Environmental Justice and Real Estate – Where To From Here?


2021-03-26T13:00:00 - 2021-03-26T14:00:00

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    Join the Responsible Property Investment Council to hear from organizations on the front lines of the environmental justice movement about their work and how real estate actors can continue supporting positive change.


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    What is environmental justice, and how does it impact the real estate industry? It’s complex - influenced by choices in land use, housing, and finance (to name a few). Black, Latino and Indigenous communities can be alienated by policies that many see as focused on save-the-planet idealism at the expense of their communities, from elevated asthma rates in pollution-clogged urban communities to proposed cap and trade policies that allow polluting refineries to double down and continue in local neighborhoods.

    The real estate sector has played a major role in determining which communities experience greater environmental, climate, and health risks – through decisions or support of infrastructure, transportation, renewable energy, building materials, and site location. Community organizations and activists are also deeply involved in shaping the future of their neighborhoods, and they have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share in forming a more equitable path forward together. Join the Responsible Property Investment Council to hear from organizations on the front lines of the environmental justice movement about their work and how real estate actors can continue supporting positive change.



    Michelle de la Uz

    Fifth Avenue Committee

    Michelle de la Uz became Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc. (FAC) in January 2004, after serving as Co-Chair on FAC’s Board of Directors. She has over twenty-five years of experience in public and community service. Michelle oversees the organization’s mission and comprehensive programs serving more than 5,500 low-and moderate-income people; a budget of nearly $8 million and several non-housing affiliate corporations with annual budgets of over $6 million, real estate assets over $120 million, and a housing development pipeline of over 1,900 units, representing more than $850 million in total development costs. Under her leadership, FAC became a chartered member organization of NeighborWorks America, a national network of over 240 affordable housing and community development corporations. Prior to FAC, Michelle was Program Director for the Center for Urban Community Services in Washington Heights and Harlem and oversaw social services in supportive housing for 400 low-income tenants with special needs. From 1995-99, Michelle was Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’ first Director of Constituent Services and directed her South Brooklyn District Office. She was active in advancing transportation, environmental justice, immigration reform, and employment policy initiatives. Michelle is the first in her working-class immigrant family to graduate from college, is a product of bi-lingual education, a former trustee of Connecticut College, and recipient of the Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World award. Michelle serves on the National Board of Directors of the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), the New York Housing Conference, and the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, among many others. Additionally, Michelle was appointed to serve as a City Planning Commissioner on the New York City Planning Commission from 2012-2021. Michelle is an alumna of Connecticut College, Columbia University and of Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education Program. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter.


    Zelalem Adefris

    Vice President of Policy & Advocacy, Catalyst Miami

    Zelalem Adefris is the Vice President of Policy & Advocacy at Catalyst Miami, where she oversees Catalyst’s Policy & Engagement Department. Zelalem joined Catalyst Miami in 2016, directing the organization’s climate resilience programs and advocacy work. Her previous work experiences include environmental justice organizing at the Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island and conducting emergency preparedness research at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She holds an MPH in Global Environmental Health from Emory University and a bachelor’s degree in Community Health from Brown University. Zelalem serves as a steering committee member of the Miami Climate Alliance, a philanthropic trustee of the Solutions Project, as well as a board member of the Miami-Dade College Earth Ethics Institute and Miami-Dade County Community Action Agency.


    Sonrisa Cooper

    Community Development Program Manager, The Greenlining Institute

    Sonrisa Cooper is a city planner and affordable housing advocate who leads Greenlining’s community development strategy and housing policy. She is passionate about equitable policies and strategies that protect low-income communities of color from displacement. Sonrisa got her start in housing as an intern at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation in Boston, where she worked on affordable real estate development and organized tenants around energy issues. She also has experience as a program evaluation consultant for utility energy efficiency programs. Sonrisa is a recent graduate of Greenlining’s Leadership Academy, and holds a master’s in City Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Wellesley College. Sonrisa is a Jeopardy! champion and trivia enthusiast with a tendency to sprinkle useless facts into every conversation. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting with sourdough bread, spending time outdoors, and rooting for the Portland Trail Blazers.


    Taidgh McClory

    Director Social Impact & Inclusion, TH McClory, LLC

    Taidgh H. McClory is the Director of Social Impact & Inclusion for MP Boston and also founder of T.H. McClory, LLC, a leading social impact enterprise dedicated to devising and implementing equity, inclusion & diversity strategies for the commercial real estate industry in New England and across the US. McClory’s career in commercial real estate and advertising has spanned over 22 years and includes expertise in strategic planning, commercial real estate brokerage, marketing, brand planning, market research, and economic development. He most recently served as Managing Director/Partner at CBRE/New England, where he led sales management, business development and civic engagement across the New England region. T.H. McClory, LLC (THM) is a certified minority business enterprise (MBE) and social impact enterprise. The firm is dedicated to designing and implementing capital, career and cultural strategies that generate equity & inclusion across the commercial real estate industry. The purpose of our work is to design strategies that build capacity among professionals, companies and investors of color across the CRE industry by growing access to careers, contracts and capital. More specifically this work involves advocating and executing strategies that build career pathways for students of color/women, increase contract participation among MBE/WBE firms, and create economic opportunities for investors of color in commercial real estate. A civic leader and champion of diversity & inclusion, McClory is an active member of Real Estate Executive Council (REEC), a leading professional trade association formed to promote the interests of minority executives in the commercial real estate industry. As part of REEC, McClory serves on the Steering Committee for the Real Estate Exchange (REEX), a summer college and career immersion program aimed at building generational wealth among students of color by connecting them with knowledge, networks and opportunities in commercial real estate. McClory serves on the Urban Land Institute: Responsible Investment Property Council; the board of Massachusetts Economic Alliance (MassEcon); the Executive Council of Diversity & Inclusion for The Partnership, Inc.; as well as a handful of boards and committees focused on economic development, social impact, diversity/equity/inclusion, commercial real estate, education, and philanthropy. Most recently McClory was the recipient of the National Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s President’s Award by the NAIOP-MA Chapter. McClory graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in History and Studio Art. In his local community on the North Shore, McClory serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for St. John’s Preparatory School, the Cummings Foundation Grant Selection Committee, and a lector at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield where he resides with his wife and three children.