New DHA director ready to tackle housing challenges

DANVILLE — Danville Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Don McLaughlin said new DHA executive director Jaclyn Vinson fits in well with the authority.

“I can’t speak for other members of the board about the unanimous, overwhelming approval of Jackie,” McLaughlin said.

“The two things that impressed me with her was her work on the Housing Task Force project with the city and I believe that she brings to the table a great understanding of what the needs of the community are for housing,” McLaughlin said.

“It’s really a community focus that she brings; that was the deciding factor for me. I think she has very good leadership skills,” he added.

The board of commissioners approved a two-year contract for Vinson to serve as DHA executive director. The contract is retroactive to May 5, 2016, and runs through May 8, 2018. Vinson’s annual salary is $80,000.

Vinson, 27, comes to the DHA from the City of Danville. She had been Danville Area Transportation Study director. She graduated from the University of Illinois in 2011 with a degree in natural resources and environmental sciences and studied urban planning. She then went to Durham, N.C., where she did long-range and other planning.

The Vermilion County native, being from Rossville and a Schlarman High School graduate, then contacted Mayor Scott Eisenhauer looking to come back to this area. That’s when she started an internship with Danville’s community development department. She then became DATS director in 2013.

She started working at the DHA in May.

Vinson said she was interested in the position to “make a tangible impact in Danville and Vermilion County in general.”

She said when the opportunity presented itself, she had been working on the Housing Task Force Report for the city and more long-range transportation planning. She said in this position with the DHA she can make a more immediate impact on all facets of housing.

Steve Clark, who had been interim director prior to Vinson’s hiring, will continue co-managing the DHA through the end of this month. He will then transition back to being a development partner the DHA board hired for future development. Clark’s firm was one of 10 in which board members reviewed to also provide consultant and development services.

The DHA board in November placed executive director Greg Hilleary on administrative leave through the end of 2015. They immediately started searching for new leadership to take the housing authority in a new direction. The board hired Clark, whose firm provided administrative oversight at the housing authority in the interim.

The DHA has undergone a major reorganization in its employee structure. Employees had to re-apply for positions. The full staff is down to about 27 employees now after being closer to 40.

“We’ve put together a quality team here,” Vinson said.

Positions were cut at the DHA under a new organization chart and partly due to the housing authority losing “a little over half a million in operating subsidy from (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) due to vacancies,” for its 2016 budget, Clark previously said.

“That caused me to take a look at operations (and) management, (and) what employees it was going to take to satisfy those needs,” Clark said.

The operations have been converted to an asset-management style that has managers assigned to the specific developments — two at Fair Oaks, one overseeing Mer Che Manor and one overseeing Churchill Towers, Madison Court and Beeler Terrace.

Vinson said these direct managers oversee maintenance issues, complaints, late rent and evictions and other property items.

“It focuses on greater accountability …,” Vinson said.

Vinson said she now wants to take a greater detailed look at public housing and Section 8 operations, for short-term and long-term priorities. Also with the Section 8 subsidized housing, she wants to build partnerships again with local human service organizations that serve the same clientele and establish landlord relations. Housing guideline standards also must be reached for quality housing.

Public housing has been about 88 percent occupied with available funding, while Section 8 had about 292 vouchers in use earlier this year and 45 people had been looking for units. Vinson said they need to establish the “threshold of need.”

The DHA also continues to work with the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers for homeless veterans. Construction continues on Mercy Housing’s 65-apartment complex for homeless veterans and their families at the VA.

Vinson said Mercy has started intake on the housing project and some veterans could start being housed on the first floor starting July 1. There were some elevator and other construction issues. The development, to be completed in phases, would receive a temporary certificate of occupancy, she said. Vinson said the DHA inspects those units, too.

Also at the DHA, new video cameras are live at Fair Oaks.

The summer food program also is going on; and the Family Enrichment Center continues to operate and deals with preventing teen pregnancy and drug use, providing education assistance and an after-school center.

East Central Illinois Community Action also is applying for a grant to expand the Head Start Program for children ages 3 to 5. The program supports school readiness for children from low-income families.

Vinson said the half-day program would go to two full-day programs. About 30 children would be provided instructional hours during nine months a year in two classrooms.

Under the DHA’s “HUD Recovery Plan,” authority officials still send monthly reports on DHA operations to HUD.

The authority has about an $11 million annual budget with $50 million in assets.

Any future housing demolition and rebuilding plans are still to be determined, Vinson said. Clark will assist with a needs assessment, analyzing properties and land and proximity to services, and look at redevelopment of housing. There has been no action since HUD denied a special application center request to demolish housing at Fair Oaks. A local Housing Task Force recommendation is to demolish public housing units.

Beautification efforts also will continue at Churchill.

Vinson said she looks forward to working with community partners on housing in the community.

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