Renee Glover and the Atlanta Housing Authority: Looking Back

Courtesy: Atlanta Housing Authority

Employees and board members of the Atlanta Housing Authority spent Wednesday coming up with a game plan for hiring its next leader.

The move comes a day after longtime president Renee Glover abruptly resigned from the organization, bringing to an end a nearly 20-year run. 

An audio version of this story, as heard on Morning Edition.

In the early ‘90s, Atlanta had a public housing problem.  The city claimed a higher percentage of residents living in public housing than any major US city.

Residents complained crime, drugs, and despair were daily realities. 

When she arrived in 1994, Renee Glover took the helm of what was widely-considered a corrupt and ineffective organization.  An attorney, she approached public housing with a business-like attitude.  And from day one, Glover garnered much praise.   

Shirley Franklin, later to become Atlanta’s mayor, was one of her biggest cheerleaders. 

“Renee Glover is an unbelievably talented and committed public servant,” Franklin told WABE’s Rose Scott in 2012. 

Glover brought a fresh, somewhat revolutionary approach to public housing: Tear down the projects, develop mixed-use, mixed-income housing, and give vouchers to those in need.

After watching Bowen Homes’ demolition in 2009, Glover said the projects served their purpose.  

“That was the right solution at the time,” she said, referring to the 1930s Depression-era buildings. 

But not today, she said. 

And within a few years, the first US city to build projects became the first to eliminate them.

That brought Glover both accolades and criticism

“Their concern was that they were not being involved in the process as required by federal law,” said attorney Lindsay Jones, who worked with resident leaders at two of those communities.

While the AHA was publicaly saying tenants would be re-located to better communities, Jones said residents never got any game plan for how that would play out.

“So much of the conversation at that time was being defined that they wanted to remain in the dilapidated property.  Much of that attempt to define the tenants’ position was coming from her and her spokespeople, saying this was [resistance from] people who didn’t want to move forward.”

Jones said Glover was the resistant one, and despite help from US Rep. John Lewis (D), she never did answer residents’ questions.

Soon, Glover would add a political foe to her list of critics.   

Mayor Kasim Reed thought her $325,000 annual salary was over the top, and that the AHA failed to do much for Atlanta’s poorest citizens.

Two years ago, Glover said she would step down, but gave no timeline.

At least on the surface, it appears her date of departure was a well-kept secret both internally and externally. 

“It was something that I came back from a long holiday and wasn’t quite expecting it,” said AHA spokesman Shean Atkins.  

He said he knew the announcement was coming, but didn’t know when. 

“Renee seems to be upbeat.  Our board accepted her resignation.  She thanked everyone for her many years of service,” Atkins said.

No timeline’s been set for hiring her replacement, but Atkins said it will likely take many months. 

In the meantime, Glover will stay on as a consultant, helping with the transition. 

WABE was unable to reach Renee Glover.  Spokesman Rick White said she would not be talking to the media “anytime soon.”