Rev. Jason Turner, newly elected as chairman of the New Haven housing authority’s Board of Commissioners, said he wants to bring a “more holistic” approach to the public housing agency.
Turner was elected to the chairmanship last week by a unanimous vote of commissioners at their regular monthly meeting. He takes the place of longtime chair Robert Solomon, who left this summer.
Also elected by unanimous vote were Emmett Hibson, Jr. as vice chair, Erik Clemons as assistant treasurer, and Alberta Witherspoon as assistant secretary of the board.
The commissioners are all appointed by the mayor; they elect themselves to the officer positions on the board.
The housing authority is one of the city’s major landlords, overseeing and maintaining more than 2,000 apartments that yield more than $4 million in rent payments every year. It is also a significant developer of subsidized as well as market rate new housing in the city.
Turner is a 2006 graduate of the Yale Divinity School and senior minister at the Community Baptist Church in New Haven; he lives on Winthrop Avenue.
He’s been a commissioner for about four years and served as vice chairman for a year a half under Solomon.
“I was the most senior board member. I was a support to Bob Solomon,” Turner said in a phone interview, explaining why he took on a volunteer job that requires hours of preparation and dealing with financially and legally complex matters.
His particular aim as a board member, beyond wanting “to keep the ship afloat,” is to connect the housing authority with other city agencies, “linking up those who work hard to make a living so they can get a needed or critical boost.”
As a pastor he’s particularly interested in the the crucial role the agency can play “in getting people from low income to pursue higher education or trade [training] and then moving on in life beyond public housing,” he said.
He said he thinks current educational programs such as work training, computer classes, and others available to residents are doing that. “I want to be more holistic.”
Clemons is the executive director of the Connecticut Center of Arts and Technology, a job training and education provider located in Science Park. Previous posts he held include executive director of LEAP and president of the citywide parent-teacher organization. Witherspoon, a long-time officer with the housing authority’s tenant residence councils, is the tenant rep on the board.
At every board meeting, resolutions on expenses and regulations are reviewed and usually passed, based on recommendations of staff.
At the first meeting of his presidency, Turner presided over 18 resolutions. These included: a write-off for audit purposes of $228,000 of uncollectable rents, largely from tenants who have skedaddled over the last year; an additional $39,000 for system-wide elevator repairs; and an additional $6,169 for an outlay not to exceed $55,000 set aside for a contract with local motels for relocation services due to Hurricane Irene, boiler breakdowns in developments, and other emergency situations.