Marietta had been one of the first cities in the country to build government-subsidized housing late in the New Deal era, and projects like Clay Homes and Fort Hill Homes were huge improvements for their new tenants, compared to where they had been living.
But by the 2000s most of those units were showing their age, despite costly efforts by the city to keep them up to date. And for too many residents public housing had become a multi-generational way of life, rather than just a stop on the way to something better.
Buday, now 68, had served as Southeast regional counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when he was hired in 2005.
Buday positioned Marietta as a leader in transforming the mission of public housing agencies away from warehousing people in what typically were overcrowded, outmoded, stigmatized and crime-ridden housing projects. Instead, those in need of housing assistance were steered toward federal Section 8 housing vouchers that gave them the opportunity to live in nicer, newer, crime-free housing and do so without being stigmatized by their neighbors and the community. The MHA’s approach worked so well that the City of Acworth used the MHA to oversee a similar makeover of its public housing.
The MHA did not just boot out its then-residents. Rather, it worked skillfully and humanely to help them find better places to live.
“That is a lot of people to get in front of and tell them you are going to have to move,” said Buday. “But these people knew they could live in a much better environment.”
The MHA then bulldozed the former projects, starting with Johnny Walker Homes on Powder Springs Street. Redevelopment plans for the various sites were stalled in many cases by the Great Recession, but the checkerboard of housing projects that once marked Marietta will eventually be a checkerboard of newer, nicer development.
Buday announced his retirement last week and will be succeeded by former homebuilder and Councilman Pete Waldrep, a good choice who has served as MHA director of development since 2006. Waldrep will now be in charge as the MHA works with City Hall to purchase, raze and redevelop rundown apartments in the Franklin Road corridor with proceeds from the $68 million redevelopment bond passed by city voters in November.
As for Buday, he plans to spend more time with his wife, Becky, and family, doing volunteer work and playing golf.
Buday was the right man at the right time for the Housing Authority, and will be missed.