It is an honor to join the Chesapeake Redevelopment and Housing Authority (CRHA) as its new Executive Director and I look forward to continuing the Authority’s outstanding history of empowering individuals and families, facilitating opportunities through meaningful transformational services and being a development catalyst for the City of Chesapeake.
For the past 40 years, I have been fortunate to serve in various municipal government positions, including those related to public finance, human services, community development and housing assistance. Throughout my career, I have witnessed the well-documented impact that access to stable, affordable housing has on social and economic outcomes, beyond shelter. Housing stability has proven to be an essential prerequisite for a wide range of positive outcomes in education, employment, and physical and mental health.
Chesapeake is the fastest growing city in Hampton Roads, and we are fortunate to be home to a vibrant population with a healthy proportion of middle and upper income households. Still, about ten percent of Chesapeake’s 90,000 households have incomes below 30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). Considering that most new affordable housing developments have rents accessible to households that make 50 percent or more of AMI, approximately 9,000 households in Chesapeake do not have the ability to pay for “affordable” housing without rental assistance. CRHA has been highly successful in maximizing historical Federal funding allocations to provide families with rental assistance, but serving about 2,500 low-income families through its programs leaves about 6,500 households struggling to find quality housing they can afford.
During the next five years, I look forward to working with Chesapeake’s leadership and community partners to increase access to rental assistance and quality housing for more disadvantaged families while enhancing the housing choices and self-sufficiency services for families already being served. The difficulty of this challenge is heightened by the need to provide housing choices in sustainable mixed-income environments while coping with today’s tumultuous times where the tendency for some to demonize people in need is at an alarmingly high level. Yet, I believe that previous CRHA leadership and staff have positioned the Authority well to meet this challenge through the development of a well-balanced inventory of diverse housing choices, including its five (5) public housing communities, five (5) conventional housing properties, various options under the Housing Choice Voucher program, and several ongoing partnerships with private housing providers and other public agencies.
I invite you to review the many programs offered by CRHA that are outlined on this website and we encourage you to support our mission with questions, feedback and participation in activities that may apply.
John C. Kownack