Speaker Bios


Dr. Katherine O’Regan serves as Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this capacity, she leads a team of experienced social scientists and researchers who help inform both the development and implementation of policy to improve life in American communities through conducting, supporting, and sharing research, surveys, demonstrations, program evaluations, and best practices. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 28, 2014.

Prior to her appointment, Dr. O’Regan was Professor of Public Policy and Planning at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, where she has also held various administrative positions, including Associate Dean for Faculty from 2002-2004. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S. from the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she served on the faculty of the Yale School of Management for ten years prior to joining the Wagner faculty in 2000. During her academic career, she taught courses in microeconomics, poverty, program evaluation, and urban economics, and has received teaching awards from Berkeley, Yale, and NYU.

Dr. O’Regan’s research broadly focuses on low income communities and affordable housing policy. She has studied how low-income neighborhoods change, what happens to residents when they do, and what stimulates economic improvement. She has also examined the impacts of crime in urban settings and how it both shapes and is shaped by residential decisions. Her recent research includes work on a variety of affordable housing topics, from the Low Income Tax Credit and its spatial implications for residents and housing markets, to whether the presence of housing voucher households contributes to neighborhood crime rates.

Among others, she has served on the board of The Reinvestment Fund, the advisory board for NYU’s McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, and the editorial board for the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. She has been a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and the Economic Studies group at the Brookings Institution, and spent two years as an analyst at the Department of Energy’s Office of Hearing and Appeals prior to graduate school.

Lynn M. Ross, AICP serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development in the Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Appointed in May 2014, Ms. Ross now leads PD&R’s 23-member Office of Policy Development (OPD) team. OPD engages in policy development and analysis, policy-related research and data analysis, and dissemination of policy findings.

Prior to joining HUD, Ms. Ross was the Executive Director of the Terwilliger Center for Housing at the Urban Land Institute where she led research, policy and technical assistance aimed at the development of mixed-income, mixed-use communities with a full spectrum of housing affordability. Under her leadership, the center implemented an expanded mission that included establishing a new 18-member national advisory board; securing over $1M in external program support; and developing strategic partnerships across the ULI network. Ms. Ross also spearheaded a number of key research initiatives including the “America in 2013” survey examining views on housing, transportation and community as well as the Bending the Cost joint research effort with Enterprise Community Partners examining the cost drivers for affordable rental housing.

From 2007 to 2011, Ms. Ross held positions at the National Housing Conference (NHC) and the Center for Housing Policy (CHP) first as the Director of State and Local Initiatives and then as the Chief Operating Officer. Ms. Ross was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the two interrelated organizations as well as executing the education, outreach, and technical assistance strategies directed at strengthening housing policies for states and localities. Ms. Ross directed a number of initiatives including the development and launch of CHP's Housing Research and Advisory Service; the creation of the NHC’s “Solutions” state and local housing policy learning conference; designing and implementing new internal systems to improve operational efficiency and staff capacity; and cultivating and strengthening strategic partnerships with philanthropic, non-profit and private sector groups to support the work of NHC and CHP.

Ms. Ross was previously with the research unit of the American Planning Association (APA) in Chicago, IL as the manager of the Planning Advisory Service, a program providing customized planning research to over 1,200 subscribing agencies. She was the assistant program director for the annual New Directors Institute training program; served as staff liaison for APA’s diversity initiative; and also served as the assistant editor for the inaugural edition of Planning and Urban Design Standards, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2006.

Ms. Ross holds a Masters of Regional Planning from Cornell University and a B.S. in community and regional planning from Iowa State University. She is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners and was honored with the 2009 Design Achievement Award from the Iowa State University College of Design.

Panel 1: Understanding the Evidence

Lisa Davis is a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation. Her work focuses on the foundation's investments in quality housing, and on planning and land use innovations in metropolitan regions across the country. Her grant making supports integrated regional strategies and capital tools for building more equitable, sustainable regions.

Lisa joined the Ford Foundation in 2009. Earlier, she worked for more than a decade in both nonprofit and private sector organizations to improve housing and economic conditions in low-income communities. She was vice president and project executive at the New Boston Fund, a private real estate investment management firm. There, Lisa built an innovative partnership among for-profits, nonprofits, financiers, public agencies and community groups to secure entitlements for various units of housing, developments and land purchases.

