Houston Housing Authority board members chose new leadership on Thursday to replace embattled Chairman Lance Gilliam. They elected Vice Chairman LaRence Snowden as the new chairman and Phyllis Wilson as vice chairwoman.
Gilliam had been appointed by Mayor Annise Parker in 2010 to a term that runs through 2018. Gilliam offered his resignation after Mayor Sylvester Turner called for new leadership on the HHA board.
Snowden, an administrator and professor at Texas Southern University, is also a real estate broker. Wilson works with seniors as a health care provider and is president of the housing authority's Oxford Place community in north Houston.
The leadership changes come after the housing authority sustained a very public black eye. Earlier this month, the HHA lost a high-profile battle to build a 233-unit apartment building in the affluent Galleria area. Critics argued the building would overburden the already-crowded Briargrove Elementary nearby. Turner balked at the price tag — $240,000 per unit — and refused to even bring the project up for a City Council vote.
That left the HHA with little to show for years of work. The Houston Chronicle noted the HHA hasn't built new affordable housing in more than a decade.
Turner, frustrated that the housing authority had not worked harder to revitalize poorer neighborhoods, told council members he wanted new leadership of the housing authority. Gilliam took that criticism as his cue to step down.
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Speaking with the Houston Press before the meeting, Gilliam described his time with the housing authority as one of the best experiences of his life.
"I've been able to develop relationships I never would have," Gilliam said. "Have we gotten everything we've wanted to get done? No. But there's always going to be a list of things to do.
Gilliam said any of his fellow colleagues would be well-suited to replace him as chairman.
We've reached out to Mayor Turner's office to see if this is the leadership shakeup he had in mind. We'll update this story if we hear back.