Gahan’s public housing putsch: “We won’t allow the City to revise history to their liking.”


Thanks to the Gahan-engineered crisis at the New Albany Housing Authority, Aaron Fairbanks has emerged as a passionate and articulate local advocate of progressive politics, clear thinking and fine expository writing. I’m delighted to reprint Aaron’s commentary here. This one’s for sharing with friends. 

What is continuously lost in the dialogue on the City of New Albany’s plan to raze roughly half of the public housing stock is the presence of two distinct visions.

On the one hand is the vision of Mayor Jeff Gahan and David Duggins, and on the other hand is the vision of the former executive director of the NAHA, Bob Lane, with nearly two decades of experience in housing under multiple administrations.

The City of New Albany’s vision can be understood through the agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding, passed by the NAHA’s board of commissioners in April of 2017. The shortcomings are blatantly clear, and public comments by a plethora of professionals with decades of experience in housing and homelessness have been levied against the Memorandum of Understanding passed by the NAHA. 

Among the concerns present with City’s plan are:

  • No details on the minimization of disruptions in the lives of residents displaced.
  • No details ensuring that affordable housing stock will not be reduced in New Albany.
  • No evidence that an adequate supply of Housing Choice Vouchers exists.
  • No evidence that there is an adequate supply of market rental units that accept vouchers.
  • Inadequacy of replacement low-income unit requirements.
  • Failure to ensure that no resident will be forcibly displaced from New Albany.
  • Demolition “without a data-informed plan for offsetting the loss of … affordable housing units” risks exacerbating homelessness in and around New Albany.

See NAHA’s Memorandum of Understanding (Duggins replacement board mix)

On the flip side, Bob Lane also had a vision. Lane stressed to the board of commissioners at the NAHA that, despite their appointment by to the board by Gahan, the NAHA “is an independent entity.” He urged them to think independently, and they opted to rubber stamp the City’s plan. The two most important features of Lane’s vision expressed in his draft Memorandum of Understanding:

  • Proposed preserving one-for-one “hard-unit replacement of low-income units in mixed-income settings to the extent feasible.”
  • Would’ve ensured that “current NAHA households [are] provided options that allow them to stay in New Albany if desired.”

Bob Lane’s draft Memorandum of Understanding

Lane’s plan was a feasible and compassionate approach that didn’t start at “we’re going to reduce our affordable housing stock” and end with “we’ll find out the details later.” Ignoring the existence of his vision is disrespectful to the two decades of service that he’s provided to current and former residents of the NAHA, and it’s quite frankly historical revisionism.

Without the City’s concerted effort to squash the NAHA’s previously stated proposals — until its eventual takeover and appointment of Gahan’s right hand man, David Duggins (seriously, we’ve tracked dollars contributed to Gahan’s 2015 re-election campaign to Duggins’s address), as interim executive director of the NAHA–there would be 42 new units of supportive housing in what would have been the NAHA’s Harbor House development. 

Without the hostile takeover of the NAHA, Lane may have been able to execute his vision of redesigning the street grid at Broadmeade and Parkview to match the City’s existing street grid.

We won’t allow the City to revise history to their liking. Affordable housing has never been a priority for Gahan and Co, and the recent lip service and PR stunts won’t change that history of consistent opposition to the goals of affordable housing advocates.