Leaders of the Lawrence-Douglas County Housing Authority have chosen a local attorney as the organization’s next executive director and have asked her to look for ways to expand the agency’s reach.
Shannon Oury — a partner at Lawrence’s Stevens & Brand and a former member of the housing authority’s board — will take over as the agency’s executive director in mid-January. She will replace Barbara Huppee, who is retiring in December after 24 years in the position.
“We’re very excited,” said Brenda O’Keefe, chair of the housing authority’s board of commissioners. “Shannon already has so much knowledge about how our agency operates and about HUD.”
Oury will oversee the agency’s $8 million budget and the various public programs that provide housing or rental assistance to about 1,100 households.
Oury was appointed to serve on the agency’s board in 2002, and then left the board in 2004 to become the agency’s chief legal counsel, which is a position she has continued to hold.
“Since 2004, I’ve been working very closely with the housing authority and through that process have really come to believe in its mission,” Oury said.
Now, board members said they want Oury to work to grow the agency, which currently owns Edgewood Homes, Babcock Place, Clinton Place and Peterson Acres housing facilities in Lawrence.
“We want to see the housing authority expand maybe more into Douglas County,” O’Keefe said. “We want to look for opportunities in areas like Baldwin and Eudora.”
Oury said she’ll look for those opportunities while also trying to keep the housing authority’s current programs strong. The authority is one of only 32 in the country that have been chosen for a special demonstration project that allows the authority to deviate from the standard guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
While other housing programs simply charge rent based on 30 percent of a person’s adjusted gross income, the Lawrence-Douglas County authority has created a rent system that provides incentives for people who work, or receive education or job training. Oury said that system would continue.
“We have a contract to continue that program with HUD through 2018, and we will continue that program as long as HUD will let us,” Oury said. “We feel like it really encourages people to work, become educated and work towards self-sufficiency.”
Oury, who will leave her position at Stevens & Brand, will start her new position Jan. 17. She’ll have a salary of $115,000 per year, O’Keefe said. The housing authority also has announced it is hosting a retirement reception for Huppee from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Lawrence Visitors Center, 402 N. Second St.