New Housing Coordinator Puts Out 'Welcome' Mat

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Walking into the office of Payson's new redevelopment/housing coordinator Robert Elliott, one can't help but notice the mound of paperwork that seems to have taken up permanent residence on his desk.


His desktop is overflowing with research and reports on all of the town's past and current efforts in the affordable housing market, the redevelopment of existing business sectors and neighborhoods, and plans for future development.


"As you can see, there's a lot of paperwork involved," he said. "I spent 25 years down in Phoenix working. I've taught school in Detroit and New York City, and then decided to go west."


On the West Coast, Elliott's ventures took him to Ventura, Calif., where he worked for the Shell Oil company during the gasoline shutdown of 1974.


"Because of the tie between government and big oil, we were not able to provide the service or the product to the people who depended on us," Elliott said. "So we had to take action to bring public notice to what was going on. And, we got a lot of things changed."


Is he a rebel?

"No, I'm not really a rebel," he said. "I just don't like to see government run all over people."


Now a town employee, Elliott said his job will be to bring government to the people, by way of housing support and new development projects.


"I've done everything from housing in Africa and Asia, to jet aircraft hangars at Scottsdale Airpark, to resorts and golf courses in Phoenix, to multi-million mansions in the Biltmore area to low to moderate income housing on the south side of Phoenix," he said. "I kind of bring all of that to this job as housing and redevelopment coordinator."


One of his initial duties, he said, will be to revamp the town's program to help residents become homeowners.


"That program has not lived up to expectations," he said. Currently, the town has available grants in $10,000 increments to help qualified residents with down payments on their homes.


"Based on the housing market, we're going to have to increase that down from $10,000 to $20,000," he said. "In one year, we've only accomplished two closings, with one in the process. We expected to do 10 or more."


In addition to those programs, Elliott will have a hand in rental assistance program with the county, the Main Street redevelopment project, and new programs with the Time Out Domestic Violence Shelter and Head Start.


"It's going to be a very challenging job," he said.

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