Public Housing Profile: David Northern from Lake County Housing

David A Northern Sr Reviewing Site Plans

We at ^Housing Futures believe that it is as important to celebrate the people who work, live and care about social housing as much as the communities, work and programs that are operated.  In this line of thought, we ask that you let us know if you, someone you know or a resident work, live or advocate on behalf of social housing and should be interviewed and highlighted.  Below you will learn about the Executive Director of the Lake County Housing Authority and gain insights into what it is like to direct a medium sized authority in the USA.

Question: What is your background (place of birth, place of residence, education, profession)?

Answer: Born and raised in Gary Indiana and currently reside in northeastern Lake County, IL.

Over the span of 20 years, David A. Northern, Sr. has established a distinguished career in federal housing assistance programs including urban planning and policy development. As Executive Director/CEO, David is responsible for administrative and professional oversight in planning, directing, and coordinating the Authority’s varied and complex Housing and Community Development Programs while ensuring compliance with HUD regulations.

David’s educational background includes a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Ball State University. He also holds a Certificate from the University of Maryland for completion of the Executive Directors Education Program in Housing and Community Development, a Graduate Certificate in Public Management and a Certificate from the Institute for Innovative Leadership Development, a Certificate from Harvard University’s Kennedy School Government/NeighborWorks America Achieving Excellence Program. David was elected to the Board of Education for Community Consolidated School District 46 which has an annual budget of roughly $42 million, student enrollment of 3,964 youth and 519 staff. He has been appointed to the Lake County Sherriff Merit Commission and currently serves as the Secretary of the Commission.

Question: Can you tell us about your organization?

Answer: LCHA is a High Preforming  traditional housing authority whose fiscal responsibility includes a $32 million budget and $50 million in assets. David oversees supervision of 60 staff, a housing inventory of 3,599 units/vouchers, 220 affordable housing units currently in development, a Family Self-Sufficiency Program, a Family Unification Program, a comprehensive housing counseling program, being a sponsor agency for Illinois Hardest Hit Fund Homeowner Emergency Loan Program and created the Aim North Development Corporation (501c3), while serving over 13,000 citizens of Lake County.

Currently under construction is a $49 million development called Brookstone and Regency at Coles Park. When completed, the 220-unit development on North Chicago’s Illinois west side will provide affordable housing to 50 senior and 170 families.

Question: Why did you choose to work in the social housing sector?

Answer: I still ask myself that question but like most people, I fell into social housing by chance. I worked as a resident housing assistant at Ball State University. After graduation I had a few job offers; minority owned construction company account, accountant with a fortune 500 company and a Housing Authority in Northwest Indiana. So, over 20 years later, I am still in the housing industry. Not many jobs offer you an opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens, to bring hope, opportunity and safety. Housing has offered me a wide range of challenging and rewarding experiences.

 Question: What do you most hope to achieve in your position?

Answer: My hopes are somewhere between world peace and providing decent, safe and sanitary housing to the citizens I am empowered to serve. I always use this as motivation, “If you don’t think a single person can’t make an impact on a community just think about the impact a small mosquito makes when it’s in a room with you!” Really, I am more interested in finding ways to use my position to facilitate the creation of positive change in the community as well as the housing industry. Opportunity is my main business and for clients that can overcome obstacles; to provide them a hand up verses a hand out.

Question: What motivates you to push for the achievements you are looking for?

Answer: My two teenage children, Dasanie and David, Jr., are my motivation. My job, like them, is not easy! When you’re empowered to provide for certain populations of individuals you make satisfy some people and you also may have enemies. Whether it’s making decisions on which projects within your housing inventory to invest or deciding on which communities’ to build affordable housing, leadership matters. One thing this industry has taught me is when you challenge the status quo, you make enemies. We are fighting for our most vulnerable with long-term solutions, not short-term charity.

Question: Looking back at your career so far, what societal impact can you point to that means a lot to you?

Answer: Over my many years my body of work has allowed a number of wins. However, I can say putting the shovel in the ground was one that means a lot to me. Brookstone and Regency at Coles Park in North Chicago is a 220 unit, $49 million, 4% LIHTC Development

The City of North Chicago is an economically depressed community and the revitalization of this area represents the first major new development in the City in the past 20 years. We demolished 125 units of traditional public housing and relocated all families. The project is the redevelopment of 170 town homes on the foot print of the former public housing site along with the development of a 50 unit senior community on the footprint of former park land. I will include the development of a new active park and neighborhood playground; walking trails and passive park; and a water feature developed to serve a dual use for detention in the neighborhood. Not only would the $49 million investment enhance and stimulate the community but the embedded $36.3 million construction costs will have a total effect of 346 jobs and expand to $56.3 million output to the community.

Question: Can you give an example of a moment when you realized the work you were doing made an impact on a family, community or group of people?

Answer: Lake County Housing Authority launched a collaborative Security Deposit Assistance Program for Family Unification Program (FUP) participants, joining them with the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) and Housing Counseling programs. This program allows applicants to receive funding for Security Deposits where financial barriers exist. Applicants also are provided Housing Counseling and enrolled in the FSS program, designed to help achieve goals toward independenceTo Read More About the Deposit Program Click Here

Question: What advice would you give someone who would like to grow in their career and have the same job as you some day whether it be an Executive Director or advocate. (Career advice, education advice, professional organization?)

Answer: Don’t think about the money; think about the goodwill and the service to the citizens. My motto is Service Above All Else! A few things I try to focus on are; K.I.S.S. stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid,” lead from the front, under promise and consistently over-deliver and take vacation.

As far as education, a master’s in public administration helps as it gives you the foundation of executive leaders in the public service sector. Get involved in leadership in the industries; attend all the trainings you can and work your way on committees. Get a mentor! Lastly, listen to the clients you serve. Real results can take a marathon, not a sprint.

Question: Finally; what topics would you like to see covered by Housing Futures? What are the main issues of the day that need attention in social housing?

Answer: Topics I would you like to see covered by Housing Futures are the Preservation of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program and the Moving to Work (MTW) Expansion.  The main issue of the day that needs attention in social housing is one that housing authorities deal with yearly. That’s the long-standing disinvestment in public housing programs by the federal government. THE FY 2018 T-HUD APPROPRIATIONS BILLS-Current appropriation continues the steep decline in federal funding. We need responsible funding levels and reforms.

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