Citing issues with the agency’s conversion to a privatized voucher program, Mobile Housing Board Chairman Don Langham resigned his post, effective June 1.
Langham made the announcement at a regular board meeting May 11 after advising Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
Langham said he had concerns future MHB work would be contracted out to private developers through the new portfolio-wide Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion, which could cost employees their jobs.
“In my 41 years with the United Steelworkers Union, I saw a lot of times where a company would contract out business …,” he said. “I’m afraid this will be the case for some housing board employees.”
Langham said as private developers take over and hire new employees, or rehire former MHB employees, the workers will be left without benefits and without the protection of the Mobile County Personnel Board because “developers are in it to make money.”
Several current MHB employees share Langham’s concerns. Some employees, who spoke to Lagniappe in February on the condition of anonymity, said they attended an agency-wide meeting where Executive Director Dwayne Vaughn admitted they would have to compete for jobs from private management companies. They said the RAD conversion would do away with the low-income public housing segment of the board’s operation and expand its voucher program.
Despite Langham’s concerns, he said the conversion is needed in order to help tenants. He said he hoped the board would be able to retain operation of the properties once the conversions are complete. Langham, a member of the University of South Alabama’s Research and Technology board, used a student housing complex as an example of the correct way to handle the situation. He said The Grove was built by outside developers, but USA remained in charge of management.
Langham’s concerns about the RAD conversion did not extend to MHB management. He said Vaughn, Chief Financial Officer Lori Shackleford and others have done an “excellent” job helming the board, but he also criticized a lack of communication regarding the RAD conversion.
“Under the Hope VI program, the board was informed on everything going on,” Langham said. “Under this program, the board is getting a lot of stuff after the fact.”
While Langham said he doesn’t blame Vaughn for the lack of communication, he did have some harsh words for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development field office in Birmingham.
For years, Langham said, MHB had been trying to get approval to tear down Roger Williams Homes and replace them. He said the board always got “flak” from the Birmingham office. He added that Vaughn and the board eventually went “over their heads” to get approval and a grant to redevelop the complex. In addition, the board received grant money to plan for the redevelopment of Birdville, on the city’s south side.
The resignation means Stimpson will have the opportunity to appoint a third member to the board in his first term. The move could represent a power shift on the board, as it would give Stimpson three appointments to the five-person board.
Langham was appointed by Mayor Mike Dow and reappointed by Mayor Sam Jones. Commissioners Melvin Clark and Norman Hill were most recently reappointed by Jones. Commissioners Kim Pettway and Joyce Freeman were both appointed by Stimpson.