The Guru of Housing Vouchers
Ep. 51 - Meet Gerald Benoit, referred to as Jerry, one of the icons from the 1970s and a member of the Academy of Housing and Communities. He started out by directing a Section 23 Leased Housing program for the department of HUD where he kept moving up to become a special assistant to the office of public housing. He then became deputy director of the office of Indian housing. His biggest role, however, was director of the existing housing division where he oversaw the national implementation and management of the ongoing operations of Section 8 rental voucher, certificate and moderate rehabilitation programs through HUD offices assisting 1.5 million households with an annual budget of 7 billion dollars. This program has grown to be the largest subsidized housing program in the country.
- How the housing quality standards have developed and improved the housing base
- The barriers that were set by housing authorities that stopped families from being self-sufficient
- Helping struggling families to reunite while getting basic necessities to sustain themselves
- The importance of education and independence in today's generation
- Directed the national implementation and management of the ongoing operations of the rental voucher and certificate programs and the moderate rehabilitation program through the HUD field offices and public housing agencies.
Learn how the Housing Certificate and Voucher Programs were formed and grew to serve over 2 million families today.
"The most important thing you can have is a good education." -Gerald Benoit
PROVIDE FAMILIES WITH A CHOICE
it was hard at first to get program acceptance. He had to convince housing authorities to give up the old way of providing housing, public housing, and move to a new system. Families would be given a certificate, enabling them to move to rental housing of their choice meeting rent and housing condition limits. When it finally "caught on" it became the most popular program - and the only one HUD funded.
A FAVORITE OF THE INDUSTRY
He was legendary in his field, and everyone who operated a certificate or voucher program wanted to listen to him. He not only introduced and managed the program which was eventually renamed the housing voucher program, he was a favored speaker by housing authority associations because he told it like it was. He listened, provided answers, and changed regulations and policies within his scope to make the program better. The voucher program is now the largest subsidized housing program HUD administers, and it is still working well in cities across the United States.
WORKING AS A SINGLE DAD
Jerry was a single dad of six children, some in diapers, while he was at this high-level position in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He would often say, "I can't stay late tonight. I have to get to a hockey game."
SELF-SUFFICIENCY WAS HIS FAVORITE PROGRAM
Gerald "Jerry" Benoit also directed the development of his favorite program, the HUD Family Self-Sufficiency program with the objective of getting families off subsidized assistance. As a single parent of six children for many years, he knew the difficulties firsthand of raising children while holding down a job.
Although Jerry has retired from HUD, he continues his service in the housing industry by being a Commissioner for a Maryland housing authority and by participating as a Board Member for the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. He also served as Vice-President of Commissioners for the Maryland Association of Housing and Redevelopment Agencies and as a Senior Consultant for Nan McKay and Associates.
Listen to his story about his personal life raising 6 children as a single parent and the implementation of the foremost subsidized housing program in the country.
Jerry explains how the many housing programs worked to help people and how it is different from what is happening today [4:00]
Why the section 8 voucher programs has become difficult to administer [15:26]
Why the voucher program didn't need rent reasonableness and the problem of subsidy adjustments that were not required every year [16:37]
Some contributing factors to why families leave subsidized housing [20:12]
Jerry narrates how they made efforts to reunite poor families so they could be self-sufficient as a family unit rather than spread out in foster care [21:21]
Why he considers the voucher program his legacy but the family self-sufficiency program as his greatest love and achievement [24:57]
He narrates some of the interesting stories during his career [26:14]
The challenge of converting every project into RAD by housing authorities [30:02]
He describes the future of housing as the growth in demand [30:50]
Jerry advises younger people on the importance of education and being independent [32:47]