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


Emily Bloom-Carlin
Senior Program Officer | The Preservation Compact

Emily Bloom-Carlin is the Senior Program Officer at The Preservation Compact, a policy collaborative focused on preserving affordable rental housing. Housed at Community Investment Corporation (CIC)—a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) lender—the Compact brings together government, for- and non-profit developers, lenders, civic groups, and community groups to drive preservation strategies. A substantial focus of Emily’s work at the Compact is developing policies, tools, and incentives for preserving small and medium-sized un-subsidized affordable properties. Emily’s current portfolio also includes projects related to property tax policy, equitable pandemic recovery, and accessory dwelling units. Prior to joining the Compact in 2017, Emily worked with the Housing Justice team at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and at Metro Housing Boston.

Sara Bronin
Professor | Cornell University College of Architecture Art & Planning & Law School

Sara Bronin is a Mexican-American architect and attorney whose interdisciplinary research focuses on how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places. Among other current projects, Bronin has initiated the National Zoning Atlas project, based on the groundbreaking Connecticut Zoning Atlas, the first interactive GIS map of all of the zoning regulations in a single state. In 2020, she founded DesegregateCT, a pro-homes grassroots coalition that successfully advanced the first major statewide zoning reforms in several decades. Previously, she led Hartford’s nationally-recognized efforts to adopt a climate action plan and city plan, and to overhaul the zoning code. Her forthcoming book, Key to the City (W.W. Norton Press), will explore how zoning rules rule our lives.

Katherine Darnstadt, AIA
Founding Principal | Latent Design

Katherine Darnstadt is an architect and founder of Latent Design, an award winning urban design practice at the intersection of architecture and community development creating social, economic, and environmental impact beyond the building. Leveraging design as a tool to make the invisible forces impacting a project visible through architecture, the firm’s collaborations range from small-scale tactical interventions, new construction community buildings, adaptive reuse, neighborhood master plans and design speculations throughout the midwest. She has been featured and published nationally as an American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award, Crain’s Chicago 40 Under 40, Venice Biennale and previously taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University.

Janne Flisrand
Co-Founder | Neighbors for More Neighbors, Minneapolis

Janne Flisrand has a special passion for the city of Minneapolis and how the way we build cities shapes people’s lives and daily choices. She became a pro-homes advocate in 1997 when kids at the after-school program she ran shared their stories of home and being pushed out. She co-founded Neighbors for More Neighbors, the group that led the grassroots support of Minneapolis’s nationally-acclaimed comprehensive plan passed in 2021. She’s focused on access to homes, reducing energy costs, and expanding transportation choices through her consulting firm. On one project, she led a statewide affordable housing initiative that changed policy to ensure all subsidized homes meet healthy, green standards. She also owner-occupies a fourplex, co-founded Our Streets Minneapolis, and recently completed four years of service on the streets.mn board.

Jacky Grimshaw
Vice President, Government Affairs | Center for Neighborhood Technology

Jacky Grimshaw joined Center for Neighborhood Technology in 1992, and has since developed its capacity to engage in public policy, advocacy, and transportation planning; transportation research; environmental justice; public participation tool development; GIS mapping; community economic development; and air quality. Jacky advocates for and provides expertise to increase transit in the Chicago region. She created and led CNT’s transportation and air quality programs and led CNT’s Transit Future campaign in the fight for mass transit reform and dedicated funding in the Chicago region. Since 2005, she has led CNT’s policy efforts at all levels of government. Jacky has served on numerous boards, including: Chicago Transit Authority, Transportation Research Board on Environmental Justice and Public Involvement Committees.

Daniel Hertz
Director of Policy, Research, and Legislative Affairs | City of Chicago Dept. of Housing

Daniel Kay Hertz serves as Director of Policy, Research, and Legislative Affairs for the Department of Housing. He has been a key driver of many of the department’s most impactful policies and programs, including the anti-deconversion ordinances for Pilsen and The 606, which were designed to reduce displacement of low- to moderate-income residents while also maintaining the existing character and housing stock. He also worked on the Inclusionary Housing Task Force process leading to the introduction of major revisions to the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance and the execution of two rounds of COVID-19 rental assistance grants, which provided nearly 10,000 households financially impacted by COVID-related shutdowns with much-needed funds. Hertz will lead a third round of assistance beginning Spring 2021. Hertz is the author of The Battle of Lincoln Park: Urban Renewal and Gentrification in Chicago.

