August 20, 2020

Our panel of judges and experts

The need for affordable, well-designed homes continues to exceed supply in the United States. Wells Fargo has launched the Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge in collaboration with Enterprise Community Partners to close the affordable housing gap by elevating and transforming housing affordability innovations into real solutions. The Challenge will award six grants of more than $2 million each to innovators across the U.S. in the areas of construction, finance, and resident support services to bring their ideas to reality. In this special series, Wells Fargo brings together the Challenge’s judges and administrators — thought leaders from across the industry — to discuss the housing affordability quagmire, the priorities of the competition, and the areas of opportunity for innovation in creating impactful solutions.

Meet the judges

Chrishelle Palay, Director, Houston Organizing Movement for Equity Coalition states: 'We know that right now there are 30 to 40 million people that are facing eviction by the end of this year.'
Fred Karnas and text: “By centering equity and sustainability, future housing solutions can ensure safe, decent, and effective homes accessible to all.
Laurel Hart, Vice President, Asset Management and Preservation, Columbia Residential states 'Solving the crisis is going to be one of the most important causes of our time.'
Marc Norman, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning states: 'You have to acknowledge the racialized history of our housing markets, you know, if you're actually going to be innovative.'
Maria Evans and: ”The importance of innovating right now is that there are so many challenges that at this moment actually continue to compound upon each other with the economic recession, as well as the pandemic.” Maria Evans, Fannie Mae
Patrice Kunesh and text: ”We’re looking not just to build a building, but we’re looking to build lives and to build the best opportunities for well-being.”Patrice Kunesh Founder and Director, Peȟíŋ Haha Consulting
RuthAnne Visnauskas and: “We all are in a very advanced and mature industry that’s very good at what it does. But it doesn’t always take the time to innovate.”RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner and CEO, New York State Homes and Community Renewal
Trisha Miller and: “By improving building performance and reducing the carbon footprint of development, we’re able to increase supply and responsibly preserve affordability for residents across the U.S.” Trisha Miller Former senior advisor, HUD
headshots of Chrishelle Palay and Fred Karnas

Chrishelle Palay
Houston Organizing Movement for Equity Coalition

Chrishelle Palay leads the Houston Organizing Movement for Equity Coalition, a collective created to ensure all Houstonians recovered from Hurricane Harvey equitably. A Next City Vanguard alumna and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project, she participates in the Community of Practices on Local Housing Strategies and other national cohorts. She is on the board of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County, and Rhodes School for the Performing Arts.

Fred Karnas
Senior Fellow
Richmond Memorial Health Foundation

Fred Karnas is a senior fellow at the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation, helping to advance the intersection of health and housing and serving as a loaned executive to the city of Richmond, Virginia, supporting its human services integration work. Karnas also co-leads a national effort focused on rethinking the nation’s mental health system.

Headshots of Laurel Hart and Marc Norman

Laurel Hart
Vice President, Asset Management and Preservation
Columbia Residential

Laurel Hart is vice president of Asset Management and Preservation at Columbia Residential, an Atlanta affordable housing development company. She is responsible for the leadership, strategy, and implementation of plans to maintain the economic, physical, and operational sustainability of the firm’s portfolio, which includes more than 7,500 affordable and mixed-income multifamily homes in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

Marc Norman
Founder, Ideas and Action
Professor of Practice, University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Marc Norman is the founder of the consulting firm Ideas and Action and an associate professor of practice at the University of Michigan, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. Working in the field of community development and finance for over 20 years, Norman has worked collaboratively to develop or finance over 2,000 units totaling more than $400 million in total development costs. A board member for numerous nonprofit and community organizations addressing affordable housing and design, he currently serves on the boards of MASS Design Group, CAMBA Housing Ventures, and the Federal Reserve Board’s Community Advisory Council.

Headshots of Maria Evans and Patrice Kunesh

Maria Evans
Vice President of Sustainable Communities Partnership and Innovation Fannie Mae

Maria Evans leads the Sustainable Communities Partnership and Innovation Initiative to deepen Fannie Mae’s impact in affordable housing through external partnership opportunities in sectors adjacent to housing such as education, health care, employment, and energy. She is responsible for the incubation, execution, and evaluation of projects that support and advance the development of sustainable communities. Evans also oversees the company’s Community Investment and Engagement program to engage Fannie Mae’s 7,300 employees through skills-based volunteerism and employee giving programs.

