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Coming to Berkeley

As many already know, I have started my new appointment as I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing  and Urban Policy in the Department of City and Regional Planning with the College of Environmental Design here at UC Berkeley. I  would like to introduce myself, say “hello” and share a bit about what I’m working on and looking forward to in the coming  semesters.

As an alumni of the Master’s in City Planning program, this is somewhat of a homecoming. I have returned to the Bay Area from  my role in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary for Housing and Federal Housing Commissioner at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As FHA commissioner during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and one precipitated by the housing collapse, it was a challenging and fascinating time to work in housing and in the  federal government. Leading FHA, my work focused on stabilizing the housing market and the agency itself by providing critical  access to credit and developing new responses to the rental affordability crisis, including Choice Neighborhoods and the Rental  Assistance Demonstration program.

It is a very exciting time to be jumping in at Berkeley. In addition to my teaching and research roles, I’m also honored to be serving as co-chair of the Policy Advisory Board of the Fisher Center of Real Estate and Urban Economics in the Haas School of Business. These roles are providing the opportunity to connect with the tremendous network of students and faculty across campus, and take advantage of the wealth of resources UC Berkeley has to offer.

As I’ve settled in here on campus, I’ve also had the chance to attend and speak at several off campus events about my work in the Administration, and to reflect on the current state of the housing field. Most recently I was back in Washington speaking at the Mortgage Banker’s Association Single Family Rental Finance Summit. Last month I provided testimony to the California Assembly’s Committee on Housing and Community Development, addressed the Association of Bay Area Governments at their State of the Region Symposium, and spoke to the Emerging Leaders Peer Network (an initiative of the Non-Profit Housing Association of California). In February I spoke at the The Real Estate and Law Symposium at Stanford University, and in January, I sat on a panel for Zillow, as they kicked off their National Housing Tour.

Here on campus, I was invited to address students, faculty and alumni at the Berkeley Circus Soiree, where I spoke about the enormous responsibility and intellectual challenge of being at the center of the federal government’s response to the housing crisis, and what was involved in shaping that response. I offered my thoughts on some of the challenges and opportunities we’re contending with in the housing field here in the Bay Area, as well as in California, and the country as a whole.

These ideas and reflections are in part what is shaping my vision and thoughts for the development of a new housing center here at Berkeley. Though still in the early stages of formation, I look forward to more formally don the hat of Faculty Director in the coming months with our official launch. The center will be a collaboration between the College of Environmental Design, the Institute of Urban and Regional Development, and the Fisher Center on Real Estate and Urban Economics, and we will examine the latest developments in housing and real estate policy, finance, and practice. The center will serve as a resource to highlight what’s working and what’s possible, both locally and nationally, and will conduct research, convene people and ideas, and support interdisciplinary collaboration around the innovations that can push the housing field forward.

Because one of the main goals of the center is to generate research and ideas that are both rigorous and timely, we intend to keep our finger on the pulse of the field through ongoing and deep engagement with practitioners, community members, scholars (from across this and other institutions), and other members of the public. To that end, I’m excited to be continuing with a busy speaking engagement calendar in the coming months. Look out for reflections from those events in the near future, and follow me on twitter @carolgalante4 for the latest updates. It has been a great first few months in my new role here at Berkeley, and I look forward to a very exciting and fruitful year!

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