US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Director, of Georgia Operations Shea Johnson saw a opportunity to expand the knowledge base and associated benefits of Section 3 with statewide partners as she recently lead a summit attended by over 100 housing authority and community leaders and developers along with HUD headquarters staff at the Fulton County Aviation Community Cultural Center.
"Section 3 has long provided opportunities for those we serve in low-income communities with opportunities to obtain training and employment associated with contractual work with HUD," said Johnson. "The reality is that as we expand awareness of Section 3 and its benefits, more opportunities for self-sufficiency will be available for those we mutually serve in our communities."
Section 3 is not a program per se rather it is the legal basis that requires recipients of certain HUD financial assistance, to the greatest extent possible, provide training, employment, contracting and other economic opportunities to low- and very low-income persons, especially recipients of government assistance for housing, and to businesses that provide economic opportunities to low- and very low-income persons.
During the summit Prestwick Construction, a fully integrated construction company under the leadership of founding partner Ray Dotson shared their story on how they committed to sharing the benefits of Section 3 training and self-sufficiency opportunities in their industry with those in low income communities. In 2016 in their efforts to be the premier leader in Section 3 they created the Director of Compliance role, currently held by Tammy Canty and in May 2017 became a HUD Self-Certified Section 3 business based on a workforce where 30% of their fulltime employees are Section 3 low income residents.
Rholanda Stanberry, with Atlanta Housing provided attendees with examples of their efforts and successes with Section 3 for Herndon Square in Atlanta, too.
The summit also provided an opportunity for HUD headquarter staff members Stephanie Waller and Holly Kelly to provide a very informative and interactive presentation as many of the attendees were not aware of the nuances of Section 3, had numerous questions about proposed refinements and were also provided examples of best practices. Their presentation addressed those proposed changes and included information about SPEARS, Opportunity Portal and Business Registry.
The Opportunity Portal helps match Section 3 Residents to jobs and training opportunities and Section 3 Businesses to contracting opportunities. On August 25, 2015, HUD launched a new system, the Section 3 Performance Evaluation and Registration System (SPEARS) to capture data on the number of Section 3 residents hired or receiving training positions and the amount of contracts awarded to Section 3 businesses. The Section 3 Business Registry serves as a listing of firms that have self-certified that they meet one of the regulatory definitions of a Section 3 business and are included in a searchable online database that can be used by agencies that receive HUD funds, developers, contractors, and others to facilitate the award of certain HUD-funded contracts. The database can also be used by Section 3 residents to identify businesses that may have HUD-funded employment opportunities.
The conclusion of the Section 3 summit and training provided for a lively exchange of what promises to be an ongoing effort of outreach and continued focus on the mutual benefits of helping those HUD and partners serve eventually achieve self-sufficiency and their version of the American dream.