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Career Story: Assistant Planner For A Public Housing Organization

Assistant Planner For A Public Housing Organization

Job Title: Assistant Planner

Type of Company: My organization provides housing for low income residents of a city.

Education: BA in Sociology, College of the Holy Cross •• Master of City Planning, Boston University

Previous Experience: After college I was an Americorps*VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) and worked in Boston as a tenant organizer. I stayed with the organization as the Lead Organizer. This led me to be interested in studying city planning, which led to my current job as an assistant planner for the Cambridge Housing Authority.

Job Tasks: The main responsibility of my job is to be the project manager for various modernization projects. A modernization project in my job is renovations to the public housing stock in the city where I work. Public housing is housing that is set aside for low and very low income residents. In most cases, families pay 30% of their income for rent. So, if their income is very low, their rent is also very low. To keep the buildings operating, my organization depends on funding from the state and federal government.

Many of the buildings were built quite a long time ago and they need updating, especially the kitchens and bathrooms that normally have a useful lifespan of 20 years. I also work on new development projects. We try to identify buildings that the housing authority can purchase or land that can be developed into affordable housing. There are often lengthy procedures that need to be followed to use state and federal funding for these purposes. My job involves working in conjunction with architects, engineers, city workers and politicians.

Another part of my job is to manage the reports that have to be submitted at various times to the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. Although my organization is a separate entity, we are mainly funded through the state and federal government. Therefore we have to follow various rules. I also at times write articles for our monthly newsletter.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is being able to help low income people. I help preserve the affordable housing by managing capital improvement projects that will keep buildings in operation and comfortable for residents for a long time. Capital improvements are big projects -- like major updates to the heating or plumbing systems or major renovations to kitchens or bathrooms or community spaces. The day-to-day repairs are handled by the building managers and maintenance staff. I really enjoy interacting and learning from residents.

Job Tips: 1: I would definitely recommend doing a year of Americorps in a field of interest. It really helped me gain valuable experience. Getting involved in community issues is a great start.

2: Especially at the beginning, do not expect the salary to be too high.

3: While education in the classroom is a great experience, city planning in the field is quite different.

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