New housing director on board

Published 8:04 am Friday, March 27, 2009

FRANKLIN—Deborah M. Rowe, the new executive director of the Franklin Redevelopment and Housing Authority, is enjoying her new home.

“I like the quiet community and the smaller town,” Rowe said of Franklin during a phone interview Tuesday. “I also like the five- to seven-minute commute into work.”

Commutes are much longer in the town Rowe called home before moving to Franklin: Glen Mills, Pa., which is 20 miles west of Philadelphia.

Rowe started her new job on March 15 and replaces Sheryl Frazier, who left last month to become executive director of the housing authority in Warner Robins, Ga. Frazier led the FRHA for four years.

Rowe declined to comment on her salary as executive director.

When asked what the biggest challenge facing the FRHA was, Rowe said, “We need to make positive changes.”

“We need to make our portfolio available to a wide range of incomes, make sure our housing looks no different than any private market housing, and make it appeal to working families,” Rowe said. “We also need to make a community that supports all of the needs of the residents, not just housing.”

Rowe cited youth and crime prevention programs as being of paramount importance.

“We’re just one component of the community,” Rowe said. “We need to make sure that the community continues to thrive, and that we address problems as they come in.”

According to information supplied by the FRHA, Rowe has spent more than 20 years developing, implementing and overseeing a wide range of affordable housing programs. Her work experience includes the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Chicago Housing Authority, and the City of Wichita, Kan.

Rowe worked with HOPE VI projects in Fresno, Calif., Chester, Pa., and Niagara Falls, N.Y. HOPE VI is a HUD plan that revitalizes public housing projects into mixed-income developments. She has also served as a consultant to community non-profit agencies and housing developers interested in affordable housing initiatives.

Rowe was born in Cincinnati. She and her husband, Bill, have a 24-year-old son, Brandon, who works in the IT department for the Chicago Board of Education.

“I have been impressed with her so far. She has hit the ground running,” said Harold Burkett, chairman of the FRHA’s Board of Commissioners. “She has gone right to work organizing, running her staff. We’re expecting great things out of her.”

Rowe is starting her new job at an exciting time for the FRHA. U.S. Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced Thursday that the FRHA will receive $528,796 from Housing and Urban Development for improvements to public housing units. The funds are a part of the federal stimulus package, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.