Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 10, 2014

City's housing director on notice

TRAVERSE CITY — A push to elevate the Traverse City Housing Commission into a regional leader in housing development may leave the commission's long-serving executive director out on the street.

A majority of city housing commissioners over the past 11 months gave Executive Director Ilah Honson unsatisfactory performance evaluations, according to documents obtained by the Record-Eagle through multiple state Freedom of Information Act requests. Commissioners also notified Honson they will post her $68,700-a-year job when her contract expires Jan. 31, 2015. Honson can apply for the same job.

Commissioners gave Honson strong marks in managing the federal housing voucher program and its two public housing properties, the 115-apartment complex Riverview Terrace, and 19 townhouses at Orchardview. But commissioners said she lacked leadership, initiative, and board communication.

"Everybody recognizes we have a strength in management of the existing properties, but there are other areas leadership could improve," said Andy Smits, housing commission president. "Our strategic plans calls for developing housing to meet the needs of the community; that we are a central authority on the subject, instead of just a manager of two projects that haven't had any housing added to them in eight to 10 years."

Honson declined to respond to requests for comment, but one housing commissioner resigned over the matter and accused commissioners of micromanaging.

"It’s the board's control of the executive director that is bothersome to me," said Judy Myers, who resigned in February. "They're wanting to review her correspondences and discussions with the press. You can’t look over her shoulder on every single letter that she writes."

Myers, director for the Cadillac Housing Commission, said the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives the Traverse City Housing Commission its highest ranking and the organization is financially sound.

Smits said housing commissioners haven't fired Honson; instead, they opened her job to competition to see if there might be a better candidate to help the housing commission reach its full development potential.

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