Who We Are


Janet L. Smith, PhD
Co-Director and Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

For the past 20 years, Dr. Smith's teaching, research, and community service has focused on equity issues in local and national housing planning and policy. The majority of Dr. Smith's research and outreach activities are conducted in partnership with community organizations and policy stakeholders through the UIC Voorhees Center. She has led several large-scale housing research projects in Chicago including a regional homeless needs assessment and a rental market study funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Along with Larry Bennett and Patricia Wright (former Voorhees director), Smith co-edited and co-authored Where are Poor People to Live? Transforming Public Housing Communities (ME Sharpe 2006). She and John Betancur recently published Claiming Neighborhood: New Ways of Understanding Urban Change (University of Illinois 2016).


Yittayih Zelalem, JD, LLM, MS
Co-Director and Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

TMr. Zelalem worked as Director of Housing Policy Analysis at the Chicago Rehab Network prior to coming to the Voorhees Center. In addition, he has worked for over half a dozen years as Director of Property Development and Executive Director of several CDCs in Chicago. Mr. Zelalem was also professor of law at the Addis Ababa University Law School in Ethiopia and currently teaches development financing courses. Mr. Zelalem has law degrees from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and the Yale Law School, as well as a Masters Degree in Urban Development.