Speaker Bios

Our Speakers

Following are biographies for speakers at the Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy.

Luís Bettencourt 

Director | Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation at University of Chicago

Luís M. A. Bettencourt is the Inaugural Director of the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, as well as an External Professor of Complex Systems at the Santa Fe Institute. He was trained as a theoretical physicist and obtained his undergraduate degree from Instituto Superior Técnico and his PhD from Imperial College, University of London for research in statistical and high-energy physics models of the early universe.  He has held postdoctoral positions at the University of Heidelberg, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and at MIT’s Center for Theoretical Physics. He has worked extensively on complex systems theory and on cities and urbanization, in particular. His research emphasizes the creation of new interdisciplinary synthesis to describe cities in quantitative and predictive ways, informed by classical theory from various disciplines and the growing availability of empirical data worldwide.

Robert Chaskin

McCormick Foundation Professor, Faculty Director of the Kiphart Center for Global Health and Social Development | University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice  

Robert Chaskin is the McCormick Foundation Professor and Faculty Director of the Kiphart Center for Global Health and Social Development at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, where he holds the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Urbanism. He has written widely on the topics of neighborhood intervention, community capacity building, public housing reform, urban youth, and the dynamics of participatory planning and neighborhood governance. He is currently completing research on slum clearance and social housing policy in Mumbai, India, with colleagues from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and has recently embarked on work focused on urbanization and migration in China with colleagues at the University of Chicago, Peking University, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University. 

Dunni T. Cosey Gay

Director | The Preservation Compact

Dunni T. Cosey Gay is an experienced nonprofit leader, having led strategic communications and policy work in various governmental and non-governmental organizations focused on housing, small business growth, and economic and workforce development. 

As director of the Preservation Compact, a policy collaborative focused on preserving affordable rental housing, Dunni convenes a diverse group of stakeholders to develop, build support for, and implement policies and programs related to preserving affordable rental housing in the Chicago region. Housed at Community Investment Corporation, a nonprofit multifamily lender, Dunni brings together government, for-profit, and nonprofit developers, lenders, civic groups, and community groups to drive preservation strategies. 

Nat Decker

Research Economist | Fannie Mae

Nat Decker is a research economist at Fannie Mae in the Economic & Strategic Research Group. His work focuses on low-cost market rate housing, single-family rentals, and small & mid-sized rental property owners. Prior to Fannie Mae, Nat worked at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at University of California, Berkeley. He was also a senior associate at Forsyth Street Advisors, an advisory and asset management firm based in New York focused on affordable housing, real estate, and municipal and impact investment. Nat received his PhD in Urban Planning from UC Berkeley, his master’s in Urban Planning from Cornell University, and his BA from Oberlin College. 

Brian Falk

Executive Director | Center for Applied Transect Studies

Brian Falk is executive director of the Center for Applied Transect Studies and leads the Project for Lean Urbanism. He is co-editor of Transect Urbanism, the definitive reference on the rural-to-urban Transect, and cowrote the Pink Zone Manual and other “Lean Urbanism” tools. He lectures internationally on the Transect and Lean Urbanism, and offers technical assistance to municipalities that recognize the value of small-scale economic development and want to create “Pink Zones” to enable it in their communities. 

Doug Farr

Founder/Principal | Farr Associates

Doug Farr is a nationally recognized architect, urbanist, and author. He leads Chicago-based Farr Associates, a pioneering sustainability-driven architecture and urban design firm that plans and designs lovable, aspirational buildings and places. The firm was recognized by the New York Times as “the most prominent of the city’s growing cadre of ecologically sensitive architects,” and Doug was deemed one of Planetizen’s 100 Most Influential Urbanists of All Time. Doug co-chaired the development of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND) and is the author of Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature and Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future. Doug recently founded the Climate Action Museum, whose mission is to activate a tipping point on climate mitigation in the Chicago region through education, stimulating critical thought, and to inspire and facilitate direct action in our everyday lives. 

Susan Henderson

Founding Principal | PlaceMakers, LLC 

Susan Henderson is an architect and one of the founders of PlaceMakers, LLC, an award-winning urban design practice focusing on inclusive social and economic opportunity, public health and wellness, and robust community engagement. PlaceMakers helps local governments align growth and development with community vision. Much of Susan’s work is in the realm of coding, focusing on removing the barriers to equity and affordability that are embedded in zoning ordinances. Housing is central to this work, and in most cases, the largest hurdle to cross in zoning reform. PlaceMakers was recently awarded the State of Washington’s Governor’s 2022 Smart Communities Award for the Langley Multi-family Infill Form Based Code. Susan currently serves as chair of the board of the Congress for the New Urbanism. 

