Former federal housing official to lead Detroit Housing Commission

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
Sandra B. Henriquez

Detroit — Sandra B. Henriquez, a former federal housing official, has been named the executive director of the Detroit Housing Commission.

The organization’s board of commissioners voted Henriquez to the top post on Thursday.

From 2009 to 2014, Henriquez served as Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing for the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Obama administration.

Officials with the housing commission say her hire will bring national experience to Detroit’s public housing. Henriquez will start on April 22.

“The Detroit Housing Commission could not have selected a better candidate for executive director than Sandra Henriquez, and I am so pleased that she is bringing her expertise to Detroit,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement Thursday. “Sandra will be critical to our efforts to ensure Detroiters have high-quality, affordable housing options in neighborhoods across the city.”

According to the commission, Henriquez’s main focus will be developing new affordable and public housing for the commission and the city.

“During my five years at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, I visited Detroit more than nearly any other city in the U.S. Every time I visited the city, the progress, the change, was palpable,” Henriquez said in a statement. “It is exciting for me to think that I now have the opportunity to come full circle, developing new housing opportunities for DHC and the city.”

Henriquez most recently served as the chief operating officer for Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization providing free home repairs to low-income seniors, veterans and families with children.

Henriquez's arrival comes as the Detroit Housing Commission has made numerous moves to boost its coffers, including the pending $23 million sale of the former Frederick Douglass Homes public housing site to a Bedrock affiliate-led joint venture and the $1.7 million sale of nearly 400 vacant, obsolete public housing units to the City of Detroit.

The commission says it plans to use the funds to invest in resident services and make capital improvements to existing housing.

Richard Hosey, president of the board of commissioners, said the commission has made significant progress since emerging from receivership in 2015. He said he expects Henriquez's leadership to take the commission to the next level. 

“Sandra is perfectly positioned to help the Detroit Housing Commission achieve new goals, improve our competitiveness and continue our progress," Hosey said. "We are so excited to get to work.”

During the search for a permanent executive director, the commission was led by interim executive director Helen M. Kipplen, who is also the commission’s chief financial officer. Harold Ince also served as an interim executive director. Prior to that, Kelley Lyons was executive director.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN