Previous Directors

Previous Directors

Since its founding in 1959, our Center has been led by a number of distinguished directors, many of whom authored notable works of scholarship, served in senior positions in government and academia, and helped shape national housing policies and programs.

Martin Meyerson

Martin Meyerson was founding director of the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard. Trained as a planner, he taught city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania before coming to Harvard in 1957 as the first Williams Professor of City Planning and Urban Research. Meyerson played a critical role in establishing the Center’s mission and shaping it into the nation’s preeminent source of urban scholarship. Alongside his colleague, MIT Professor Lloyd Rodwin, Meyerson secured a $5 million award from the Ford Foundation to support the establishment of the Center. He left Harvard in 1963 to become Dean of the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also served as acting chancellor. From 1966 to 1970, Meyerson was president of the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was also professor of public policy. He became president of the University of Pennsylvania in 1970 and held that position until 1981, after which he remained active at Penn as a University Professor of Public Policy Analysis and City and Regional Planning. He wrote several books including Politics, Planning, and Public InterestBoston: The Job Ahead, and Housing, People and Cities.

James Q. Wilson

James Q. Wilson was the Shattuck Professor of Government at Harvard University from 1961 to 1987. He was a Professor of Management and Public Policy at UCLA from 1987 until 1997 and a Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University until his passing in 2012. Wilson wrote numerous books, including City Politics (co-authored with Edward C. Banfield), The Politics of Regulation, and American Government (co-authored with John J. Dilulio, Jr.). He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2003. 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who represented New York State in the US Senate from 1977 to 2001, was a Professor of Education and Urban Politics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Graduate School of Public Administration (predecessor of the Harvard Kennedy School) from 1965 until 1973. He held several senior positions in the Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford administrations, including serving as the US Ambassador to India and later the United Nations. He wrote numerous books including Beyond the Melting Pot (co-authored with Nathan Glazer), The Negro Family: The Case for National Action (also known as the Moynihan Report), and Future of the Family. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 2000.

Robert Wood

Robert Wood was a professor of political science at MIT and Undersecretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1965 to 1969, where he played a central role in developing the Fair Housing Act of 1968. While leading the Center, he was was appointed chairman of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and of MIT’s Political Science Department. From 1970 to 1977, he served as president of the University of Massachusetts system, and from 1978 to 1980 he was superintendent of Boston Public Schools. He was a professor at Wesleyan University from 1981 until 1993 and wrote several books, including Suburbia: Its People and Their Politics, 1400 Governments: The Political Economy of the New York Metropolitan Region (co-authored with Vladimir Almendinger), and The Necessary Majority: Middle America and the Urban Crisis.

Walter Rosenblith
(Acting Director, 1970-1971)

Walter Rosenblith was a biophysicist who became a research fellow at Harvard in 1947 and joined the MIT faculty in 1951 as an associate professor of communications biophysics in the Department of Electrical Engineering. He was elevated to full professor in 1957, and was named Institute Professor in 1975. He served as MIT’s associate provost from 1969 to 1971 and its provost from 1971 to 1980. He served as director of the Joint Center for Urban Studies of MIT and Harvard during his tenure as associate provost at MIT. One of the few scholars elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, Rosenblith fostered efforts to better understand the interplay among science, technology, and society.

Bernard Frieden

A member of the planning faculty at MIT from 1961 to 2002, Bernard Frieden was a planner who wrote extensively on housing and city development. In addition to being the Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT, he was director of research at MIT’s Center for Real Estate from 1985 to 1987, served as chair of the MIT faculty from 1987 to 1989, and was associate dean of the school from 1993 to 2001. During his 30 years of involvement with urban affairs at both the national and local level, he served on several White House advisory committees and was a consultant to numerous federal and state agencies. A prolific scholar, Frieden wrote numerous books including The Future of Old Neighborhoods, The Politics of Neglect: Urban Aid from Model Cities to Revenue Sharing (co-authored with Marshall Kaplan), and Downtown, Inc.: How America Rebuilds Cities (co-authored with Lynne Sagalyn).

Arthur Solomon

Arthur Solomon was a professor at MIT from 1971 to 1980. Trained as an economist, he is the Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of the DSF Group, a private real estate investment firm. He was previously senior partner and head of both real estate investment banking and real estate principal investments at the global investment firm Lazard Frères. He also served as chief financial officer of Fannie Mae, where he created its mortgage-backed securities program, and president and CEO of the Berkshire Group, a national real estate and financial services firm. He wrote the books Housing the Urban Poor: A Critical Analysis of Federal Housing Policy and The Prospective City: Economic, Population, Energy, and Environmental Developments.