Daniel La Spata
Alderman | 1st Ward, City of Chicago

Alderman La Spata was elected to represent Chicago’s 1st Ward in 2019, where he has used his leadership and organizing experience to fight for policies that work toward creating a more equitable and sustainable Chicago. In his capacity on City Council, Alderman La Spata most recently championed the Chicago Rescue Plan, which ultimately served as the foundation for the city’s Chicago Recovery Plan, and helped to shape many of the priorities in the 2022 City Budget. Additionally, Alderman La Spata serves on several city council committees, including the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy, through which he played an integral role as a member of City Council’s decarbonization working group. Alderman La Spata also serves on the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, where he has consistently supported expanding the city’s affordable and fair housing initiatives.

Michael Lens
Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Public Policy | UCLA

Michael Lens is an associate professor of urban planning and public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and associate faculty director of the Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies. He is an expert on poverty, socioeconomic class and equity, and housing. Lens has studied disparate outcomes resulting from inequities in housing markets and neighborhood stratification. His work specifically addresses: how housing subsidy programs facilitate access to high-opportunity neighborhoods; the causes and consequences of neighborhood crime; and housing affordability issues including eviction, land use and zoning, and segregation by income and race. He is currently writing a book on the last fifty years of neighborhood change in Black neighborhoods following the 1968 Fair Housing Act.

Diane Limas
Board Vice President | Communities United

Diane Limas is one of Communities United’s long-term leaders and a founding member of the organization. Diane has been instrumental in the involvement of CU’s housing organizing, working with other housing leaders to create policy that protects renters as well as landlords. Currently she is helping spearhead the work of preserving 2-4 flats across Chicago. She also serves on the Cook County Land bank Board of Directors Growing up extremely poor with her 11 sisters and brothers in the Humboldt Park area she witnessed the challenges of finding safe affordable housing as landlords oftentimes denied renting to such a large family. This experience stirred her passion to advocate for affordable housing. Diane has served on CU’s Board since 2000.

Matt Martin
Alderman| 47th Ward, City of Chicago

Alderman Matt Martin is serving his first term as alderman of the 47th Ward. Prior to being elected alderman, Alderman Martin worked as a civil rights lawyer at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, where he focused on important issues, including police reform, immigration, healthcare, and worker’s rights. As alderman, he believes it is critical to be independent, transparent, and willing to take on big challenges like maintaining and expanding affordability, fully funding our schools, and addressing community violence.

Taylor Nesse
Director of Zoning and Urban Development | 43rd Ward, City of Chicago

Taylor Nesse manages the 43rd Ward urban development portfolio, including business permits and procedural matters, and reviews all zoning related materials as well as business-related matters such as license applications, public right of way applications, signage requests and sidewalk cafes. He is Invested in creating and sustaining culturally, socially, economically, and linguistically diverse and equitable communities. In addition to this, He is also passionate about promoting increased citizen engagement with the planning process. Taylor has a specialization in urban analysis and development, applied urban planning and design skills, coupled with extensive global/cross-cultural experience, and multilingual abilities. He combines these skills with personal conviction to steward the built environment as a means of living intentionally.

Carlos Ramirez-Rosa
Alderman | 35th Ward, City of Chicago

Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa represents portions of Chicago’s Albany Park, Avondale, Hermosa, Irving Park and Logan Square neighborhoods as Alderman of the 35th Ward. Now in his second term, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa has fought for and won property tax relief homeowners, strengthened protections for immigrant Chicagoans, and helped pass policies that preserve and promote affordable housing. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa has spearheaded participatory planning and budgeting processes to ensure community voice and needs are prioritized in local zoning, infrastructure, and budgetary decisions. A community organizer prior to his election as 35th Ward Alderman, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa previously worked as a congressional aide for U.S. Representative Luis Gutierrez, a deportation defense organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and a local school council representative at Avondale-Logandale School. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa serves as Vice Chair of the Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus, dean of the Democratic Socialist Caucus, and is a member of the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and LGBTQ Caucus.

Roberto Requejo
Executive Director | Elevated Chicago

Roberto Requejo is an urban planner and a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practitioner. As Executive Director of Elevated Chicago, he has overseen $10M+ in resources for equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) and has co-led with Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Office the creation of Chicago’s first ETOD Policy Plan and pilot projects, including affordable housing, small businesses, public art, and grocery stores. Prior to joining Elevated, Roberto worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust, and Metropolitan Planning Council. In 2021 Roberto was included in Chicago Magazine’s “New Power 30”, a list of Chicagoans challenging the status quo and sparking systemic change.

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 serving as a Senior Project Manager in Suburban Paratransit operations at Pace Suburban Bus in Chicago, Illinois. He is a fervent advocate of CNU’s local, state, national and international presence and has served as the Chairperson of CNU Illinois since January 2019. He is also a Co-Founder and Advisor of the Emerging New Urbanists (ENU.org) and the board secretary for the Place Initiative (placeinitiative.org). Gary holds a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in metropolitan planning and urban affairs from DePaul University, is a Chaddick Scholar with the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development and holds a Bachelor’s of Arts from Michigan State University.

