Rick Gentry


One Size Doesn't Fit All

Ep. 21 - Richard C. "Rick" Gentry Rick feels that local governments often know best when it comes to housing solutions for their community, especially in helping families both find, and often keep, their housing.

Top Takeaways:

    • The meaning of policy and how it should relate to the real world
    • How flexibility can be used to allow local decision-makers to adapt programs to local needs
    • How to address the issue of homelessness properly
    • The shortcomings of the public housing that makes it a failed business model

Listen to why Community TrailBlazer Rick Gentry says flexibility, and understanding that one size doesn't fit all, are key to building housing crisis solutions.

"Policy comes out of practice and what is good policy should be what makes us in the real world and not just in theory but in practicality."


Rick's career in affordable housing and community redevelopment spans 46 years. He began his career at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1972 and has held CEO positions at the Austin (Texas) and Richmond (Va.) housing authorities. Mr. Gentry was also the Vice President for Public Housing Initiatives at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Washington, D.C. Before coming to San Diego, Mr. Gentry was Senior Vice President of Asset Management for the National Equity Fund in Chicago, IL, the nation's largest nonprofit Low-Income Housing Tax Credit syndicator. At National Equity Fund, Mr. Gentry managed portfolio investments consisting of approximately 1,600 properties, containing 100,000 units and representing a gross equity investment of $7 billion. He is currently on the Board of Housing Development Partners.

Under Rick's leadership, SDHC on July 1, 2010, became one of the first public housing agencies in the nation to receive HUD approval to also use its federal rental housing voucher funding to provide long-term housing for chronically homeless individuals. As a leading partner in addressing homelessness in the city of San Diego, SDHC developed HOUSING FIRST - SAN DIEGO, SDHC's Homelessness Action Plan. Programs in the first three years of this plan provided housing for close to 3,000 formerly homeless San Diegans. New programs in the next three fiscal years will create permanent housing opportunities for at least an additional 3,000 homeless individuals and families.

Rick is an academy member featured in the Community TrailBlazers Podcast who has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego Housing Commission since September 19, 2008. With more than 300 employees and an annual operating revenue budget of $268.1 million, SDHC serves low-income residents in the city of San Diego-the eighth largest city in the nation and second largest city in California. 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 model for tackling homelessness with programs that focus finding housing as quickly as possible and intervening to keep others from being evicted.

Listen to hear why Rick believes that flexibility is the only way to make sure that housing programs adapt to the local needs rather than being uniform across the country.

Key Moments

He talks about his role in affordable housing which has been a very long enjoyable career [2:52]
He describes what policy means to him as a practitioner [4:15]
How the 1974 housing act paved the way for many programs that changed the policy from an 'all programs fit all' to programs that fit local circumstances [5:47]
Why flexibility has to be accountability- making sure things can be done when they are said they should be done [7:56]
He explains the solutions he has put in place to provide housing to homeless people the right way [9:13]
He explains where they get the money and utilize the available resources to build permanent housing for the homeless [14:49]
The three things they have targeted in San Diego that he believes will shape his legacy [21:26]
He describes his role in the tax credit sector, what it entailed, and the investors he worked closely with [23:55]
Why he believes that public housing is a failed business model and has been for decades and why the programs San Diego has done were successful [26:53]
Why HUD needs to be modernized and more flexible but also take out the bad performing agencies much quicker than it does now [33:53]


San Diego Housing Commission
San Diego Housing Commission's Leadership Team
San Diego Union Tribune Article on Homelessness
Voice of San Diego
San Diego Chamber
Board of Housing Development Partners
SDHC's Homeless Plan


Joe Schuldiner
Norm McLoughlin
Joe Schiff


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