David Kresge

David Kresge was a faculty member at both the Harvard Kennedy School and the economics department at Harvard. He was also on the faculty and directed the doctoral program at New York University’s Graduate School of Business Administration and served as senior economist with the US Government Council of Economic Advisers. The founder and CEO of Emerson Global Consulting, he was senior vice president and chief economist of the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation and vice president of economics at the Union Pacific Corporation. Along with Daniel Seiver, Oliver Goldsmith, and Michael Scott, he co-authored Regions and Resources: Strategies for Development.

H. James Brown

H. James (Jim) Brown was a faculty member at Harvard from 1970 to 1996. Appointed in 1970 as assistant professor and assistant chairman of the city and regional planning department at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, he became a full professor in 1976. As director of the Center, he oversaw its transformation from the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. In 1988, he initiated the Center’s annual State of the Nation's Housing report. Building on his strong ties between academia, business, and the public sector, Brown chaired the 1993 and 1995 sessions of the Housing Leadership Conference, a national forum for discussing and debating major issues affecting the housing industry. After leaving Harvard, he served as president of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy from 1996 to 2004 and was inducted into the National Housing Hall of Fame in 2002. He was the co-author of Microeconomics and Public Policy (with William Apgar), Microeconomics for Public Decisions (with Anne Steinemann and William Apgar), and editor of Land Use and Taxation: Applying the Insights of Henry George.

John Meyer
(Interim Co-Director, 1996-1998)

John Meyer was the James W. Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Economic Growth at the Harvard Kennedy School. One of the leading urban economists of his generation, Meyer was a professor at Harvard Business School and in the economics departments of Harvard and Yale, and also served as president of the National Bureau of Economic Research. He was a consultant to the National Transportation Policy Study Commission from 1977 to 1979, and served as vice chairman and board member of Union Pacific Railroad. In addition to serving as interim co-director of the Center, he chaired its Faculty Committee from 1997 to 2003. A prolific writer, he authored many books including The Urban Transportation Problem (co-authored with John Kain and Martin Wohl), Autos, Transit, and Cities (co-authored with Jose Gomez-Ibanez), and The Role of Industrial and Post-Industrial Cities in Economic Development. Each year, the Center awards fellowships named for Meyer to Harvard doctoral students who are writing a thesis on a housing-related topic.  

Gerald McCue
(Interim Co-Director, 1996-1998)

Gerald McCue is an architect who came to Harvard in 1976 as a professor of architecture and urban design at the Graduate School of Design, where he also served as chair of the Department of Architecture and associate dean. From 1980 to 1992, he served as the school’s dean and from 1992 to 1996 he was the John T. Dunlop Professor of Housing Studies at GSD and the Harvard Kennedy School. He was also the principal or president of several architectural firms in San Francisco. He is co-author of Architectural Design of Building Components for Earthquakes (with Ann Skaff and John Boyce) and co-editor of Revitalizing Toledo’s Historic Core (with Jose Gomez-Ibanez). (Photo by Gayle Alstrom)

Nicolas Retsinas

Nicolas Retsinas is Director Emeritus of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, having served as director from 1998 to 2010 and as a lecturer in urban planning and design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Kennedy School. Before coming to the Center, Retsinas served in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as Assistant Secretary for Housing and as Federal Housing Commissioner. He was also director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision, executive director of the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation, and a senior lecturer in international real estate at the Harvard Business School. He currently chairs the Providence Housing Authority and the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation, and is on the board of the Community Development Trust (past chair) and the Center for Responsible Lending. He also chaired the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International and served on the boards of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Freddie Mac, and the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. Retsinas is in the National Housing Hall of Fame and has an honorary PhD from Rhode Island College. He is author of Opportunity and Progress: A Bipartisan Platform for National Housing Policy (with Henry Cisneros, Jack Kemp, and Kent Colton), and he and Eric Belsky co-edited a number of books, including Low-Income Homeownership: Examining the Unexamined Goal and Borrowing to Live: Consumer and Mortgage Credit Revisited. In 2022, the Center and the Harvard Graduate School of Design announced the establishment of the Nicolas P. and Joan B. Retsinas Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies and Senior Lecturer to honor Nic and his vision of inclusive and equitable housing programs and policy.

Eric Belsky

Eric Belsky led the Center for four years before being appointed to head the Federal Reserve Board’s Division of Consumer and Community Affairs. In addition to his post as director of the Center, he was a lecturer in urban planning and design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He previously led the Housing Finance and Credit Analysis Group at Price Waterhouse LLP, was director of Housing Finance Research at Fannie Mae, senior economist at the National Association of Home Builders, and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In 2001 and 2002, Belsky served as research director for the bipartisan Millennial Housing Commission, established by Congress. Belsky co-edited Moving Forward: The Future of Consumer Credit and Mortgage Finance and Revisiting Rental Housing: Policies, Programs, and Priorities (with Nicolas Retsinas) and Homeownership Built to Last: Balancing Access, Affordability, and Risk after the Housing Crisis (with Chris Herbert and Jennifer Molinsky).