The Memphis Housing Authority, the second oldest Housing Authority in the United States, was created in 1935 under Section 615 of the Private Act of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee. In 1934, previously the Federal Housing Authority had been established and later evolved into the United Stated Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
At one time there were twenty-four properties in MHA's portfolio. With the exception of Cleaborn Homes, Foote Homes, Montgomery Plaza and the four high rises (Barry Towers, Paul Borda Towers, Jefferson Square and Dr. R. Q. Venson Center), all others have been converted to Hope VI or Mixed- Financed sites that blend families with stratification of incomes together in one community. This transformation was precipitated by a HUD Audit Report issued in 1997 that found MHA to be negligent in fulfilling its mission of providing decent, safe and sanitary housing for low-income families. HUD's report found that MHA's housing stock and grounds were in poor condition due to age, lack of maintenance and an ineffective use of modernization funds. Subsequently, MHA was listed on HUD's "troubled housing list" for a number of years. To avoid HUD receivership, a transformation process was begun by the MHA Board of Directors and the Executive Staff.
The current HOPE VI grant award for Cleaborn Homes will transform Cleaborn Homes to support macro plans that support the "City of Choice Initiative". History explains that Cleaborn Homes was named after a Korean Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Edward O. Cleaborn. Sergeant Cleaborn's medal was given to his parents posthumously. He died in battle and is credited with enabling other soldiers, including wounded, to retreat.