By Ashley Benkarski
NASHVILLE, TN — Dr. Troy White’s one-year anniversary as Executive Director of MDHA is coming with an overhaul of strategic directives aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization.
The sixth executive director but the first African American in the role, Dr. White said his experience with eight other housing authorities in the development and governmental realms gives him a well-rounded, balanced approach to leadership at MDHA. “It’s a great opportunity, first and foremost,” Dr. White said of his position. “I think the board of commissioners deserves the credit for having a vision for looking at diversity, equity and inclusion in the candidates … When you look at my body of work working in several major cities, I think that this opportunity with a growing Nashville was a great step.” Dr. White has expertise in affordable housing development, finance, human services, economic development, compliance, community engagement, risk management, community development and facilities management.
MDHA’s website states that the organization “owns and/or manages nearly 6,700 apartments at 38 properties and administers more than 7,000 vouchers, providing stable housing to approximately 30,000 people,” mostly through Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA).
In addition MDHA “owns and manages several mixed-income residential developments, and oversees a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program, which has helped create and preserve more than 5,500 affordable housing units in the city since its inception in 2016 . . . MDHA administers federally-funded community development and homeless assistance programs on behalf of the Metropolitan Government of Nashvilleand Davidson County. To foster urban growth, the Agency oversees 11 redevelopment districts and guides neighborhood and commercial development in the urban core,” Dr. White said.
With the demand for affordable housing increasing due to the current housing crisis, Dr. White pointed to four primary goals in the organization’s strategy going forward:
1. Preserve and expand affordable housing in Metro Nashville and Davidson County
2. Provide sustainable and healthy communities
3. Cultivate, enhance and evaluate strategic partnerships to better serve residents
4. Continuously improve operations
He said the strategy came as a group effort to find ways to improve service within the community. “We were able to get together and put the emphasis on housing and services,” Dr. White said. “We must focus on not just bricks and sticks, but people too.”
The first goal is for MDHA “to build 200 new affordable units and assist in the creation and/or preservation of 1,200 affordable units per year through various programs
administered by MDHA” with an annual 10 percent increase in those numbers through 2027, as well as the creation of “five partnerships per year, nonprofit and for-profit, that focus on investment and expansion of affordable housing in Nashville.”
To that end, he’s looking to other successful housing models with comparable demands to bring new perspectives and approaches to housing in Metro Nashville and Davidson County, including solidifying partnerships on the human service side. “We’re going to need great partners to help us [address community needs], and we have to increase our production … We’re trying to increase the number of units that are under construction in any given year so we can meet the needs of the community,” he continued.
“Housing is the cornerstone of MDHA’s mission, and it is more important than ever
because of the challenges many families face due to Nashville’s population growth
and soaring rents. MDHA will continue to serve as the thought leader in housing
and prioritize strategies, leverage resources and strengthen partnerships that will
result in stable housing options for all,” agency representatives said in an official release.
Dr. White noted the necessity of written memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with “at least eight nonprofits/service providers to expand services and upward mobility programming to MDHA residents annually” to formalize those relationships. “When we think about memorializing the relationships, there is an MOU in place; whether I’m the leader … our teams work collectively together.”
Further, he said MDHA will make more investments in its staff, meaning better pay for its approximately 350 employees.
“I can’t lift this by myself,” he said. Development is another major issue that Dr. White said the organization must address, and housing must be an ongoing priority because it’s an ongoing need. “We have to talk about development, and development in terms of continuing what’s started but expedite it because it’s such a need,” he said.
Another change will be a shift in focus when it comes to residents. “I decided we need to invest in the residents, and part of that is standing up a human services department this year … to provide direct services to our residents, to make sure the community is healthy and sustainable. It starts with them,” Dr. White said.
Work on these goals is already underway, and Dr. White said weekly directors’ meetings ensure those goals are met.
“We are a mission-driven organization,” he continued. “We want to participate as much as possible with partners in the development of Nashville, and we want to meet the needs.”
“This isn’t the old MDHA,” Dr. White remarked.
For more information on the agency visit nashville-mdha.org.