By Catarina Kidd, AICP
Janea Jackson, AICP, is Director of Asset Management, Multifamily Housing: West Region at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, San Francisco. She holds a master of urban planning from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and a BA in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.
What is your role at the federal level?
HUD’s mission is to provide safe, decent, and sanitary housing. My Division’s responsibilities are to do that for HUD-insured and project-based Section 8 multifamily housing. We are stewards of these programs to house vulnerable persons, charged with monitoring and preserving our long-term investments as partners with property owners and management agents. Our team also plays a role in enforcing the federal fair housing rules for properties in our portfolio.
Your recent accomplishments?
Our San Francisco Asset Management staff concluded fiscal year 2020 with several noteworthy achievements. Our region had an unprecedented number of wildfires this year. Two of those wildfires were Presidentially Declared Disasters — the California Lightning Fire and the Oregon Fire. A total of 481 properties were identified as in proximity to those fires, and within 72 hours our staff contacted and completed outreach for each property.
We also processed 94 subsidy preservation transactions with multi-year Housing Assistance Payments contracts and preserved a total of 7,247 units. Many of these properties have also undergone capital repairs and rehabilitation to extend their useful life.
I am proud to have led the development of an enterprise-wide onboarding training program for newly hired account executives. The virtual self-paced program has been well received, particularly as we pivoted to a virtual organization and are onboarding new staff virtually during the pandemic.
How do you work with people locally?
Our customers are our residents, property owners, and property management agents. We monitor the properties in our portfolio, and residents reach out to us asking for HUD to intervene when there is an issue at the property. Political officials’ offices also reach out to us to help address resident complaints. HUD programs are complicated to administer and require a true partnership between the owners and property management agents. We work very closely with owners and management agents and their advocacy groups — Affordable Housing Management Association and Leading Age, to name two.
How do housing units come under HUD management?
The last of the project-based Section 8 funds were created in the 1980s. No new project-based Section 8 subsidy has been added since then. So preservation of existing subsidized units is critical. New federal funding is focused on creating new FHA loans with only limited funding for Section 811 and Section 202 Capital Advance programs.
What approach do you use to preserve housing?
To safeguard long-term rental assistance, we use different tools to recapitalize affordable rental housing , improve and modernize properties, and put them on solid financial footing. Examples of some of the programs are Transfer of Budget Authority, Rental Assistance Demonstration, and FHA Interest Rate Reductions.
Does HUD partner with local groups?
We partner with local advocacy groups and advocate for programmatic and policy improvements where we lack local delegation of authority. Congress and federal laws drive big-picture policy issues, but Headquarters has delegated authority to us to make many local programmatic decisions in the field.
What influenced your career choices?
My undergraduate major at Penn was sociology. I was interested in how housing can help or hinder different socioeconomic outcomes around health, education, and safety.
I found my way to planning while teaching high school in Pasadena. I learned about the gentrification of Old Town Pasadena and the resulting socioeconomic and racial stratification. After graduating from UW-Milwaukee, I worked for a small private firm in Hawaii, then a large planning firm in California, and eventually became a federal planner specializing in base master planning with the Department of Defense. I absolutely loved planning with DoD and took advantage of a variety of high-quality training opportunities. I eventually made my way to my current position — my dream job.
Was there a turning point that elevated your practice?
At DoD, I developed a passion for process improvement and committed to growing as a servant leader — putting the needs of the employees and customers first. That skill set has been valuable in every position I have held since.
Anything else you want to share?
Planners, if you’re looking for a job, HUD is hiring! Check us out: www.usajobs.gov.
Interviewer Catarina Kidd, AICP, is senior development manager at FivePoint and a guest writer for Northern News. All interviews are edited.