Mark Martin

CEO | Build Urban Prosperity (Build UP) 

Mark Martin returned home to Alabama in 2017 to launch Build Urban Prosperity. Build UP, featured on NBC’s “TODAY Show” and awarded the 2022 Ivory Prize in Affordable Housing Innovation, is the nation’s first workforce development high school comprehensively addressing poverty and urban blight by empowering youth to become educated, career-ready homeowners and contributing citizens. Prior to Build UP, Mark graduated from Harvard’s Doctor of Education Leadership program, where he worked with Jobs for the Future and states nationwide on education-to-career transitions and workforce readiness. Mark previously co-founded two successful charter schools in Louisiana and graduated with a bachelor of science in finance from the University of Alabama and an MBA from the University of Georgia. Mark and his wife have two children. 

Ward Miller

Executive Director | Preservation Chicago

Ward Miller has served as the executive director of Preservation Chicago since 2013. During this time, he has led dozens of successful advocacy efforts to protect Chicago’s built environment. Miller has advocated for the preservation of Chicago’s historic buildings for over 30 years. He curated and published The Complete Architecture of Adler & Sullivan. He spent two decades on the issues committee for Landmarks Illinois and served as vice president of Logan Square Preservation for 15 years. His early advocacy efforts include working with the City Club of Chicago to save the Chicago Theatre, the Page Brothers Building, and several buildings on Block 37. Prior to his focus on advocacy, Miller served as the architect for many restoration projects, including Holy Family Church, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Heller House, and the grand staircase at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dan Parolek

Founding Principal | Opticos

Dan Parolek is an architect, urban designer, and the founding principal of Opticos Design, which has grown into a nationally sought-after company of thought leaders in urban placemaking, innovative housing design and policy, and zoning reform. He has been featured in many high-profile publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NextCity, and Professional Builder. Dan coined the term Missing Middle Housing and is a champion of the now-international Missing Middle Housing movement. He recently presented on the topic at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Dan also co-authored the book Form Based Codes, which Planetizen called “one of the top planning books of 2007” and co-founded the non-profit think tank the Form-Based Code Institute. Under his leadership, Opticos Design has received the American Planning Association’s Burnham Prize, the Congress for the New Urbanism’s Charter Award Grand Prize, and Golden Nugget Awards. Prior to founding Opticos Design, Dan worked with Robert A.M. Stern in New York City on a broad range of projects, including a professional baseball stadium and homes for Michael Eisner and Jon Bon Jovi. He holds a bachelor of architecture from the University of Notre Dame and a master of urban design from the University of California, Berkeley.

Kurt Paulsen

Professor of Urban Planning | University of Wisconsin – Madison

Kurt Paulsen is a professor of urban planning at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His teaching and research focus on housing policy, affordable housing, land use, and municipal finance. In addition to his published academic research, he has authored a number of housing needs analyses, consults with city and county housing agencies around the state, and has chaired his city’s housing committee. In 2019, he authored a report “Falling Behind” which examined Wisconsin’s housing gaps for workforce and affordable housing. 

Erika Poethig 

Former Special Assistant to the President for Housing and Urban Policy | White House Domestic Policy Council 

In her former capacity in the White House Domestic Policy Council, Erika Poethig lead interagency policy development on the housing and community development components of the President’s Build Back Agenda. Prior to joining the Biden-Harris administration, she served as vice president and chief innovation officer at the Urban Institute, where she created and led the Research to Action Lab. Before that, Poethig was acting assistant secretary for policy, development, and research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During her tenure in the Obama administration, she was also deputy assistant secretary for policy development and was a leading architect of the White House Council for Strong Cities and Strong Communities. Prior to that, she was associate director for housing at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and assistant commissioner for policy, resource, and program development at the City of Chicago’s Department of Housing, where she developed Mayor Richard M. Daley’s campaign to combat predatory lending, prevent foreclosures, and stabilize communities. She’s also been associate project director of the Metropolis Project, which produced the Metropolis 2020 agenda for regional leadership around the major issues faced by metropolitan Chicago. Poethig graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the College of Wooster, was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Vienna, and earned a master’s of arts with honors in public policy from the University of Chicago. 

