On March 1, Aaron Estabrook assumed the position of executive director for the Manhattan Housing Authority.
The position opened after Joann Sutton, former executive director, announced her retirement in 2020. Sutton worked with MHA for almost thirty-three years.
Estabrook said it was a perfect fit when the position opened up to lead a team dedicated to serving others through public housing and housing choice vouchers.
“Regardless of the job or the political title I have had in the last decade, I have always found myself advocating for safe, affordable, inclusive housing,” Estabrook said. “Now I get the chance to help my team do it.”
Kennedy Clark, MHA commissioner and executive director search committee chair, said in a press release the Housing Authority is excited to have Estabrook join the team.
“Aaron is coming to the Manhattan Housing Authority with significant leadership and work experience that demonstrates an understanding of what it takes to continue the momentum created by our current administration,” Clark said. “He has demonstrated that he is passionate about affordable housing. His aptitude for innovative approaches to complex problems is important for us moving forward.”
Estabrook graduated from Kansas State in 2008 and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He said the military helped him appreciate the necessities of life from the wants. After his service, he became a case manager for homeless veterans in Kansas.
“It was in that position that I became a true believer in the phenomenal power of housing. People need air to breathe, water to drink and shelter to survive before anything else,” Estabrook said. “I was fortunate enough to walk alongside hundreds of Veterans and their families, secure housing through VA and HUD assistance and with a little bit of strength-based case management, I watched them thrive and get back on to living their best life.”
He said with anything that involves multiple levels of government, the challenges MHA faces are bureaucratic.
“It’s a little bit like turning a giant ship at sea — it will be slow at first and changes might not be as evident, but I promise we are moving toward the right place as fast as we can,” Estabrook said.
One of the problems the Housing Authority faces is being designated as “troubled status” by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“This is just like saying K-State is ranked last in the Big 12,” Estabrook said. “I’m not too worried about the ranking but it does indicate we have a lot of opportunity for growth and improvement. We are going to build on those things each day and soon we will have proven that we have the discipline to serve our community with the dignity and quality of life they deserve.”
Estabrook said residents of Manhattan can expect a refocusing and reimagining of the mission and goals of MHA.
“Residents should expect us to be focused on creating positive and productive community partnerships to maximize social and economic opportunities for them,” Estabrook said. “We will be encouraging resident participation in programs and services promoting self-sufficiency, education, and improved quality of life.”
Estabrook said he is most excited about the people he gets to work with and work for in the new position.
“I truly think we have the right ingredients to do some phenomenal things with Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing in Manhattan,” Estabrook said.
The Housing Authority will also provide information and referral services to assist in the success of each program participant.
“It takes everyone in the community to be good neighbors,” Estabrook said.