Housing Authority leader wins praise for turnaround

HUD rating of agency rose from 46% to 97% with Croslan at helm

She took over 2 years ago

Official reduced staff, involved residents, got tough on enforcement

January 25, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

When Patricia Holden Croslan took over the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis two years ago, she inherited a bloated and inactive department, dubbed a "troubled agency" by federal officials.

The former director of a housing authority in New Britain, Conn., didn't waste any time. She scaled her staff down by one-third, reorganized her department and talked to residents about taking more responsibility for their housing complexes.

"I like to think that my expertise is trouble-shooting and turning housing authorities around," Croslan said.

Her impact was immediately felt, according to the the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Housing Authority residents.

After the first six months of Croslan's leadership, the agency's Public Housing Management Assessment Program rating from HUD rose from 46 percent to 74.5 percent. The agency was notified this month that its climb has continued.

The current rating, which assesses the safety, efficiency and quality of public housing authorities, is 97.25 percent, placing it among the "high-performing" agencies.

HUD rates all public housing authorities annually. The maximum score is 100 percent, and a score below 60 percent signifies a "troubled" agency.

In 1996 and 1997, the authority scored 46 percent.

Croslan's predecessor, Harold S. Greene, was forced to resign after seven years on the job by a displeased city council. Former Annapolis Mayor Roger "Pip" Moyer served as interim director for 13 months.

Greene had taken over the position after former executive director Arthur G. Strissel Jr. was convicted of fraud, bid-rigging and taking kickbacks. Greene was credited with restoring the agency's reputation before he fell out of favor with the majority of the council in 1996.

The Housing Authority maintains 10 developments, or about 1,100 units. An estimated 3,000 people live in the developments, Croslan said.

Residents praise Croslan's leadership.

Units would often remain empty for months, said the former president of Newtowne Twenty. Since Croslan took over, most units have been filled more quickly.

"She has taken that place [Housing Authority] to higher heights," said Anita Tyler, who lived at Newtowne Twenty for eight years. "It was a disaster when she came in here."

Croslan said that when she took over, she reorganized and retrained her staff. She met with residents and told them that they needed to be more active, and she promised to treat everyone the same.

"They wanted me to be fair," Croslan said.

Croslan implemented tougher enforcement of rental payments, screenings of applicants and the authority's zero-tolerance policy on criminal activity and drug use.

Known as "One Strike You're Out," the policy had seldom been enforced, Croslan said. Since August, eight people have been evicted for drug activity and four drug cases are pending in the county court system, she said.

Croslan hired off-duty police officers, an investigator and a compliance officer rather than rely on a previous partnership with the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

"We have our own team of security," she said.

A recent Housing Authority survey of residents found that 75 percent of the respondents were satisfied with the maintenance of their homes and the agency's performance.

Croslan attributes the authority's success to a board of directors dedicated to making a difference, community support of the changes and residents willing to become involved.

"If you can get all these things in place," Croslan said, "you can have a person like me come and do the job."

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