Public Housing Intern Program: Why Doesn’t It Exist?

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When I was fresh out of graduate school, all I wanted to do was work in public housing.  I am willing to bet this does happen often.  I had zero clue what I was doing, had zero practical experience and about 8 years of merchandizing Coca-Cola for job background.  I applied for 43 different jobs at 31 different housing authorities.  I never received one phone call or email back.  It was a blood bath for a new guy trying to get into a field.

My frustration levels increased, and I got ahold of some organization called NAHRO.  They had some certificate programs, so I figured maybe if I got a certificate I would also find a job.  The lady at the organization correctly told me I needed a job not a certificate.  I agreed and told her my dilemma.  She quickly enrolled me in NAHRO’s professional intern program.  I had to move 2500 miles and work in a small village called Walla Walla, Washington.  However; I learned a lot in one year and launched my career in just the way I had hoped for.  So what can we do to attract top talent into our field now?

Revive and Retool:

The professional internship program was a good idea.  It died after one year but hell, it got me into the field and several other high performing people who still work in housing across the USA.  NAHRO, CLPHA, Nan McKay, Quadel, CVR and PHADA need to show leadership in this field and put some skin in the game.  They need to pump some money and free professional development into agencies willing to take on an intern.  There needs to be a 1-2 year professional intern plan that the PHA needs to stick to.  An intern should make rounds from one department to another and learn how to do everything.  Medium sized housing authorities make more sense then small and large PHAs.   Think about this for a plan.

Professional Experience

  • 3 months- Work in HCV Admissions Area
  • 3 months- Managing a voucher caseload
  • 3 months- Running HQS Inspection
  • 3 months- Running Public Housing Caseload and Doing Property Management Assisting
  • 3 months- Work with Finance Department
  • 3 months-Work FSS or Community Services Program
  • 3 months-Work with asset management and development

Professional Development

  • Public Housing and HCV Rent Calculation Certificate
  • Public Housing Manager Certificate
  • Tax Credit Certificate
  • FSS Certificate

At the end of 2 years, you would have a very valuable resource who would get the scope and complexity of a public housing authority.  This would be someone who would not only grown into a leadership position but be able to leave this PHA if needed and take his or her skills on the road.   This should be an organized intern program to recruit and pay young talented people coming out of graduate school into the affordable housing industry.  We need leadership from the industry to make this happen!

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