Patrice Kunesh
Founder and Director, Peȟíŋ Haha Consulting
Creator and Former Director, Center for Indian Country Development

Patrice Kunesh is the founder and director of Peȟíŋ Haha Consulting, a social enterprise building more engaged and powerful Native communities. She is the major gifts officer at the Native American Rights Fund, where she began her legal career. Kunesh established and led the Center for Indian Country Development at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. She has served as deputy undersecretary for Rural Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, deputy solicitor for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, and in-house counsel to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe.

Headshots of RuthAnne Visnauskas and Trisha Miller

RuthAnne Visnauskas
Commissioner and CEO
New York State Homes and Community Renewal

RuthAnne Visnauskas is the commissioner and CEO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the umbrella entity that includes the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, the New York State Housing Finance Agency, the State of New York Mortgage Agency, and the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation.

Trisha Miller
Former senior advisor
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development

Trisha Miller is a senior director of Advocacy and Government Relations at Gates Ventures, working on Breakthrough Energy and related clean energy programs in Bill Gates’ private office. Prior to joining Gates Ventures, Miller was the chief sustainability officer for Wishrock Housing Partners and Investment Group. As a presidential appointee at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, she advanced energy and housing policy under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. She led a federal initiative to triple the amount of renewable energy reaching low-income communities, building on her former role managing Green Communities at Enterprise Community Partners.

Meet our experts

Eileen Fitzgerald w/text: “The Challenge was designed because we know that there are some great ideas around the country about how to address our housing crisis, and organizations really don't have the opportunities to launch those ideas.
Nate Hurt and text: “We have an opportunity to keep more people housed if we can really drive innovation at scale in the housing sector.” Nate Hurst, President, Wells Fargo Foundation
Vince Toye and text: “Housing has a broad impact into the number of times people go into emergency rooms.” Vince Toye, Head of Community Lending and Investment, Wells Fargo
Headshots of Eileen Fitzgerald and Nate Hurst

Eileen Fitzgerald
Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy
Wells Fargo

Eileen Fitzgerald has more than 25 years of experience in housing and community development. She is the former president and CEO of Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, a collaborative of nonprofits that collectively own and operate more than 140,000 affordable rental homes across the U.S. Previously, Fitzgerald was CEO and chief operating officer of NeighborWorks® America. Before that, she worked at the Fannie Mae Foundation and was chief investment officer for Single Family at the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust. She also worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service and with the Virginia and Maryland state governments.

Nate Hurst
Wells Fargo Foundation

Nate Hurst served as the director of Sustainability, Public Affairs & Government Relations for Walmart, where he also helped integrate sustainability into the business and align the community giving strategy with core customer needs. As a member of The White House Council on Environmental Quality for former U.S. President Bill Clinton, he helped develop the administration’s environmental policy agenda and executed a stakeholder engagement plan on leading issues such as climate change. As national spokesperson for The Ocean Conservancy, Hurst spearheaded ideas to reduce ocean plastic and lead communications strategies, international coastal cleanups, and community grassroots campaigns.

Headshots of Priscilla Almoldovar and Vince Toye

Priscilla Almodovar
Enterprise Community Partners

Priscilla Almodovar is the CEO of Enterprise Community Partners Inc. She also serves as chair of the Enterprise Community Investment board of directors. She joined Enterprise from JPMorgan Chase, where she served as a managing director. Prior to joining JP Morgan Chase, Almodovar was the president and CEO of New York state’s housing finance and mortgage agencies, where she is credited with transforming the way they worked and linking them with health care and economic development agencies, in addition to leading them during the Great Recession.

Vince Toye
Head of Community Lending and Investment
Wells Fargo

Vince Toye is an executive vice president and group head of Wells Fargo Community Lending and Investment. The group lends to and invests in communities and businesses in support of Wells Fargo’s commitment to economic development, job creation, and affordable housing. He previously served as government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) head of Production for Wells Fargo Multifamily Capital, which specializes in GSE financing through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs and Federal Housing Administration-insured financing. Prior to that, Toye was a vice president at Fannie Mae.