Stephen Norman, the long-serving executive director of the King County Housing Authority (KCHA), will retire on Dec. 31, he announced today. Mr. Norman assumed the leadership of the Housing Authority in 1997 and has played an influential role in furthering affordable housing efforts both nationally and in the Puget Sound region. The Pacific Northwest’s largest affordable housing provider, KCHA currently helps house over 23,000 households on a daily basis. This number has more than doubled during Mr. Norman’s tenure.
“It has been a joy and a privilege to work with the team here at KCHA,” Mr. Norman said. “They truly care. This is an organization filled with enormously capable and dedicated individuals. What they are accomplishing every day in supporting our community is truly extraordinary.”
“Stephen has done a phenomenal job as executive director of KCHA. His leadership and experiences will be deeply missed,” said KCHA Board Chair Doug Barnes. “In a region where housing has become increasingly unaffordable, his impact can be seen in the tens of thousands of families who are stably housed, the children who have a real chance to rise above the probabilities of intergenerational poverty as a result of KCHA’s innovative programs, and the elderly and disabled households who are living with dignity. We are grateful for Stephen’s tireless efforts and the healthy, viable, diverse communities he and the team at KCHA have created and sustained. The Board extends its best wishes to Stephen for a well-deserved retirement and the very best in future endeavors.”
The Authority’s public housing inventory has been extensively renovated under Mr. Norman and is recognized as some of the highest quality public housing in the nation. Two major complexes in White Center, Greenbridge and Seola Gardens, have been completely redeveloped to provide over 1,000 units of mixed-income homeownership and rental housing that, combined with a new elementary school, early learning facilities, public library, retail establishments, community center and public plaza, have substantially transformed the core of one of the region’s poorest neighborhoods. The Greenbridge development was recently cited by Time Magazine as a national model for reimagining public housing.
“King County has benefitted mightily from Stephen Norman’s extraordinary vision and commitment to creating and preserving low-to-moderate income housing for families throughout our region,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “From the development of the innovative Greenbridge and Seola Gardens communities, to our newest partnership to house local Veterans, and so many other collaborations over the past 25 years, it is a fact that tens of thousands of people across the county have a safe and affordable place to call home thanks to Stephen’s extraordinary leadership.”
In addition to the transformation of White Center, KCHA has been a leading developer of new housing across the county, including the Village at Overlake Station in Redmond, one of the first transit-oriented development projects in the region, and Vantage Point, new housing for extremely low-income seniors in Renton.
Under Mr. Norman’s leadership, the Authority was designated as one of the first “Moving to Work” Housing Authorities in the country, a recognition that provided KCHA with the flexibility to redesign many of its federally funded programs to respond to local needs. KCHA has focused on bringing homeless families, disabled individuals, veterans, survivors of domestic violence and our community’s youth into permanent affordable housing. Working in partnership with local service providers KCHA currently provides permanent housing for over 4,000 formerly homeless households. These partnerships have produced innovative housing models such as the YWCA’s Passage Point, a community dedicated to reunifying previously incarcerated mothers with their children, the While-in-School Housing program (WISH) for homeless students at Highline College, and the Community Case Management initiative with King County and the Veterans Administration to house homeless veterans.
The Authority is on track to house over 1,000 additional homeless households over the next year.
“Many thousands of people have roofs over their heads in King County because of Stephen’s expertise, vision, and hard work. I’ve been so fortunate to work alongside Stephen in this effort and to benefit from his deep experience, creative problem-solving, and endless energy,” said King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci. “Our region will miss his leadership and his dedication to building a more affordable, inclusive King County. I thank Stephen for his years of service and wish him all the best in his retirement!”
In addition to housing, KCHA has created a network of 18 early childhood and afterschool learning centers to support improved educational outcomes for the 20,000 children it houses. Its partnerships with local school districts and healthcare providers have helped inform a growing national movement to coordinate housing and services for low-income households.
A Gates Foundation funded partnership with a research team led by the Harvard economist Raj Chetty has enabled KCHA to develop new approaches to assisting low-income families with children to move into high-opportunity, low- poverty neighborhoods. This research has served as the foundation for current efforts by the federal government to increase geographic choice and mobility for low-income households nationally. Currently, over 30 percent of the extremely low-income households with children in KCHA’s federally subsidized programs live in high-opportunity, low-poverty neighborhoods.
As communities across the region have gentrified, KCHA has focused on acquiring existing apartment complexes such as Highland Village in Bellevue and mobile home parks such as Wonderland Estates in Renton and Friendly Village in Redmond to prevent the displacement of existing residents. Most recently the Authority partnered with Microsoft and Amazon to acquire 2,000 units of existing housing to preserve housing affordability and prevent further displacement in the heart of the region’s technology belt. These acquisitions bring KCHA’s total portfolio of workforce housing that has been preserved in gentrifying neighborhoods and along the region’s emerging light rail corridors to over 7,000 units.
“On behalf of the City of Bellevue I want to commend Stephen Norman for his years of service leading the King County Housing Authority,” said Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson. “Stephen has made an incredible impact in creating and maintaining housing security for thousands in our community. His knowledge, passion, and effectiveness will be greatly missed and I wish him the best in retirement.”
Mr. Norman has had a 45-year career in community development and affordable housing, starting as a community organizer in the South Brooklyn area of New York. He served as the Assistant Commissioner for Homeless Housing Development in New York City under Mayors Koch and Dinkins, and helped establish the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) as its first vice-president. Currently, among other national roles, he serves as Chair of the Board of CSH and as President of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities (CLPHA).
The KCHA Board of Directors has initiated a national search for Mr. Norman’s successor.