This is an archive of all Community Trailblazers content. It provides a historical perspective on the creation of housing and communities.

The Oral History of Housing and Communities

In the Community TrailBlazers Podcast, we are featuring Fellows of the American Academy of Housing and Communities who have had a major impact on world affairs, federal policy, and the development of community culture through courageous action to bring about change. Most have lived through many Presidents, many generations, and many changes. We capture their thoughts on the last 50 years of public policy and discuss what the future may hold.

Kent Watkins founded this honorary society, consisting of the top national and international thought leaders and implementers in the field of urbanism. These include heads of federal agencies and their senior staffs, as well as urbanist leaders in social welfare, health, education, culinary arts, art and poetry, transportation, climate and others who have made an impact on the culture of the areas we live in.  All are considered peers and have achieved success in some unique way. Referred to as the Academy Series, Nan McKay spotlights these trailblazers.

Joe Schiff

Banish the Blinders Ep. 14 - Joe Schiff, President of The Schiff Group which specializes in consulting with housing authorities on their problems and opportunities urges agencies to 'take off the blinders' and realize that excessive bureaucracy, duplication, and paperwork stifle efforts to help more people get housing. Why housing ...
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Conrad Egan

Millennials! Power Up at the Local Level! Ep. 17 - Conrad Egan, directly involved in affordable housing for many years,  says, "The future of housing must change." Conrad urges millennials to take power with local governments and push back against resistance to new approaches and an outdated affinity for the ...
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Emil Frankel

Transportation Links to Urbanism Ep. 15 - Emil H. Frankel weaves the history of rail and auto transit, and their influence on where cities sprung up and the downstream effects on how and where people lived. They were not always positive, as some housing projects warehoused families with little to ...
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William Gilmartin

Bridging A Partisan Divide Ep. 12 - Bill Gilmartin recounts the leaders who worked across the aisle to strengthen HUD and make every effort to help families with affordable housing. Over time, he has seen housing drop off the Congressional radar, lost in a dark cloud of partisanship that only ...
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Rod Solomon

Creating Laws for Affordable Housing Ep. 35 - Rod Solomon emphasizes that both tragedies-the pandemic and the shocking events so starkly highlighting racial injustice-are cause for redoubling our efforts on many fronts, including achieving basic adequacy of housing-related assistance. How the Congress may be persuaded to make the Rental Assistance ...
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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. The contribution of the ...
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Mayra Collazo

Devoted to Dance Ep. 19 - Mayra Collazo lives in Puerto Rico but travels through many countries like Italy, Spain, and the United States learning the history and culture of dance. She is passionate about expanding the dance culture into Puerto Rico. The value of a formal education that could ...
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Jim Hindman

Building Business Around Helping Others Ep. 34 - W. James Hindman, referred to as Jim, has exhibited a unique combination of entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, and educational commitment throughout his varied professional career and has been recognized as a  a life-long Heartrepreneur®. He had made his first million by age 35 ...
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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. The meaning of policy and how it should relate to ...
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Charles Edson

Founder of Affordable Housing Organizations Housing expert Charles (Chuck) Edson knew just the moment when affordable housing would become a national issue - when people had to move in with their mother-in-law. Now it is happening, as affordability has moved from the margins to the mainstream due to the lack ...
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Art Hessel

Changing Times in Housing Development Ep. 33 - Art Hessel shares his career in the housing sector both working for the government and representing clients as an attorney and how housing development has changed over time. You will also hear important tips that you need to keep in mind when ...
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Larry Pearl

The Real History of Fair Housing Ep. 22 - Larry Pearl offers a first-hand account of how HUD battled discrimination, was forced to adapt to evolving political views, and at times struggled to achieve its mission. Practicing civil rights and fighting for equal opportunity housing The rampant discrimination in the ...
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Sharon Wilson Geno

Marrying Healthcare and Housing Ep. 23 - Sharon Wilson Geno's passion is to link housing and healthcare. From a "people" point of view, both are needed but aren't always linked together in federal policy. The changing of the housing policy brought about by the emergence of the private sector Working ...
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Harry Finger

The 'Rocket Man' For Housing Ep. 24 - Harry Finger started his career as an American aeronautical nuclear engineer. He is the former head of the United States Nuclear Rocket Program So how did he get to HUD and what did he do there? This over-90-year-old did it all! How ...
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