A-P Hurd’s Economics of Sustainable Real Estate class has taught me many lessons that I am excited to take with me into the real estate industry. However, one lesson that stands out above others is one that A-P did not present. It was a lesson learned by observation, and it was one that was a product of the class being interdisciplinary. Over the course of this class, I’ve realized there is serious distrust with the real estate development industry. Granted, there are examples of developers that have acted in ways that do not warrant trust from the community. But even those developers that are sincerely working to create a better environment for all stakeholders seem to have this shadow over them.
Developers are just in it for the money
I know this is an over simplified version of the argument, but it is essentially the lens through which many people view developers. If a project is presented as providing amenities to a neighborhood (through shops and open space), many people (myself included) are quick to ask about the cost to the community. Others may quickly write it off as something the project was required to have because of city requirements. The developer rarely wears the white hat, and for this reason, there seems to be a contentious relationship between developers and the community most of the time.
Education and Transparency
So how is trust developed? How are contentious relationships turned around? As I’ve thought about this over the quarter, I’ve decided education and transparency is the first step. Real Estate finance is not a simple topic to explain, but Andy Friedman, a guest lector in RE598, was able to present a clear and concise explanation in a less than 30 minutes. The other side of the coin is transparency. Think about the Design Review Process in Seattle. What if there was a forum like this for the community to hear about a neighboring project’s returns or financing structure? I know this sounds a little crazy, but it would offer a level of transparency that many in the community have already applauded when it comes to design. How could feedback be included in this process?! I have no idea, but I think it is an option worth exploring.