Meet Our Founder and Principal

Lynn M. Ross, AICP is the founder and principal of Spirit for Change Consulting, LLC, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to creative solutions for people and places working to serve the common good. She brings over 17 years of experience and passion for housing affordability, urban and regional planning, community development, evidence-based policy making and organizational change. In addition to her domestic policy experience, Lynn has provided strategic advice to international housing and planning leaders representing Australia, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom. In 2017, Lynn became a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar at Session 574, The Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play.

A frequent speaker and award-winning author, Lynn holds a Masters of Regional Planning from Cornell University and a B.S. in community and regional planning from Iowa State University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, American Planning Association, Education Leaders of Color, and the Urban Land Institute. Lynn was honored with the 2009 Design Achievement Award from the Iowa State University College of Design and the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the Iowa State University Alumni Association. 


Throughout her career, Lynn has developed and demonstrated skill in cultivating talent; building teams in complex organizations; transforming programs for greater impact; expanding funding sources and partnerships; and improving operational efficiency. Most recently, Lynn directed the $40M Community and National Initiatives (CNI) program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As CNI’s Vice President, she led a national team focused expanding talent, opportunity and engagement in the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. 


Prior to joining Knight Foundation, she served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development in the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Appointed by President Obama in 2014, Lynn led a 23-member team focused on research, budget analysis and policy development. During her tenure, she led the update of HUD’s strategic research plan; helped to create the Prosperity Playbook initiative and the resulting online toolkit to support economic mobility; and provided leadership on U.S. preparations for Habitat III.  


Dedicated to serving mission-driven organizations, Lynn has deep experience in the field including past leadership roles at the Urban Land Institute’s Terwilliger Center for Housing, National Housing Conference/Center for Housing Policy and the American Planning Association. 


As executive director of the Terwilliger Center for Housing, Lynn implemented an expanded mission and program of work that included establishing a new 18-member national advisory board; expanding and rebranding signature programs and events including the annual awards program and national housing conference; developing a fundraising strategy that resulted in over $1M in new external program support; and developing strategic partnerships across the ULI network. She also spearheaded a number of key initiatives including the creation of the How Housing Matters web portal, the “America in 2013” survey examining views on housing, transportation and community as well as the Bending the Cost Curve joint research effort with Enterprise Community Partners examining the cost drivers for affordable rental housing. 


As director of state and local initiatives and then as the chief operating officer for the National Housing Conference/Center for Housing Policy, Lynn oversaw the day-to-day operations as well as executing the education, outreach, and technical assistance strategies directed at strengthening housing policies for states and localities. She played a central role is expanding the programmatic and operating support for the organization and helped diversify the sources of support through innovative partnerships and network building. Lynn was part of the core leadership team that helped secure a 2009 Creative and Effective Institutions Award from the MacArthur Foundation.


At the American Planning Association, Lynn started as a research associate and was promoted to be manager of the Planning Advisory Service, providing customized planning research to more than 1,200 subscribing agencies at the time. Lynn engaged in research and writing on a range of topics including inclusionary zoning, employer-assisted housing, hazard mitigation, brownfields redevelopment and age-friendly cities. During her tenure at APA, Lynn also served as the assistant editor for the inaugural edition of Planning and Urban Design Standards, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2006, and she served as staff liaison for APA’s diversity initiative.


Learn more about Lynn on LinkedIn.