estate research group to help lead the AHA. New board members Duriya Farooqui, Doug Hooker, Sarah Kirsch and Larry Stewart now must be ratified by the Atlanta City Council.
Dickens has accepted the resignations of AHA Board Chair Dr. Christopher R. Edwards; Vice Chair Kirk Rich; Commissioner Pat D. Dixon, Jr.; and Commissioner Robert Highsmith, Jr.
The remaining three commissioners — Rosalind Elliott, Sheila Harris and Tené Traylor — will continue in their positions.
“I thank the four retiring members of the Board of Commissioners for their steadfast commitment to our city,” Dickens said in a statement. “Through their service to Atlanta Housing, they have stabilized the organization, hired a new CEO and launched major projects, including building the first new affordable housing in the city in years.
“I also deeply appreciate their partnership in resolving the long-standing litigation with Integral earlier this year.”
The appointments come after city and community leaders have long complained about Atlanta Housing’s failure to build new affordable housing for more than a decade.
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Dickens wants to build or preserve 20,000 affordable units within eight years. During a speech at the Rotary Club of Atlanta Monday afternoon, the mayor hinted at his desire to shake up the Atlanta Housing board.
“Atlanta Housing has not built anything in the past 12, 13 years and that’s not satisfying to me,” Dickens said. “You can’t build 20,000 units of housing with the same mentality that you built zero (with) over the last 12 years.”
Edwards said in his resignation letter that he plans to step down May 24.
“As my father has taught me, there comes a time to stand aside to allow the sun to shine on the next leader of an organization so that it may continue to grow,” Edwards said. “This is my time.
“Atlanta Housing is far more complex that I ever imagined and there were many times, including recently, that I had expressed my intention and desire to resign but stuck it out in order to achieve stability. We are now considered stable and in great position to deliver upon the mission.”
Farooqui serves as the board director of Intercontinental Hotels Group and Intercontinental Exchange, as well as on the boards of New York Stock Exchange, ICE NGX, and the NYSE Board Advisory Council. She previously served as executive director for the Atlanta Committee for Progress, chief operating officer for then-Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration, and as president of supply chain innovation at Georgia Pacific.
Hooker recently retired as executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission in March. He also worked at Georgia Power Co., Atlanta City Hall, the State Road & Tollway Authority, and Atkins Global.
Kirsch served as executive director of the Urban Land Institute in Atlanta, where she co-led HouseATL, an initiative that developed a housing affordability strategy. She is a board member of the Atlanta Affordable Housing Fund and chair of the neighborhood empowerment subcommittee for Dickens transition team.
Stewart is a senior principal at Slalom Consulting with past work experience in strategizing for technology startups. He is a commissioner for Atlanta City Council’s Housing Commission and Dickens’ transition team as a member of the neighborhood empowerment subcommittee.
Dickens said in a statement that his board appointments share his vision and have “wide-ranging expertise and leadership experience in both the public and private sectors to get the job done.”
“With housing prices on the rise and inflation cutting deeply into paychecks, there is no time to waste on our plan to build and preserve homes that our residents can afford,” Dickens said.