Robert Embry


Leading Change in Baltimore

Ep. 18 - Robert C. Embry Jr. discusses controversies and successes in his native Baltimore and how to address wider housing issues, such as what housing policies must do to improve quality of life and create strategies that build a sustainable community.

Top Takeaways:

    • The contribution of the urban policies in transforming public housing over the years
    • Why it is important to move people voluntarily
    • The challenge of dealing with different federal administrations who have different views on the housing sector
    • Why the political class needs to show interest in urban housing issues for some of these policies to work

Hear why some of his work to help families change neighborhoods drew controversy and what the future holds for driving upward mobility.

"It's a noble calling to be able to work for the government. Also, one of the best ways one could spend their life."

Bob wanted to go into the foreign service but the changed his mind when in Harvard Law and wanted to go back home to Baltimore. Robert Embry has been a leading change agent in Baltimore, playing a pivotal role in shaping the area's housing policy. He won a seat on the City Council, then-Mayor Thomas D'Alessandro III recruited him to run the newly created Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development. He continued the role into the William Donald Schaefer administration as the driving force in the development of Charles Center, Harborplace, the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the City Fair, the convention center, and the subway system.

He was responsible for the dollar-house program and Baltimore's move away from high-rise public housing for families. Bob Embry worked in urban development and was appointed as Assistant Secretary of HUD during the Carter administration. He created HUD's Urban Development Action Grant Program. He then became president of the Abell Foundation which is focused on reducing racial inequities. They provide grants to non-profits and invest part of their assets in Baltimore companies.

Listen to learn how urban policies have changed the public housing sector in the last 50 years and how Robert contributed to the changes. You'll also hear the challenges of implementing policies that were meant for equality that existed back then and still do today.

Key Moments:

He shares his journey in the public housing sector which started after law school [2:48]

Why the Abell foundation was formed and what it does 4:22

The efforts of the urban policies he has worked on to change public housing for the last 50 years 6:02

The factors to consider when moving people even when it's voluntary 12:26

He describes some projects he considers his success story [13:36]

The challenges he faced when implementing the urban policies, he came up with 14:26

The lack of attention on the issue of deconcentrating the cities by the political force today 16:50

He talks about the transportation status in Baltimore 17:58

How the vehicles for change program and organization work 20:26

He explains what the dollar-house program entailed and why it ended 22:07

What advice would he give to young people who would like to work for the government 24:18

Abell Foundation

Baltimore Magazine Article

Baltimore Sun on Abell Foundation

Maryland Daily Record Robert Embry

HUD PD&R Evaluation of UDAG

Leave a Comment to Join the Discussion!

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top