Tackling Big Ideas to Help Alaskans
When Chelsea Arthur determined she needed a new challenge, she never imagined where her job with Alaska Housing Finance Corporation would take her, nor could she have envisioned the impact it would ultimately have on her professional and personal growth.
Arthur was born and raised in Fairbanks. She spent eight years in the real estate market before moving to Anchorage to work as an escrow manager at a title company. The work was interesting but it wasn’t fulfilling and in January 2021 she joined Alaska Housing as a Planner 1. During her first week on the job, Daniel Delfino handed her the Emergency Rent Relief bill and instructed her to dissect the program – a program that didn't exist. It was a unique and exciting learning experience – exactly the type of challenge she had been seeking.
The phrase “building the plane while flying it” aptly describes the Alaska Housing Rent Relief effort. The funding didn’t come with any type of procedural distribution instructions, only broad qualification guidelines set by U.S. Treasury.
Arthur and her dedicated co-workers in the planning department jumped in with both feet. Their ultimate goal? To structure a program serving as many people as possible with an efficient and secure process. In the beginning, they focused on the nuts and bolts of the application process, and then tackled the need for speed conducting stopwatch tests to see how long things would take and focusing on streamlining the effort – adding even two minutes to a process for 35,000 people impacted the ability to be efficient.
Focusing on Teamwork
One thing became clear to Arthur throughout the early stages of the AHRR development process: collaboration would be key. In this capacity, Arthur worked with many different teams at AHFC outside of the planning department, such as the legal and IT teams, to make sure that all points aligned within the program. She then approached the task of facilitating meetings between all of the players.
“AHFC has an incredible relationship with housing authorities across the state and the team knew that coordinating with these groups, as well as statewide tribal authorities, would be the foundation for a successful program,” says Arthur.
“We were able to organize a meeting with the Association of Alaska Housing Authorities to help facilitate outreach and generate buy-in for a ‘one system’ approach that would be critical for managing the program effectively both internally and externally for those applying.”
– Chelsea Arthur, Alaska Housing Planner I
There were a few hiccups along the way but the streamlined product made it possible to react quickly and adjust as needed. Arthur credits Alaska Housing’s long-standing relationships with so many organizations statewide as the cornerstone to successfully distributing more than $262 million in rent relief to Alaskans in need.
“It was amazing to participate in national calls with other housing entities and realize that Alaska was really a pacesetter among other states,” she said.
A New Adventure
With AHRR winding down, it was time for Arthur to turn her sights on the next challenge: Alaska Housing Stabilization and Recovery. Her detailed work with rent relief was the perfect springboard into this project.
“While the programs are different, they share something important that is truly impactful – almost surreal – knowing that our efforts, individually and collectively, are providing an avenue for safe housing,” she said.
Housing Stabilization and Recovery is designed to quickly move people off the streets and into safe short-term then long-term housing facilities. It is an opportunity that has allowed her to expand her analytical skill sets to address the broader issues of homelessness.
The program, which opened in February 2022, has helped more than 1,000 people move into safe housing spaces – more than 280 have been children younger than 18 years of age. Alaska was one of the first states to innovatively expand its Emergency Rental Assistance efforts and address an on-going homelessness issue statewide with a program that addresses the full cycle of homelessness.
“This is a big idea that has really taken off throughout the state, especially in the communities of Juneau, Petersburg, and Fairbanks.”
– Chelsea Arthur
Preventing Fraud and Waste
In addition to her work within Housing Stabilization and Recovery, Arthur also manages AHFC’s Systems Integrity Unit, which handles appeals and cases of fraud, waste and system abuse. This particular effort originated with Rent Relief and is now a key AHFC element within the planning department. Arthur credits Alaska’s closed application periods as instrumental in keeping fraud cases to a minimum.
From Arthur’s perspective, her time at AHFC has been and continues to be an amazing journey that allows her to work collaboratively with dynamic, intellectual innovators.
Make a Difference
Want to join an inspiring team making a difference in people’s lives? AHFC is the right place for you. See our available jobs and come join our team!