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Emanuel narrows list for new CHA leader

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has narrowed a list of candidates to lead the Chicago Housing Authority. The move comes as it’s clear that any new CEO will have to adapt to Chicago’s troubled, quickly-changing real estate market.

The finalists are Renee Glover, CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority; Lawrence Grisham of the Chicago-based Habitat Company; Keith Kinard, executive director of Newark (N.J.) Housing Authority; and Charles Woodyard, president of the Charlotte (N.C.) Housing Authority.

Grisham has a good reputation among CHA residents and some policymakers. Habitat has also done work for CHA; over the years it’s secured contracts to develop and manage thousands of housing units. Up until last year, Habitat was the court-appointed receiver to enforce housing desegregation at CHA.

Glover is a huge name nationally in public housing circles. She’s overseen Atlanta’s mixed-income development – a hallmark of CHA – and has phased out traditional public housing.

Local housing activists say the new CEO should be a local hire.

“In order to be a CEO I think it should somebody that lives in the city that’s familiar with the city of Chicago,” said Francine Washington, a tenant leader. “You have to know all the politicians, all their boundaries…who talks a good game. Some people just put up but they don’t shut up. They’ll lead you down the wrong path.”

The next CHA executive will lead the controversial, billion-dollar Plan for Transformation, which is CHA’s strategy for dismantling and rebuilding public housing. The plan was first implemented in 1999 and was expected to take 10 years, but the slumping housing market and economy have delayed completion until 2015.

The previous CEO Lewis Jordan resigned last month after questions lingered around CHA credit card expenditures. Emanuel had questioned items purchased on the cards, such as dinners and employee appreciation gifts. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees CHA, has said the spending was in compliance with its guidelines.

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