A veteran housing official from Charlotte, N.C., took over the county's public housing authority yesterday, pledging to correct outstanding problems while focusing on strategies to move families out of the projects and into their own homes.
The agency ended an eight-monthsearch for a new executive director with the appointment of Larry A.Loyd, who was assistant director of the Charlotte Housing Authority for 14 years.
Loyd, a 43-year-old North Carolina native, is the fifth director to head the troubled agency in six years. He replaces June C. Waller,who was dismissed in January after failing to reduce the backlog of empty units.
Housing officials had hoped to appoint another executive director more quickly, acknowledged Charles St. Lawrence, chairman of the governing board. Though the search took longer than expected, he said, the county was lucky to recruit an experienced manager from the Charlotte authority, which has won national recognition for itsinnovative housing programs.
St. Lawrence introduced Loyd as a leader with the "blend of skills, experience and values to move the authority into the forefront of providers of decent and safe housing forlow- and moderate-income persons."
Loyd will be paid $67,000 a year, at least $15,000 more than Waller.
The new director is inheriting an agency scarred by a legacy of frequent management turnover andadministrative mistakes that have cost federal subsidies and modernization money. But Loyd said he's up to the challenge.
"If I didn'tthink I could turn it around, I wouldn't be here," he said yesterdayduring an interview at the housing authority's headquarters in Glen Burnie.
He promised to continue efforts to fill the last empty apartments and improve service to the more-than 5,000 residents, mostly seniors, served by the authority. At the same time, Loyd said, he wants to concentrate on broader goals, such as increasing Anne Arundel County's stock of affordable housing.
"I think the role of public housing authorities has changed somewhat in recent years," he said. "We need innovative ways to find the money to continue providing housing for the poorest people and also look at long-term goals -- how to break the cycle of dependency."
Housing advocates and black leaders, who have criticized the agency's lack of leadership, applauded yesterday's appointment.
"That's great," said Lewis Bracy, president of the Black Political Forum, a coalition of black political leaders that issued a report in May charging the housing authority was "in shambles" and urging immediate changes.
"We're hoping that with the length of time that was taken to appoint someone, they've found someone who is truly dedicated to solving the problems of housing," he added.
In Charlotte, Loyd helped pioneer a nationally acclaimed program that gets families out of public housing and into home ownership.
He said he hopes to introduce similar initiatives in Anne Arundel County, to wean long-term tenants, even third- and fourth-generation welfare families, off the dole.
"Public housing does not necessarily have to be a dead end," he said. "It can be a stepping stone."
Anne Arundel's housing authority, with 1,026 units, is a quarter the size of Charlotte's. Most of the apartments in 33 public housing projects scattered across Charlotte are rented to families, in contrast toAnne Arundel's predominantly senior population. But the agencies still are similar, Loyd said.
"From a regulatory perspective, they'reall the same, all equal," he said, referring to national guidelines by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
His top priority is to end the vacancy rates, which reached a high in February, when less than 90 percent of the apartments were leased.
In the past months, the agency has made substantial progress in turning overthe long-empty units. Housing officials also re-applied for $5 million to modernize the older communities and are seeking a $249,000 federal drug elimination grant.
Loyd, who said he was drawn by the enthusiasm of the board and staff, said more innovative programs will depend on community support.
"I think we need to focus the resourcesthat are available in the community, so we can have some sort of action plan," he said.