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After CEO's resignation, what's next for San Diego Housing Commission?

The head of the San Diego Housing Commission has resigned. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the departure comes as city leaders are looking to reform the agency.

Rick Gentry, CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission for 14 years, announced his resignation late Tuesday. His final day in the position will be March 31.

The departure comes a week after the City Council formed a special committee to analyze potential reforms to the agency. Earlier this month, the council also sought to summon Gentry into a closed session meeting to review his performance — something typically done by the commission's separate oversight board.

Under Gentry's tenure, the Housing Commission saw its budget more than double to $604 million. The agency’s responsibilities have also grown from mostly distributing federal housing vouchers and grants for affordable housing to also overseeing most of the city's homeless services.


Scrutiny of the commission intensified last year after Voice of San Diego reported a real estate broker, hired by the commission, had a conflict of interest in a major transaction. The broker had invested in a company that sold the commission a hotel that was converted into housing for the homeless. Later, city officials were angered by the commission's failure to notify that several residents of that hotel, along with a resident in Kearny Mesa, had died.

Gentry had previously drawn criticism for comments made to KPBS about offering housing voucher recipients more money so they could live in more expensive neighborhoods for "social engineering."

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Ryan Clumpner, one of six commissioners who oversee the agency, said Gentry had professionalized the organization and that the vast majority of its operations ran smoothly. But he said Gentry saw the scandal surrounding the hotel purchase differently than those tasked with the agency's oversight.

"He viewed it as primarily a messaging problem, an optics problem," Clumpner said. "And that's a very fundamental difference in how we looked at a serious issue, and one that became challenging to get past."


The City Council will continue to investigate potential reforms of the Housing Commission, armed with a report from the Independent Budget Analyst on how similar agencies are structured in other large cities. In addition, the council has the sole authority to hire Gentry's replacement.

"Hiring for this position will be a transparent, accessible and collaborative process," Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said in a statement. "Once the process begins, we will encourage members of the community to share their thoughts with council members so we can establish the skills, experience and qualities desired in the person who will lead the Housing Commission."

Clumpner hopes the commission's next CEO will push to ensure that affordable housing is built in all parts of the city. That includes wealthier neighborhoods that have more access to opportunity and not just locations where land is cheap.

"I'm interested in new ideas and new approaches to how we get a more equitable distribution of affordable housing," Clumpner said.