3-Minute Interview: Henry Alvarez

The new director of the San Francisco Housing Authority has been working in public housing for 20 years in cities such as San Antonio and San Diego. He has stepped into a job with many challenges, including a $15 million verdict that needs to be paid, dilapidated building conditions and security concerns.

What inspired you to work in public housing? I grew up in New Orleans in a very poor, poor family. I’m a mixture of many races. I was primarily raised by a village, but more specifically by a single dad. Eventually, I decided I wanted to give something back, so I went to work for the government.

What kind of relationship do you expect to have with the mayor and police? I expect it to be a tremendous partnership. We all need to work together to solve the issues of the day related to affordable housing. We just started mucking units together with the city administrator, basically cleaning out units, down in Potrero Hill.

The Housing Authority is currently in a lawsuit with the NRA about gun possession on public housing territory. Where do you stand on the gun ban? That’s not an area of my expertise. That’s a question I’d rather leave to a lawyer.

What are the biggest challenges you face coming into this job? The Housing Authority is facing a tremendous challenge as a financial institution. In San Diego, where I started my career in public housing, they’ve decided to do away with public housing altogether. I hope that will never be the case in San Francisco.

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