Before joining the New Boston Fund, Lisa was director of development for the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation and director of housing and development for the Asian Community Development Corporation, two large, nonprofit community development corporations in Boston. In both positions, Lisa oversaw real estate, lending and community development departments and organized coalitions of neighborhood residents to change public policy to become more responsive to community needs.

Lisa holds master's degrees in real estate development and city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While at M.I.T., Lisa was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar and Graduate Writing Fellow. Her bachelor’s degree is from the University of Texas, Austin.

Stephen Seidel serves as Senior Director of Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Program Design and Implementation department. In this role, Stephen and his team support the development, implementation and evaluation of programs and initiatives designed to help achieve Habitat for Humanity International’s 5-year strategic plan. Stephen joined Habitat for Humanity International in 2004, after serving as the Executive Director of Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, one of the largest Habitat programs in the United States, for more than 15 years. In addition, Stephen serves as a member of the Local Advisory Council of Twin Cities LISC, served as chair of Habitat Minnesota, and chair of the Steering Committee of the Housing Minnesota Campaign. Stephen also served as a member of the Twin Cities United Way’s Housing Connections Initiative and of the St. Paul Housing Action Plan Task Force; and he previously served as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the Home Ownership Center of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and as Vice-Chair of the Minnesota Housing Partnership.

Michael Spotts is a Senior Analyst, Project Manager for Enterprise Community Partners. He joined the Public Policy team in August 2009. In his position at Enterprise, he conducts research and analysis of affordable housing and community development policies, and manages Enterprise’s federal transit-oriented development policy activities. He serves as Vice-Chair of the Arlington County (VA) Affordable Housing Study working group, a member of the County’s Community Development Citizen’s Advisory Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

Michael graduated with a Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior experience in the community development field includes work with the Housing Assistance Council, Sustainable Pittsburgh, Allegheny County (PA) Economic Development, and the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Michael graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dickinson College in 2006, and received a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Community and Economic Development from the Pennsylvania State University in 2008.

Max Weselcouch is the Director of the Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy at the NYU Furman Center where she leads research and analysis on affordable housing policies and programs targeted to policymakers. Max previously served as a Data Manager and Research Analyst at the Furman Center during which time she helped to build the Subsidized Housing Information Project (SHIP) Database, researched the causes and consequences of the foreclosure crisis, and served on the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team’s housing group. Prior to joining the Furman Center, she was a research assistant at Regional Economic Studies Institute of Towson University, where she devoted most of her time to studying welfare and subsidized childcare expenses in Maryland. Max holds an Masters of Urban Planning from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and received a B.A. with honors in Mathematics and Dance from Goucher College. She also spent a year studying biostatistics at John Hopkins University as a mental health trainee sponsored by the National Institute on Mental Health.

Jonathan Woetzel is a senior partner of McKinsey & Company. He is a Director of the McKinsey Global Institute and is the global leader of its Cities Special Initiative. He co-chairs the Urban China Initiative, a research collaboration with Tsinghua and Columbia University. He has also led McKinsey’s Energy and Materials practice in Asia and its Corporate Finance practice in China. As McKinsey’s leader in developing its China practice, Dr. Woetzel opened the Shanghai location in 1995 and has been resident since then. He has also worked in the Hong Kong, Los Angeles, New York, and Zurich offices.

Dr. Woetzel has extensive experience in developing strategies and organizations for both industrial and consumer companies. Industries of particular interest include energy, mining, infrastructure, health care, telecom, and airlines.

Dr. Woetzel also advises China’s national and local government authorities on economic development and reform issues. He has assisted the State Economic Commission in making regulatory changes to improve the foreign investment environment, and has developed economic plans for the cities of Shanghai, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Xian and Harbin among others. Globally he advises government leaders in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia and the United States among others on sustainable growth strategies. In 2008, Dr. Woetzel authored the report China’s Urban Billion, still the most rigorous analysis of China’s urbanization trends.

He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Southern California, where his work focused on China’s political economy. Dr. Woetzel, a U.S. citizen, is proficient in Mandarin, Spanish, and German, and is the proud father of Dominic and Taylor Woetzel.

Panel 2: Moving to Solutions

Ben Hecht
Mr. Hecht has been the President & CEO of Living Cities since July, 2007. Since that time, the organization has adopted a broad, integrative agenda that harnesses the collective knowledge of its 22 member foundations and financial institutions to benefit low income people and the cities where they live. Living Cities deploys a unique blend of more than $140 million in grants, loans and influence to re-engineer obsolete public systems and connect low-income people and underinvested places to opportunity.

