Community TrailBlazers

Community TrailBlazers

Housing and community development's evolvement rests on the shoulders of women and men who have played a strong role in developing affordable housing and communities throughout the country. Their stories provide a human historical perspective on our cities and the housing within our cities.... Show More

Episodes

John Koskinen's role as a fixer focused on dealing with a crisis without panicking the public. He has had a plethora of impactful jobs, most of them in the government and many in the role of rescuer. Listen to the behind-the-scenes work as the plane hit the pentagon in Washington DC during 911 and what happened during the anthrax scare. He describes communicating with no cell phones during crises. Listen to his description of Y...

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John Weicher is a senior Fellow and Director of the Hudson Institute. He also is a sought-after expert in housing policy and economics. He served four years as assistant secretary for housing and federal housing commissioner at HUD, with a strong record of regulatory reform and safeguarding programs like FHA financing. During his tenure he oversaw a staff of thousands and over half a trillion dollars in mortgage insurance.

In this ...

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After 15 years at HUD, Marion Mollegen McFadden felt she could make a bigger impact outside of the government. She now leads the public policy team at Enterprise Community Partners, which supports innovative solutions to affordable housing, disaster relief, and empowering people with job skills.

Now outside of HUD, she has candid advice on the priorities and political will Washington should have. Not only should there be more money...

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Michael Bodaken knows it’s going to take serious innovation and creativity to turn around the nation's neglect of its affordable housing crisis. He’s worked directly on the issue for years, with a long tenure as head of the nonprofit National Housing Trust. Bodaken discusses why without sufficient housing supply and direct assistance, too many must struggle to compete in the same market as those with higher incomes. He strongly...

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 Barbara Adams is an influential leader in Pennsylvania for her tireless efforts to implement housing projects, help reduce poverty, and advocate for social justice issues. She spent nearly 30 years at a Philadelphia-based law firm where she started as a summer intern and rose through the ranks to tackle complex housing projects that significantly improved the lives in her community.
Adams recounts her journey and discusses how to ...

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Bob Elliot has held significant roles in many of the critical decisions that shaped housing policy. He served as general counsel of HUD, a time he described as some of his most satisfying professionally, and later went on to found his own law firm.

In this episode he tells the story of a key Supreme Court decision he was directly involved in that helped desegregate public housing in Chicago, which was notorious for housing discrimn...

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After starting his career as a journalist, Barry Zigas decided he wanted to do more than just report on policy — he wanted to help craft it. He has been a substantive voice for public housing, with leadership roles at many key agencies, notably leading efforts to create the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Zigas details why the proper supply of affordable housing often falls short, with funding regularly lacking to get “the train run...

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Harry Finger already had a distinguished career before he arrived at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1969. An aeronautical nuclear engineer, Finger was seminal in NASA’s pursuit of rocket propulsion technology for deep space missions to Mars and beyond.

After an “out of the blue” offer, he jumped abroad HUD. His work there was critical to building a strong foundation for the agency, rising to Assistant Secretary ...

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Sharon Wilson Geno was fresh out of law school and working for a firm when she realized it wasn’t the path she wanted. So she changed course, earning a graduate degree in urban studies and went to then went to work at shaping housing policy in her native St. Louis.

In discussing her journey, she details the patience and persistence in a major housing development around Washington, DC’s Nationals Park region, a neighborhood she live...

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Larry Pearl spent nearly 40 years inside HUD and offers a first-hand account of how the agency battled discrimination, was forced to adapt to evolving political views, and at times struggled to achieve its mission. He offers a detailed retelling of his journey growing up in an all-white neighborhood in Philadelphia and later attending a more diverse college and connecting with friends’ and colleagues’ experiences of daily prejudice...

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Local governments often know best when it comes to housing solutions for their community says says Rick Gentry, the president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission. He oversees a budget of over $40 million dedicated to helping families both find, and often keep, their housing. He argues that solutions must be tailored to the needs for each area, as San Diego issues may be different from other communities.

San Diego has been a...

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Housing expert Chuck Edson knew just the moment when affordable housing would become a national issue — when people had to move in with their mother-in-law. Now it’s happening, as affordability has moved from the margins to the mainstream due to the lack of supply in many parts of the country.

Edson, a Georgetown Law lecturer and retired housing attorney, knows housing law inside and out from his decades of legal work and public se...

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For Mayra Collazo, dance and the arts are vital for any culture. A lifelong performer and now professor of dance in Puerto Rico, she wants to expand opportunities for people to experience the arts. Her goal is a museum of dance history in Puerto Rico to teach and spread the cultural breadth of dance.

As a professor at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, she shares her experiences dancing for multiple companies and performing wor...

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Robert Embry has been a change agent in Baltimore, playing a pivotal role in shaping the area’s housing policy as Commissioner of the Department of Housing and Community Development for Baltimore and as Assistant Secretary of HUD during the Carter administration.

In this podcast, he discusses controversies and successes in his native Baltimore and how to address wider housing issues, such as what housing policies must do to improve...

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The future of housing must change, according to Conrad Egan. With 20 years of service to HUD and ongoing work with housing agencies in Northern Virginia, he points to communities that are embracing greater density to provide more housing at lower costs.

In particular, he urges millennials to take power with local governments and push back against resistance to new approaches and an outdated affinity for the single-family home. Egan...

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Kent Colton is a sought-after voice in housing policy. As president of the Colton Housing Group and senior research fellow at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, he has a sweeping knowledge of the long effort to ensure all Americans have adequate and fair housing. Learn about the Ivory Prize and many of the innovations in affordable housing currently coming to fruition.

In this episode he dives into the policy of the hous...

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Transportation policy is a path to understanding how U.S. cities were built and their role in shaping people’s lives. Emil Frankel has a distinguished career, serving as Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and now works an independent consultant.

In this podcast he weaves the history of rail and auto transit, and their influence on where cities sprung up and the downstream effects...

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February 26, 2020 37 min

Joe Schiff has been at the highest levels of HUD, responsible for housing millions of families and a continual voice for reforming the system. He deep dives into what is and isn’t working in public housing. He urges agencies to ‘take off the blinders’ and realize that excessive bureaucracy, duplication, and paperwork stifle efforts to help more people get housing.

Now the CEO of The Schiff Group, he consults for public housing auth...

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Joe Ventrone believes that HUD and federal housing policy need a radical realignment. After over 40 years of industry experience in the private sector, Congress, HUD, and federal agencies, he believes housing policy is in a ‘sorry state of affairs.’

He says HUD has outlived its usefulness in some ways, with too many policies dictates instead of flexibility for states and local officials to make their own decisions. Policy makers mu...

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William Gilmartin has led a life committed to public service. He spent over 44 years in Washington with the Army, Congressional offices, and reaching the level of Assistant Secretary of Congress and Intergovernmental Relations for HUD under President Clinton.

He recounts the leaders who worked across the aisle to strengthen HUD and make every effort to help families with affordable housing. Over time he’s seen housing drop off the ...

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