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  • Writer's pictureMatt McDonald

“Bad Projects” can ruin “Good Projects”

In a 2018 major survey by the San Jose Mercury News, 57% of respondents blame builders as a major reason for the housing crisis. Builders get far more blame in the survey than tech companies that drive steep population growth, new residents themselves, or the local elected officials who oppose new housing development. Imagine that: the builders who stand to gain the most from new building get the greatest blame from the public preventing that growth. That perspective is incredibly irrational and makes you wonder what those respondents were doing instead of paying attention in their 12thGrade Economics class. However, even when public perception is absurd you’ve got to deal with it, and the reality is that builders are simply unpopular, so they get blame even when it isn’t deserved.

And let’s face it, there are plenty of builders who cut corners, bully neighbors and thumb their noses at public concerns. Those are the firms that create a toxic political environment for the good guys who want to build great projects in coordination with the community and elected leaders. The public reacts by painting the building industry with a broad brush. It isn’t fair, but it is a reality. NIMBYism is in many ways a high organic and earnest reaction to the excesses of irresponsible builders, and it gives them momentum to fight ANY new development.

Smart development teams know they have a lot to prove to the community on day one of a project, and they focus attention on building credibility through community engagement early on.

It is critical to differentiate yourself from other builders who have the power to undermine your project through their own bumbling. It’s very powerful when a once-skeptical community member stands up in a council meeting and says that working with you on your project was a breath of fresh air, unlike dealing with “those other guys”. Take your community concerns seriously, show true care and attention to their concerns – and see yourself quickly become a trusted and essential stakeholder in a larger process of community planning.

NEXT WEEK: Part 5, Somebody is funding and organizing your opposition

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