Stephen Norman, the longtime executive director of the King County Housing Authority (KCHA) in Washington, will retire Dec. 31, announced the agency.

Norman took over leadership of the housing authority in 1997. Housing more than 23,000 households on a daily basis, KCHA is the Pacific Northwest’s largest affordable housing provider. This number has more than doubled during Norman’s tenure.

Stephen Norman
William Wright Photography Stephen Norman

“It has been a joy and a privilege to work with the team here at KCHA,” Norman said in a statement. “They truly care. This is an organization filled with enormously capable and dedicated individuals. What they are accomplishing every day in supporting our community is truly extraordinary.”

Norman has had a 45-year career in community development and affordable housing, starting as a community organizer in the South Brooklyn area of New York. He served as the assistant commissioner for Homeless Housing Development in New York City and helped establish the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) as its first vice president. Currently, among other national roles, he serves as chair of the board of CSH and as president of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities.

“Stephen has done a phenomenal job as executive director of KCHA. His leadership and experiences will be deeply missed,” said KCHA board chair Doug Barnes. “In a region where housing has become increasingly unaffordable, his impact can be seen in the tens of thousands of families who are stably housed, the children who have a real chance to rise above the probabilities of intergenerational poverty as a result of KCHA’s innovative programs, and the elderly and disabled households who are living with dignity. We are grateful for Stephen’s tireless efforts and the healthy, viable, diverse communities he and the team at KCHA have created and sustained. The board extends its best wishes to Stephen for a well-deserved retirement and the very best in future endeavors.”

Under Norman’s leadership, KCHA was designated as one of the first “Moving to Work” housing authorities in the country, a recognition that provided the agency with the flexibility to redesign many of its federally funded programs to respond to local needs. KCHA has focused on bringing homeless families, disabled individuals, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, and the community’s youth into permanent affordable housing. Working in partnership with local service providers, KCHA provides permanent housing for over 4,000 formerly homeless households. These partnerships have produced innovative housing models such as the YWCA’s Passage Point, a community dedicated to reunifying previously incarcerated mothers with their children, the While-in-School Housing program for homeless students at Highline College, and the Community Case Management initiative with King County and the Veterans Administration to house homeless veterans.

KCHA is on track to house over 1,000 additional homeless households over the next year.

In addition to housing, KCHA has created a network of 18 early childhood and after-school learning centers to support improved educational outcomes for the 20,000 children it houses. Its partnerships with local school districts and health care providers have helped inform a growing national movement to coordinate housing and services for low-income households.

A Gates Foundation–funded partnership with a research team led by Harvard economist Raj Chetty has enabled KCHA to develop new approaches to assisting low-income families with children to move into high-opportunity, low-poverty neighborhoods. This research has served as the foundation for current efforts by the federal government to increase geographic choice and mobility for low-income households nationally. More than 30% of the extremely low-income households with children in KCHA’s federally subsidized programs live in high-opportunity, low-poverty neighborhoods.

“Many thousands of people have roofs over their heads in King County because of Stephen’s expertise, vision, and hard work. I’ve been so fortunate to work alongside Stephen in this effort and to benefit from his deep experience, creative problem-solving, and endless energy,” said King County Council chair Claudia Balducci.

KCHA has initiated a national search for Norman’s successor.