The longtime director of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority will retire at the end of the year.
Barbara Huppee announced Tuesday that she’ll retire on Jan. 1 from the position she’s held since 1986.
“I’m right around that age when you begin to think about retirement,” said Huppee, 63. “And when you start thinking about it, it just starts taking on a life of its own.”
The authority owns and operates multiple low-income housing projects and oversees the Section 8 federal housing program in the county.
During her tenure, Huppee guided the authority through the process to become one of only 32 public housing authorities in the country to be named a Moving to Work Demonstration Agency.
That designation allowed the agency to be exempt from many Housing and Urban Development policies. Huppee used the exemptions to create new rent structures that require able-bodied residents in public housing to pay a minimum of $280 a month in rent.
Huppee created the minimum rent rule as a way to encourage residents to actively look for jobs. She contended HUD’s standard system of charging people 30 percent of their income for rent encouraged some people to not seek work.
As part of the demonstration program, the local housing authority was allowed to place the new rent money in reserve funds to be used for special projects. The reserve funds grew to a high of $6 million, Huppee said, and allowed the authority to purchase or build new low income housing units such as Clinton Place Apartments or Peterson Acres II.
The authority still has about $4 million in reserve funds, and Huppee recently recommended using about $1.5 million of the reserves to do energy efficiency upgrades at the authority’s properties. That work is expected to begin in September.
“We were never one to want to stand still,” Huppee said of her department and staff. “Some housing authorities are no different today than they were 30 years ago. I’m proud that we’ve changed. We’ve always tried to look at what our role and mission is.”
The housing authority’s board of commissioners plans to conduct a nationwide search for a director. It hopes to have the position filled by Jan. 1.