Carlos Robles Shanahan

Co-founder/Director | Duo Development

Carlos Robles Shanahan is the co-founder and director of Duo. An innovation studio that works to create built environment innovations for the benefit of society, Duo partners with organizations of all types through design, strategy, and innovation services, and by launching ethical real estate development and related ventures. Duo’s multicontextual design approach investigates and activates knowledge, wisdom, and beauty across a generative and evaluative process that explores Norm/Form-making. Their studio applies the lenses of economics, ecology, technology, culture, and ethics to enrich their practice and ensure that their innovations provide a societal benefit. Prior to Duo, Carlos worked as a strategy consultant for the Monitor Institute by Deloitte, as a researcher at the University of Michigan, and as a Chicago Public School teacher. His work spans the development and implementation of initiatives related to organizational strategy, education, immigration, economic development, and urbanization. Carlos earned a master’s in public policy from the University of Michigan, a bachelor of arts and science degree from Loyola University Chicago, and an associate’s degree from Harper College.

Rafael Robles

Rafael Robles

Co-founder/Director | Duo Development

Rafael Robles is the co-founder and director of Duo. An innovation studio that works to create built environment innovations for the benefit of society, Duo partners with organizations of all types through design, strategy, and innovation services, and by launching ethical real estate development and related ventures. Duo’s multicontextual design approach investigates and activates knowledge, wisdom, and beauty across a generative and evaluative process that explores Norm/Form-making. Their studio applies the lenses of economics, ecology, technology, culture, and ethics to enrich their practice and ensure that their innovations provide a societal benefit. Prior to Duo, Rafa’s work spanned design and innovation at Doblin (a Deloitte business), real estate development at Ranquist Development Group, and architecture at Studio Gang Architects. Since 2011, Rafa has produced numerous projects ranging from research to implementation across contexts and scales. His diverse body of work spans and crosses the boundaries of innovation, design, and business strategy, real estate development, urban planning, building and spatial design, digital ecosystems, visual and graphics, user experiences, and service design.

Gary Scott

Gary Scott

Board Member | Congress for the New Urbanism

Gary is the chapter board representative for the board of directors of the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and is a senior project manager in suburban paratransit operations at Pace Suburban Bus in Chicago. He is a fervent advocate of supporting CNU’s mission at the local, state, national, and international level. He is also a co-founder and advisor of the Emerging New Urbanists (ENU.org) and was named as one of Mass Transit Magazine’s “40 under 40” leaders. Gary holds a master of public administration with a concentration in metropolitan planning and urban affairs from DePaul University and is a Chaddick Scholar with the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and holds a bachelor of arts from Michigan State University.

Jenny Schuetz

Senior Fellow | Brookings Metro

Jenny Schuetz is a Senior Fellow at Brookings Metro and the author of the recent book, Fixer Upper: How to Repair America’s Broken Housing Systems. Her recent research explores how statewide zoning reform could improve housing affordability and the ways that climate change may affect people’s housing decisions. Prior to joining Brookings, Jenny worked at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and taught at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in Georgetown University’s urban planning program.

Jennifer Settle

Senior Associate | Opticos Design, Inc.

Jennifer Settle leads the newly-established Chicago office of Opticos Design and brings over 15 years of experience in transforming the built environment to enhance people’s everyday lives. She has led numerous community design charrettes and played a critical role in neighborhood, city, and regional master planning projects. These visions formed the basis for innovative comprehensive and zoning plan overhauls, as well as the future build-out of important development sites. Jennifer advocates for intentional communities and neighborhoods that provide diverse housing choices, closely collaborating with cities to better calibrate their regulations to enable missing middle housing. She recently led the zoning code update for the City of South Bend, winner of the 2021 Richard Driehaus Form-Based Code Award, and created a set of pre-approved buildings to help implement infill housing. 

Anthony E. Simpkins

President and Chief Executive Officer | Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago

Anthony Simpkins is a leader in Chicago’s affordable housing community and has held multiple roles serving the City of Chicago. As managing deputy commissioner of the Department of Housing, he administered housing and community development policies, programs, and strategic investments. He has also served as a judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and as deputy commissioner for the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), focusing on asset management, intergovernmental affairs, housing preservation initiatives, and economic development policy. While at DPD, he helped to develop and administer many groundbreaking programs focused on revitalizing struggling communities, including the Troubled Buildings Initiative and the Micro-Markets Recovery program. Anthony began his legal career as a Skadden Foundation fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago and Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, where he represented renters who were victims of illegal evictions called “lockouts.” Anthony is currently chair of the Steering Committee for the Homeownership Alliance, an initiative from the National Community Stabilization Trust, which advocates for more resources and better policies to promote affordable homeownership opportunities for American families. 