Prior to joining Living Cities, Mr. Hecht co-founded One Economy Corporation, a nonprofit organization that leverages the power of technology and information to connect low-income people to the economic mainstream through broadband in the home and public-purpose media.

Mr. Hecht received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and his CPA from the State of Maryland. For 10 years, he taught at Georgetown University Law Center. In 1997, he was awarded Georgetown’s prestigious Charles Fahy Distinguished Adjunct Professor Award.

Mr. Hecht serves as chairman of EveryoneOn, a nonprofit committed to bringing broadband to all low income households. He also is a member of the U.S. National Advisory Board of the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force. Mr. Hecht most recently served as Finance Committee chair and Treasurer for the Georgetown Day School (GDS) board of trustees. In 2013, he was selected as one of the Top 100 City Innovators Worldwide in the area of Urban Policy.

James (Arthur) Jemison is the Director of Housing and Revitalization for the City of Detroit, Michigan. Most recently he was the Deputy Undersecretary of Housing for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Deputy Director of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Before joining the Patrick Administration, Jemison spent 18 years in the public and private sectors, in both planning and development consultant roles in Boston, the District of Columbia and Miami. Jemison has a BA in Social Thought and Political Economy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and a Master of City Planning degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Jan Mischke is a senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey's business and economics research arm, based in Zurich. He joined MGI in 2010 to lead its work on competitiveness in advanced economies. Beyond research on economic development and growth in around 10 countries, he recently led specific efforts on manufacturing, infrastructure, and trade. He is a frequent speaker on global trends, growth in Europe, and infrastructure, and a member of the B20 taskforce on infrastructure.

Prior to joining MGI, Jan worked for 10 years as a consultant and associate partner with McKinsey. During that time, he gained broad exposure to the European market landscape. He served clients in 12 European countries in a broad range of industries, including telecoms, logistics, high tech, automotive, media, and financial services.

Cynthia A. Parker, President & CEO, is responsible for the overall direction of BRIDGE Housing, a leading nonprofit developer, owner and manager of affordable housing. She joined BRIDGE as President and CEO in February 2010, bringing over 30 years of diverse and relevant experience to the organization. She previously served as Regional President for Mercy Housing and President of Intercommunity Mercy Housing. Prior to her tenure at Mercy, she was Senior Vice President of Seattle-Northwest Securities, a public finance firm, where she oversaw affordable housing, commercial and public facility real estate financing in five Northwest states. A partial list of her real estate financial advisory clients includes: The Port of Seattle, Port of Olympia, City of Redmond and City of Seattle; the housing authorities of Portland, Everett, King County and Seattle (HOPE VI); the University of Washington, Pacific University, and the University of Portland; and the school districts of Edmonds, Seattle, and Portland. In Alaska, her clients included the Municipality of Anchorage and the Alaska Railroad. Ms. Parker established the Housing Office of the City of Seattle and served as the City’s Director of Housing under two separate mayors, with responsibility for the City’s housing investment strategies, $100 million annual capital budget and $824 million loan portfolio. Ms. Parker previously developed over 3,500 units in Oregon and Alaska with mixed financing. She assisted the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation with the design of both taxable and tax-exempt housing bond programs and has provided syndication services for tax-credit placements.

A former director of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Ms. Parker has chaired the Sound Families Initiative for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and currently serves as a director of the National Affordable Housing Trust, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, Housing Partnership Network, Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, the Beneficial State Foundation and the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, and is on the Board of Governors of the California Housing Consortium. Ms. Parker is a graduate of Portland State University.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Spencer currently serves as Director, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development Office, for the City of Austin, Texas. Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) provides housing, community development, and small business development services to benefit eligible residents so they can have access to livable neighborhoods and increase their opportunities for self-sufficiency. NHCD directly administers a variety of programs to serve the community's housing, community development, and economic development needs and provides grant funding to various agencies and non-profit organizations.

Prior to joining The City of Austin, Betsy was Chief Operations Officer for the San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation (SAAHC), a non-profit organization that provides housing and support services for low- to moderate-income communities in Texas with emphasis in Bexar (San Antonio area) and Travis counties. She was a member of the team that received the 2009 SA Business Journal Award for “Best Residential Development” in South Texas and the first affordable subdivision with a Cottage Development. Betsy has over twenty years of experience managing community development programs in the public and private sector.

Betsy holds a B.S. in Psychology from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. She resides in Universal City, Texas with her husband and three children.

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