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Kelvin Jeremiah

President and CEO
Philadelphia Housing Authority

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Founded: 1937
Industry: Affordable Housing | Real Estate

Kelvin Jeremiah was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada to a teen mother and raised by his great-grandmother in a rural home, where he slept on the floor. From those humble beginnings, he has risen to president and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA).

Jeremiah emigrated to Brooklyn, New York, as a teenager and focused on his education in the New York City public school system. He earned several scholarships and received a bachelor’s degree in history and business administration from Pace University, a Master of Arts in American social history from Rutgers University, and a Master of Public Administration from American International College.

The PHA aims to open doors to affordable housing, economic opportunity and sustainable communities to benefit Philadelphia residents with low incomes. Serving over 80,000 residents, PHA is the fourth-largest housing authority in the country and the largest provider of affordable housing in Pennsylvania. PHA owns, manages and subsidizes affordable housing units located throughout Philadelphia for seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children. PHA also operates several programs that address first-time homeownership, employment readiness and youth education.

After college, Jeremiah worked briefly on Wall Street, then shifted to the public sector, focusing his efforts on combating housing discrimination and expanding affordable housing opportunities in Massachusetts. His reputation grew, and he became inspector general for the New York City Housing Authority.

In 2011, Jeremiah moved to the PHA as director of audit and compliance and implemented sweeping reforms, establishing the agency’s first Audit and Compliance Department and anti-fraud measures, among others. To date, Jeremiah has overseen the construction, rehabilitation or preservation of over 6,000 affordable housing units and leveraged over $1.1 billion in construction activity.

“I (will) work to fulfill our organization’s mission and objectives to bring affordable housing and resources to the most vulnerable Philadelphians that we have the privilege to serve,” Jeremiah said. “I will continue to provide a hand-up and not a handout.”

Jeremiah expanded PHA’s collaboration with the city to provide up to 500 permanent housing opportunities each year for homeless families and individuals. He also reallocated resources so that more than 2,000 additional rental vouchers could be issued and leased up to households from PHA’s waiting list.

He enhanced PHA’s first-time homeownership programs that have enabled 475 public housing and voucher program participants to become first-time homebuyers. He established the Philly SEEDS nonprofit, which has provided over 450 young residents with over $1.7 million in scholarship assistance. Philly SEEDS has distributed thousands of book bags each year to PHA youth, helping to ensure that they have the tools and supplies to get a head start for the new school year.

“You do not need to have all the right answers or know everything to lead,” Jeremiah said. “You can surround yourself with the people that do.”

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Honoree fun fact

Kelvin often describes himself as “just an innocent boy from the islands”.

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