Kyle Smith

Director of Housing and Community Development | Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

Kyle Smith joined the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus in December 2017 and directs its Housing + Community Development Program. He helps elected officials and municipalities collaborate on shared policy goals in housing and community development, diversity, and aging in place. His program encourages regional collaboration through interjurisdictional committees and technical assistance partnerships, which include the Homes for a Changing Region and Aging in a Changing Region programs. Before joining Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Kyle led a program at the Center for Neighborhood Technology to help neighborhoods add affordable housing in equitable transit-oriented developments. Kyle has degrees from Oberlin College and the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a past chair of the Illinois state chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism, and was recognized as a Young Visionary by the Urban Land Institute Chicago in 2015.

Rhea Stephen

Senior Director of Market Analytics for Chicago | CoStar Group, Inc. 

As CoStar’s Senior Director of Market Analytics for Chicago, Rhea Stephen oversees the production of all analytic content for Chicago’s commercial real estate (CRE) market, including the overall market and submarket-level reports, analytic updates, new stories, and digital content. Prior to her role at CoStar, Rhea was the director of research for Bradford Allen, a mid-sized firm specializing in office and industrial landlord and tenant representation, asset management, investment, and capital lending. However, her CRE roots were first planted in multifamily housing back in 1997, as a leasing manager for 300 units along the northern portions of Chicago’s Red and Brown ‘L’ mass transit lines. Rhea saw first-hand in this role how naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) is prevalent in Chicago, yet not easily culled from the overall multifamily market sample. With that said, there are some simple ways to slice out small, private owners from the investment pie dominated by large, institutional sponsors. 

Emily Talen

Professor of Urbanism | University of Chicago

As Professor of Urbanism at the University of Chicago, Emily Talen’s research is devoted to urban design and urbanism, especially the relationship between the built environment and social equity. Her books include New Urbanism and American Planning, Design for Social Diversity, Urban Design Reclaimed, City Rules, and Neighborhood. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Her forthcoming book is called City Plans. 

Ryan Terry

Founder & Managing Partner | R + T Studio

Ryan Terry is a real estate developer, urban designer, speaker, and consultant practicing in central Texas. Ryan is the founder and managing partner of R + T Studio, a Texas-based development and consulting firm specializing in small market urban infill and revitalization. He also serves as a faculty member and chairman of the board for the Incremental Development Alliance, teaching small-scale real estate development to individuals and cities throughout the country. Ryan is a former Marine Corps infantry officer and management consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton. He believes that cities and towns exist to make our lives better, and that they should be designed to provide an environment in which human beings can flourish and thrive. His practice aims for the recovery of good human communities through the renewal of our neighborhoods and public places, and his areas of expertise include urban design, land use and development policy, and economic and community development. Ryan holds a master’s of public service and administration degree with a concentration in urban policy, development, and design from the George Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M, as well as a bachelor’s in philosophy and classical culture from the University of Georgia.

Jake Wegmann

Associate Professor | University of Texas Austin School of Architecture

Jake Wegmann is an associate professor at the University of Texas, Austin’s School of Architecture in the Community and Regional Planning program, which he joined in 2014. His research primarily focuses on housing affordability and its intersections with land use regulation and real estate development. He teaches courses on real estate project economics, real estate development, quantitative methods, survey methods, research design, career development in academia, and urban politics. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to entering academia, he worked in for-profit and nonprofit affordable housing development in Denver and San Francisco.

Stacie Young

President & CEO | Community Investment Corporation 

Stacie Young is President and CEO of Community Investment Corporation (CIC), a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) lender which finances affordable rentals in Chicago. Capitalized by over 40 banks, CIC has provided $1.6 billion to preserve 67,000 affordable units since 1984. Prior to her role as CEO, Young led the Preservation Compact, a policy collaborative that created groundbreaking state property tax incentive legislation for affordable rentals; a $34 million mezzanine debt fund to incentivize affordability in high-cost markets; an intergovernmental group to preserve 6,200 units; and a $48 million pool to preserve 1-4 unit buildings. Young also worked for the City of Chicago’s Office of the Mayor and Diversity Inc., a fair housing organization. She completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University and received her master’s degree from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.