Elgin housing authority CEO takes job in Virginia

After seven years at the helm of the Housing Authority of Elgin, Damon Duncan is leaving because, as he puts it, "there isn't much left to do."

Duncan, 51, said he will serve as CEO of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority in Richmond, Virginia, starting in April. He's moved to Virginia and is working remotely, traveling back and forth to Elgin to help with the leadership change, he said.

He expects the board to interview five or six finalists this month, and "hopefully by the early part of April they will be prepared to make an offer," he said.

Duncan is credited with transitioning the Elgin agency from traditional public housing - where all residents are low-income - to affordable housing - where residents have a mix of incomes - by leveraging the federal rental assistance demonstration and low-income housing tax credit programs.

The Richmond agency largely consists of traditional public housing, so the job will present a hefty but worthwhile challenge, he said.

"That's what we work for - we work to take on greater challenges," he said. "I'm not one to rest on my laurels, which I could have easily done here."

His salary in Elgin is $145,000 plus bonuses; his new salary will be $200,000 plus up to about $60,000 in bonuses, he said.

Board chairwoman Nuhemi Morales-Salazar said the board accepted his resignation "with a heavy heart."

"He has helped transform the perception of public housing and brought Elgin into the forefront of the public housing community," she said in a news release.

The Elgin agency's jurisdiction includes Algonquin, Batavia, Carpentersville, East Dundee, West Dundee, Elburn, Geneva, Gilberts, Hampshire, North Aurora, South Elgin, St. Charles and Sugar Grove. The agency oversees more than 400 affordable housing units - about 300 in Elgin - that use low-income housing tax credits, and about 1,250 units that use housing choice vouchers. The latter is the program known as Section 8, and allows low-income families to rent in the private market.

Duncan said he's most proud of the $33 million project in Elgin to renovate Central Park Tower off Route 31 and add a new building next door in 2016. "That really put us on the map, locally, regionally and nationally," he said.

The project was opposed by local residents but proved to be successful, he said. "I'd like to think we changed a lot of minds, a lot of attitudes."

Duncan's greatest strength is his expertise in securing low-income housing tax credit money, board member Ruth Stephens said. In addition to the new building, Duncan also pushed to renovate older housing, therefore greatly improving residents' quality of life, she said.

"It's sad to see him go, because he's totally, completely revamped the housing authority," she said.

Duncan did "a masterful job," Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said. "Damon Duncan has changed the way that people lived in affordable housing under his watch by leaps and bounds. He's improved everybody's life. And I mean hundreds," he said. Damon praised Elgin city officials for understanding there is a need for more affordable housing.

However, the city would benefit from a more clear strategy about how that relates to overall development, "and some consistency in terms of the Housing Authority being at the table," Duncan said.

Housing Authority of Elgin CEO Damon Duncan already has moved to Virginia for his new job but is traveling back and forth to Elgin to help with the leadership change, he said. Courtesy of Damon Duncan
  Housing Authority of Elgin CEO Damon Duncan said he's most proud of the $33 million project to renovate Central Park Tower off Route 31 in Elgin and add a new building next door in 2016. Brian Hill/
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