Jacob Seid
Senior Planner |  Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

Jacob Seid, AICP is a Senior Planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). Since 2013, Jake has led CMAP’s zoning practice. His work focuses on development ordinances throughout Chicago’s seven-county region, crafting zoning and subdivision regulations to help build more equitable and inclusive communities. For more info on Jake’s work you can listen to his recent discussion about zoning reform from GovLove, a podcast about local government. Jake serves as Past President of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-IL). He has been a member of the APA-IL Board since 2013.

Geoff Smith
Executive Director, Institute for Housing Studies | DePaul University

As Executive Director of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, Geoff Smith brings years of experience producing research on the dynamics of neighborhood housing markets and connecting that research to a broad range of housing practitioners. Under Geoff’s leadership, IHS has positioned itself as a critical resource for timely research, policy analysis, and data that inform the local and national policy debates around neighborhood stability and the preservation and production of affordable rental housing. Prior to joining IHS, Geoff was Senior Vice President of Woodstock Institute where he led Woodstock’s research examining the economic health of neighborhood housing markets and factors that threaten the financial security of economically vulnerable communities. He has co-authored research published in journals including Housing Policy Debate and Urban Affairs Review and testified on mortgage lending issues and community reinvestment policy at hearings held by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, the Federal Reserve Board, the State of Illinois Department of Professional Regulation, and the Chicago City Council.

Michele Smith
Alderman | 43rd Ward, City of Chicago

Alderman Michele Smith is serving her third term as Alderman of the 43rd Ward, which encompasses Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast and Old Town. Alderman Smith began her career in public service in the United States Attorney’s Office, prosecuting hundreds of narcotics, white-collar criminal, and political corruption cases. She next spent 16 years at Navistar International Corporation, becoming General Counsel for the Engine Group, a $2.5 Billion subsidiary. Returning to public service as Alderman in 2011, Smith’s constituent service office fulfills more than 20,000 individual residential service requests per year for the citizens of the 43rd Ward. She organized the community during the 2011 redistricting process to prevent the 43rd Ward from being split up amongst five different wards. Today, she is working with neighborhood groups and other organizations to lessen the impact of new development outside Ward 43 boundaries and to obtain much-needed park space.

Emily Talen
Professor, 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.

Steven Vance
Founder and CEO | Chicago Cityscape

Steven Vance is an urban planner who founded Chicago Cityscape, a real estate information website and consulting business. He also consults on zoning for MAP Strategies. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Urban Planning and Public Administration (CUPPA), worked at the Chicago Department of Transportation, Active Transportation Alliance, and Streetsblog Chicago. He is a member of Urban Land Institute Chicago chapter’s ADU Task Force (past), Lambda Alpha International Ely Chapter, and Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) Land Use Committee.

Jessie Wang
Fellow | Enterprise Community Partners

Jessie Wang is a Fellow at Enterprise Community Partners, where she assists in the development of a national initiative, Preservation Next. Preservation Next aims to support developers and partners nationwide in acquiring, rehabilitating, and preserving the affordable yet unsubsidized housing stock while preventing displacement of low-income residents. The national program will launch in four Enterprise markets by bringing 1) resources and tools 2) training, technical assistance, and capacity building grants, and 3) targeted capital resources to local preservation partners. Jessie’s previous professional experience includes affordable housing and community development applied research and policy advocacy in the Bay Area and Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree in Geography and Urban Planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Master’s in City Planning from the University of California, Berkeley.

Rachel Weber
Professor, Urban Planning and Policy | University of Illinois Chicago

Rachel Weber is an urban planner, political economist, and economic geographer who researches the relationship between finance and the built environment. Her focus has been on instruments (tax increment financing, auction rate securities, crowdfunding, mortgage-backed securities, tax credits) and infrastructure (school facilities, toll roads, commercial real estate). She is interested in why cities adopt certain instruments and how the use of particular methods of raising capital affects who benefits from and pays for urban infrastructures. In her work she has advanced the concept of “financialization” as shorthand for how these tools bring new politics, kinds of knowledge, and risks to bear on policy and development decisions. Rachel is also the author of From Boom to Bubble: How Finance Built the New Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Nicholas Zettel
Policy Director | 1st Ward, City of Chicago

Nicholas Zettel is Policy Director at the 1st Ward Office for the Chicago City Council, currently serving under Alderman Daniel La Spata. He works on land use policy, zoning analysis, economic development, and municipal finance policy. Prior to this role, Nicholas served as a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago Nathalie P. Voorhees Center, where he researched planned manufacturing policy, industrial redevelopment, and income inequality. During the spring 2022 quarter, Nicholas is also serving as an adjunct instructor at the DePaul University Department of Geography, where he is teaching Urban Planning.


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