Robert Elliott


Race Relations Is Our Biggest Problem

Ep. 26 - Robert (Bob) Elliott has held significant roles in many of the critical decisions that shaped housing policy, particularly those that affected race relations, including the Gautreaux decision.

Top Takeaways:

    • The need for implementation of existing programs in the affordable housing sector
    • The challenge of inspiring government employees to perform better and make a change
    • The negative effects of racial discrimination in the affordable housing sector
    • The importance of formulating morals and values in kids as a solution for racial discrimination

Listen to get an authoritative history on public housing and find out his prescription for what agencies must do in race relations and affordable housing to be more effective going forward.

"People really do have to try to do something that they enjoy and that's meaningful to them."

He began to practice law in 1967 and two years later became the outside counsel for the creation of Freddie Mac. He then joined two other people, Tom Bomar and Bill Popejoy, in operating Freddie Mac when it first became operational. They had help from employees of the twelve Federal Home Loan Banks. He worked on that until 1972 when he was asked to be Deputy General Counsel of HUD, a time he described as some of his most satisfying professionally. One of the major projects he was involved in was the Gautreaux decision in Chicago which he settled toward the end of the Ford Administration while he was General Counsel. The Gautreaux decision prohibited the Chicago Housing Authority from constructing any new public housing in areas of the city that were predominantly African-American unless CHA also built public housing elsewhere.

Bob tells the story of a key Supreme Court decision that helped desegregate public housing in Chicago, which was notorious for housing discrimination. The Gautreaux public housing desegregation lawsuit helped to change the face of public housing in Chicago, reform national public housing law and policy, and inspire some of the nation's most innovative housing programs.

He also shares his accomplishments in successful community development programs.  He later went on to found his own law firm, Elliott and Sugarman, in 1981 which is still practicing.

Listen to the background of how the Chicago Gautreaux decision came about.

Key Moments:

He talks about his time at HUD as the general counsel and his accomplishments [2:55]

The importance of implementation of new and existing programs [8:05]

He talks about racial and housing discrimination [10:00]

The challenges he has faced while working for the government trying to inspire employees to do something and make a change [20:02]

He tells stories of the some of the Secretaries of HUD he worked with [22:15]

He describes his legacy as launching successful community programs [24:08]

The challenge of racial discrimination: how it was, how it still is, and why it affects the affordable housing sector [26:35]

The importance of having great leaders and the formulation of values as a solution to racial relations [29:07]

The importance of doing what you love and enjoy accomplishing fulfillment [30:49]

Relevant Links:

Testimony re New Orleans Housing

Effect of the Gautreaux Decision

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