As Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens crosses his 100th day on the job, some top city officials will be headed back to the job market. But Atlanta Housing CEO Eugene Jones said he’s confident he’ll be asked to stick around the city’s newly rejuvenated housing authority.
Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant will step down in June, after he and Dickens agreed the city should have a new top cop, the mayor’s office announced April 15.
The mayor’s office did not comment on the CEO’s future at the agency, but Jones said in an email that he’s “feeling very good” about his job security.
Dickens’ predecessor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, hired Jones from his post as CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority in 2019. With nearly 40 years of experience as an affordable housing leader, Jones has helped extricate Atlanta Housing (AH) from an era marked by leadership turmoil and lawsuits and put the agency back on track to produce affordable housing.
At Dickens’ urging, Jones and Egbert Perry, the CEO of developer Integral Group, in February settled a years-long legal dispute over development rights to dozens of acres of city-owned land. It marked a major win for the housing authority CEO.
On the mayoral campaign trail in November, Dickens signaled his approval of Jones’ AH leadership. “Gene is definitely the right leader, with his history of actually building complicated projects” he said, nodding to Jones’ stints as a public housing agency head in Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Indianapolis, and other cities.
The chair of AH’s board of commissioners, Christopher Edwards, has also praised Jones’ tenure, saying during the September board meeting that the agency has been doing a “bang-up job ever since we got stable leadership.”
Though AH, under Jones’ leadership is on track to build and preserve nearly 2,700 affordable housing units during the current fiscal year—and projected to do the same in FY 2023—he still faces many challenges that will test his mettle and determine if he can help the agency shed its reputation for dysfunction and counterproductivity.
AH commissioners are expected to pick a master developer for the long-awaited overhaul of Old Fourth Ward’s Atlanta Civic Center later this month, although the project has been stalled before.
The agency also has roughly 24,000 people lining the waitlist for rent vouchers. The waitlist closed in 2018, and a small portion of those applicants are granted voucher assistance each year. Jones will need to show he knows how to turn AH’s hundreds of acres of vacant land into housing—and fast—in order to accommodate the long backlog of lower-income renters in need.