Pittsburgh Housing Authority director returning to N.C.

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A. Fulton Meachem Jr., who said he tried to change perceptions of public housing and give clients better places to live during six years as executive director of Pittsburgh Housing Authority, will leave the post this fall and return to his home state of North Carolina.

Mr. Meachem, 43, will begin work Oct. 1 as president and CEO of the larger Charlotte Housing Authority. He'll make $195,000 annually in Charlotte, compared with $170,000 here, but said the bigger draw is the opportunity to live near his parents again.

"Fulton was an outstanding public servant and a first-class gentleman," city Councilman Ricky Burgess, the authority chairman, said Friday after the authority announced Mr. Meachem's departure. Plans for replacing him were not immediately made.

When he started at the authority in August 2006, Mr. Meachem was told he had big shoes to fill because his predecessor, Keith Kinard, had a reputation for innovation. Mr. Burgess said Mr. Meachem made his own mark by advancing the public-private partnerships that built new mixed-income developments.

The work began in the late 1990s, before Mr. Meachem's arrival. Projects include Bedford Hill and Garfield Commons, places where old-style public housing units were replaced with more attractive mixed-income housing. Some residents pay market rates; others have leases subsidized by the authority. A similar project is under way at the former Addison Terrace in the Hill District.

The goals are to eliminate the stigma of public housing while giving the economically disadvantaged affordable housing in attractive settings connected to the larger community.

"There are far more working, God-fearing, loving residents in public housing than the small group of negative ones," Mr. Meachem said, citing a need to give a hand to those "trapped" by misfortune.

The Charlotte Housing Authority calls itself a leader in mixed-income developments. In a statement, Joel Ford, chairman of the authority commissioners, said Mr. Meachem will "embrace the authority's vision of becoming a true partner in helping residents achieve the self-sufficiency skills they need to 'graduate' from public housing."

Mr. Meachem said he was proud of efforts here to funnel the authority's construction-related jobs to its residents and to help families purchase homes. He said the latter program, which includes financial assistance, has helped nearly 70 families purchase homes over the past six years.

"The residents have been a pleasure to work with," Mr. Meachem said. "They let me into their lives, and I hope they got as much from me as I got from them."

During Mr. Meachem's tenure, the authority was criticized for the cost and appearance of homes it built for disabled tenants. More recently, the authority contacted federal authorities after reports that a security vendor's employees submitted activity reports before completing their shifts.


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548.


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