John is one of Texas’ leading experts on low income housing issues and a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. He is recognized for his steadfast commitment to social justice, helping low income people advance model solutions to housing issues in their communities, and forging common-ground solutions from diverse housing interests. He is a past board member of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. John’s advocacy work won TxLIHIS the Texas Outstanding Public Service Award from his public interest colleagues. John has a BA in History from the University of Texas at Austin. He has served as an adjunct instructor in Disaster Recovery Housing in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.
Karen works with grassroots leaders to help residents realize their own visions for their communities. For more than 25 years, she has helped communities use housing as a tool for improving living conditions and for teaching leaders to be active participants in the civic affairs of their communities. Her work has resulted in neighborhood-controlled organizations converting outside commercial redevelopment plans into housing, neighborhood-operated housing for the homeless, self-help housing in Texas colonias and increased housing resources such as a successful effort to establish a $55 million fund for housing in Austin and zoning overlay districts requirements for affordable housing as a community benefit. Karen holds degrees in Government and Spanish from the University of Texas at Austin and a Master’s in Urban Affairs from the University of Delaware.
Chrishelle leads efforts to provide local and state policy review to local community organizing groups. Much of her work revolves around disaster recovery efforts stemming from 2008’s Hurricane Ike, working closely with policy advocates and grassroots organizers in low income communities. Chrishelle organized a Fair Housing Summit for the Houston/Galveston area, creating an authentic and ongoing dialogue between government agencies, nonprofits, community leaders, residents, civil rights attorneys, developers and more. Prior to coming aboard at TxLIHIS, she had a successful career in architecture, specializing in high rise multifamily design and development. She has a Bachelors of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and serves on the board of directors for The Rhodes School, advises the board of Pink Defying Gravity and volunteers with Rock the Babies.
Rio Grande Valley co-director
Josué advocates for low income housing and neighborhood needs in the colonias of the Rio Grande Valley alongside community organizers and residents from Cameron and Hidalgo Counties. He acts as a liaison between colonia residents, local organizing groups, developers, policy advocates and political leaders, helping form and shape policy that betters and promotes quality affordable housing and healthy communities. Josué has worked on a rapid re-housing pilot program for hurricane recovery, the establishment and development of the colonia resident group Land Use Colonia Housing Action (LUCHA) and several organizing campaigns on issues including public lighting and comprehensive colonia drainage. He spends part of his time at the Texas Capitol to ensure that legislation puts the community front and center and furthers fair housing practices. In his spare time Josué likes to paint and drink coffee.
Melissa researches the disparities of environmental hazard siting and public infrastructure and housing funding between low income and more affluent communities. She also is assisting a community in a neighborhood-led revitalization plan to improve residents’ access to quality schools, infrastructure and housing while preventing violence. Melissa holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and a Master’s of Science in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin. Her graduate thesis examined historical planning and zoning actions that have contributed to environmental justice issues on Corpus Christi’s north side. Previously, Melissa has worked on projects with Leadership Austin, the City of Austin’s Asian American Quality of Life Initiative and the Blackland Community Development Corporation. She also serves as a member of the Code Advisory Group for the City of Austin, conducting outreach and providing feedback on the code rewrite process.
Fair housing planner
Charlie collects data from federal, state, and local governments and provides research and mapping pertaining to housing, neighborhood qualities and the socioeconomic conditions of municipalities across Texas. His work informs numerous stakeholders in housing-related policy including legislators, law firms, community organizations, local and state agencies, academics and advocates. Before working in fair housing, Charlie was in the biodiesel industry and worked as an audio engineer. He is also a working musician who has been playing drums and percussion for almost 20 years. Charlie graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University with a B.S. in Geography with emphases in GIS and Urban & Regional Planning.
Will spearheads outreach, media and content production for TxLIHIS, including writing the organizational blog, preparing informational material on legislative efforts, interacting with the press and community stakeholders and producing videos. As the organization’s “storyteller,” Will brings the personal experiences of low income Texans to the foreground and works to spread the message of fair housing in compelling ways, such as interviews with tenants who have faced source of income discrimination and a mini-documentary on discrimination against a neighborhood in Corpus Christi. He’s a proud Seattle native who studied Journalism and Political Science at Loyola University Chicago, and previously worked as a newspaper reporter in Washington and as a program coordinator for the City of Austin Mayor’s Office.
Ezenachi works to advance the goals of the Sunnyside Neighborhood Plan, the comprehensive, community-led effort to provide reinvestment and equal treatment for a historic African-American neighborhood in southwest Houston, by bridging the gap between community members, advocates and policymakers. He’s a Houston native and has been a Sunnyside resident, and active member of the community, for the past four years. Ezenachi is a passionate cyclist and was previously with a bicycle advocacy organization that worked to transform low income neighborhoods into strong, healthy and vibrant communities through bike-related activities. He continues that work through his services as a Board Member with BikeHouston. Ezenachi’s proudest achievement is his four-year-old son.
Susan Watkins, AICP
Fair housing planner
Susan assists communities to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing through the creation of comprehensive assessments and advocates for the effective administration of the state tax credit program. During the past several years, Susan has worked in Houston as an urban planning consultant helping communities develop long-range plans and codes and got her start in housing at the Houston Housing Authority, assisting with development plans, program policy and special projects. She then worked in Dallas as an analyst for the Inclusive Communities Project before making a move to Austin. Susan earned a Master’s in Urban Planning and a B.S. in Construction Science from Texas A&M University. In her free time, Susan enjoys running, sewing and exploring the Austin outdoors with her husband and two children.
Veon McReynolds, PhD – President
Tour de Hood, Houston
Tom Hatch, FAIA – Vice president
Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects, Austin
Elizabeth Mueller, PhD – Secretary
University of Texas School of Architecture, Austin
Rafael I. Torres – Treasurer
Azteca Economic Development and Preservation Corporation, Laredo
Covenant Community Capital, Houston
William Forbath, PhD
University of Texas School of Law, Austin
Shannon Van Zandt, PhD
Texas A&M University Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, College Station