Top Affordable Housing Expert Rochelle Lento to Speak at PuLSE National Economic Conference September 15

Rochelle E. Lento, an attorney at Dykema Gossett PLLC, who is regarded as a highly esteemed practitioner and authority on affordable housing transactions, real estate tax incentives and economic development, will speak at the upcoming National Conference on the Economy, Equity and Energy, which is taking place on September 15, 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 noon and organized and hosted by The PuLSE Institute, Detroit’s national and independent anti-poverty think tank. 

The theme for the virtual conference is, “Building Towards An Equitable Economy That Works for the Poor,” and it will examine what needs to be done by policy makers, business leaders and the racial justice community to support poor and disenfranchised communities that are being left behind in the new coronavirus economy. Registration for the four-hour virtual conference is now open on Eventbrite.

Lento, will serve as a speaker on a panel titled: Are Corporate Tax Breaks Sustainable for the Future of America’s Urban Economy? 

 The forum will specifically address the recent controversial vote on the City Council to grant $60 million of tax breaks to Bedrock, the real estate empire of Detroit’s billionaire investor Dan Gilbert to see through the Hudson skyscraper project. The passage of the deal was met with massive public outcry in a city that remains one of the most impoverished in the country.

Lento has been critical about the lack of an enforcement mechanism for the affordable housing plan related to Gilbert’s Hudson site project to meet the goal of some 3,500 units over a given period.

“Affordable housing, and the lack of decent, quality housing for low income families and seniors is a crisis facing all major cities, and communities,” Lento said in a statement about speaking at The PuLSE Institute conference. “The formulas used by government to define affordability and who can qualify for affordability fall short of meeting the need. The available funding sources, and the complexity of navigating those sources makes developing affordable housing a daunting exercise. We need to address these barriers to make affordable housing more accessible and available.”

Also joining the panel is Detroit City Councilwoman Angela Whitfield Calloway, one of four members, who voted against the tax subsidy for Gilbert.

“The PuLSE Institute welcomes Attorney Rochelle Lento to our National Conference on the Economy, Equity, and Energy. Her expertise in affordable housing and tax incentives, which are at the center of the debate about equity regarding the economic recovery of Detroit, America’s largest Black city, is crucial to understanding how to ensure that the city’s underserved communities truly benefit from the recovery,” said Attorney Tina M. Patterson, the President and Director of Research at The PuLSE Institute. “We look forward to her informed perspective from a legal point of view in ensuring that developers, who are eager to receive tax subsidies don’t abandon their obligations under law.”

Bankole Thompson, the distinguished and nationally renowned Black journalist, author and cultural critic, whose longstanding, illuminating and influential work on race, democracy and poverty inspired the founding of The PuLSE Institute four years ago, said Lento’s participation will add an important dimension to the conversation around tax breaks in urban America. Thompson serves as the Executive Dean and Editor-in-Chief of The PuLSE Institute.

“Some of the pushback we’ve seen regarding tax breaks has been about the failure of some developers to rightfully meet their obligations under the requirements they agreed to, and on a timely manner. Whether they are supposed to create affordable housing units within a given time frame or provide a certain number of jobs, too often developers don’t feel obliged to deliver on their promises to disenfranchised communities after receiving millions of dollars in tax breaks.”

Thompson, Detroit’s columnist of conscience, who is a twice-a-week opinion columnist at The Detroit News, and the host of a daily two-hour urban affairs radio program, REDLINEwhich airs Monday-Friday, 11am-1pm on 910AM Super Station-Detroit added, “An ethical economy must be one where affordable housing is truly affordable and accessible to low income families in Black America. That is why we are looking forward to Lento serving as a panelist.”

Other speakers announced earlier include industry captain Jerry Norcia, the Chairman, President and CEO of DTE Energy, a Fortune 500 company, who will deliver a keynote address at the start of the conference. Norcia is among several business leaders who have been invited to participate at the conference. 

 Another keynote speaker is Jim Vincent, a national civil rights activist and the president of the Rhode Island NAACP, who has been leading discussions for reparatory justice. He is set to speak about the urgency for economic justice in Black America, and the efforts that Rhode Island is taking in establishing the first of its kind, the Providence Municipal Reparations Commission, a historic initiative which is being closely watched around the country. The commission was created by Rhode Island Mayor Jorge Elorza after the completion of a study that documented the horrors of the institution of slavery.

The PuLSE Institute is at the center of the poverty debate with a high profile speaker forum that convenes leaders from various industries to speak on the issues of the day. Previous speakers include Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who presided over the successful and historic prosecution in the George Floyd murder trial, Dr. Natalia Kanem, the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNFPA, former U.S. Ambassador Anne Derse, Dr. Julius Garvey, the son of Marcus Garvey, United States Bankruptcy Judge Mark Randon and others. 

The Institute’s National Advisory Panel is made up of civil rights luminaries, anti-poverty champions and humanitarians of the last half century including Sister Simone Campbell, who recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and civil rights leader Dr. Bernard Lafayette, who served as the National Coordinator of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, the watershed moment of the Civil Rights Movement. 

More speakers about the fall conference will be announced in the coming weeks. For inquiries about the conference email 

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