Public housing

Tom Hoch chosen to lead Minneapolis Public Housing Authority board

Tom Hoch, former head of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), will chair its board, filling a seat that has been vacant for nearly three months.

Mayor Jacob Frey nominated Hoch – a former political rival – for the job last week, and the city council confirmed him in a 9-3 vote on Thursday.

“We need people who know what they are doing, who have deep experience in this work, and who are prepared to carry out this work for the benefit of the residents of MPHA,” Frey said at the confirmation hearing. Thursday. Hoch’s proven track record and years of experience in housing and his commitment to public service make him an “excellent” choice for the role, Frey said.

Hoch ran for mayor in 2017 and is the founder and longtime leader of the Hennepin Theater Trust. He worked as deputy executive director of MPHA in the 1990s for seven years, overseeing its finances, housing development strategies and Section 8 housing programs.

He is one of only two candidates to have applied for the volunteer position to lead the nine-member board of directors. Hoch replaces former board chairman Sharmarke Issa, who resigned in February after a building he helped buy was linked to a federal investigation into alleged food program fraud.

Several city officials have praised Hoch for helping lift the authority of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from a “struggling” agency to a “high performer” during his tenure at MPHA.

But at the council’s business, inspections, housing and zoning committee meeting last week and at Thursday’s hearing, some council members questioned Hoch’s leadership at MPHA, particularly his role in Hollman v. Cisneros.

In the early 1990s, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the NAACP filed a federal class action lawsuit against several entities, including the city, the housing authority, HUD, and the Minneapolis Community Development Agency. The lawsuit alleged that public housing and Section 8 programs in Minneapolis were operated and created in such a way as to help perpetuate racial segregation in the city.

At the council committee meeting last week, Hoch said he helped negotiate the terms of a consent decree, which “provided significant mobility opportunities for residents and in particular residents for the first time.” of color”, in particular by guaranteeing to the residents that they would find their house. after renovation.”

Council member Robin Wonsley Worlobah, who voted against Hoch’s selection, said Thursday that the approval of the Hollman consent decree “helped kick-start the privatization of public housing.”

Fear of displacement still looms large among MPHA residents, dogging the public housing agency even in recent years as it attempts to undertake major rehabilitation projects. Asked what he would do to prevent the move, Hoch said he would make sure MPHA adheres to HUD’s “requirements that prohibit moving residents in the event of rehab or any change in the system.”

At the council committee meeting, members also asked Hoch about his plans to reduce a long waiting list, improve housing conditions, and support residents of color and immigrants experiencing housing instability.

With a backlog of more than $160 million worth of projects, Hoch said he would push for more state and federal funding for the agency and work with other organizations to boost affordable housing.

Hoch, who grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from Washburn High School, said he had never lived in public housing or used Section 8 vouchers, but was nonetheless still committed to visiting properties. MPHA and listening to residents’ concerns.

Hoch will chair the council until 2024. The council chair is not a paid position, but all commissioners receive a $55 stipend to attend council meetings, which are usually held on the fourth Wednesday of each month. The board is responsible for setting policy and approving the agency’s $170 million annual budget. The Housing Authority oversees approximately 6,200 social housing units and serves over 26,000 people.