Leadership

Leading With Values: A Builder's How-To In Community Engagement

Hayden Homes’ community engagement commitments provide a blueprint for homebuilding operators nationwide to up their game as local economic solutions providers.

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Leadership

Leading With Values: A Builder's How-To In Community Engagement

Hayden Homes’ community engagement commitments provide a blueprint for homebuilding operators nationwide to up their game as local economic solutions providers.

Together with
April 4th, 2024
Leading With Values: A Builder's How-To In Community Engagement
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Homebuilding companies are biographies.

They have DNAs, a human arc of character, navigating pathways through hard realities, tests of patience, and frequent shocks and stresses to their resolve and reserves.

Whatever their size and capital underpinnings, homebuilding enterprises ultimately prove to be more of a story of who and why than about what and how.

They tend to thrive – or not – on the fuel and force of their organization’s innerness, especially in times of chaos and complexity. Precious resources – money, time, land, building materials, skilled labor – are common ground. What people do with constraints on those resources tells one homebuilder’s story versus another.

Staying power for builders today and tomorrow will come to those who not only invest resources wisely and operate well but who create and deepen ties to communities within their operating spheres, human ties.

Our era is characterized by volatility, chaos, complexity, and a pressing affordability crisis in the housing sector. The narrative of doing well by doing good has never been more relevant, particularly for homebuilders and residential developers. Amidst rising capital and input costs, the industry faces the dual challenge of sustaining profitability while addressing the critical need for affordable housing. This challenge is compounded by often contentious relationships with localities, where zoning regulations and entitlement restrictions frequently hamper new development efforts.

We wrote earlier:

Firms – home builders among them – naturally place the ability to generate sustainably profitable capital as the highest business priority. Exceptional firms--led by exceptional leaders--place the ability to generate social capital on a strategically equal par with profitability, embedding it into operations and performance criteria. This prioritization and behavior puts such firms at an advantage in today's business environment for a couple of reasons.”

In this turbulent business landscape, Hayden Homes — the subject of this earlier analysis we did in 2019 — continues to emerge as a beacon of how a company can thrive by deeply embedding community engagement and charitable giving into its core operating principles.

That ‘giving spirit’ may trace its provenance to parents, teachers, influencers, and mentors of times past, but to hear Hayden Watson, there's no ambiguity in his conviction that his business strategy and giving-back behavior--personally, as a company leader, and as a community member--are one, cohesive plan that gets investment, commitment, focus, management, and improvement on a daily basis. Paying it forward, in other words, is part of the business plan.”

What we wrote in that article five years ago is no less accurate today. Today, however, Hayden Homes and Simplicity by Hayden Homes ranks as one of the nation’s top 50 homebuilding enterprises, delivering upwards of 1,500 new homes to buyers. Here’s an example.

Near the airport in Redmond, OR, as the season’s first heavy snow and bitter cold hit in mid-January this year, 20 formerly houseless Central Oregonians took up residence in Oasis Village. Fifteen 100 square foot tiny bedroom shelters – served by a community building that includes showers, restrooms, laundry, and a communal kitchen – now stood. Just months earlier, there was a decade-long dream to help get men and women “out of the junipers” – unhoused in forest encampments – into transition housing.

Here’s how that moment ties to Hayden Homes’ biography and DNA.

First, some context. Upon taking office in January 2023, Governor Tina Kotek of Oregon declared addressing the state's housing and homelessness crisis as a top priority. In her inaugural address, Kotek announced a bold plan to significantly increase the state's housing production, setting a target of 36,000 new homes per year, marking an 80% increase over recent trends. Additionally, she declared a homelessness state of emergency and proposed an urgent $130 million investment to move at least another 1,200 Oregonians experiencing unsheltered homelessness off the streets within a year​.

Governor Kotek's executive orders aimed at reducing homelessness and establishing a statewide housing production goal and advisory council were central to her strategy. The emergency declaration, effective from January 10, 2023, to January 10, 2024, responded to a 50% increase in unsheltered homelessness in some regions of Oregon since 2017. The goal was to prevent 8,750 households from becoming homeless, add 600 low-barrier shelter beds, and rehouse at least 1,200 unsheltered households. These executive orders focused on a whole-community approach, necessitating the coordination of multiple state agencies to ensure a successful response​.

One of the initiatives that emerged from this comprehensive strategy was the Oasis Village project in Redmond, Oregon. Although specific details about the Oasis Village initiative's development process and outcomes weren't directly found in the sources reviewed, the broader context of Governor Kotek's actions provides a framework within which the project was realized. Kotek's focus on partnership with local communities and the emphasis on rapid implementation suggest that projects like Oasis Village were designed to offer immediate relief while contributing to the state's long-term housing goals.

A big challenge: That January 10, 2024 deadline Governor Kotek had set.

Enter Hayden Homes, a key player in transforming Oasis Village's vision into reality. Under Vice President Deborah Flagan's oversight of community engagement, Hayden Homes leveraged its expertise and resources to contribute significantly to this project. This initiative aligns perfectly with the company's ethos. 

Without Hayden Homes, Oasis Village really wouldn't exist today, and their willingness to step up was truly an answer to a prayer,” says Bob Bohac, chairman of the Oasis Village board, and the genesis of its initial concept. “To me, that's just a fact. That they would take that on, giving back to the community as extensively as they did – it’s an attitude that I don't find terribly rampant in today's business world. It's rare."

It underscores the company's long-standing commitment to building homes, nurturing communities, and engaging deeply with local needs.

I truly am so grateful to work for this company every day, and it's amazing how much has changed,” Hayden’s Deb Flagan says. “Today, my job is community engagement, which includes charitable giving. So I'm able to ensure that the communities that we're doing business in that I can understand what their struggles are because we live and breathe here with them.”

Hayden Homes' involvement in Oasis Village exemplifies how private entities can collaborate effectively with public initiatives to address critical social issues. The company took a proactive role in the project by donating civil engineering services, providing construction management oversight, and engaging with educational institutions like Redmond High School and Central Oregon Community College to contribute to the construction efforts.

We're just trying to match our charitable giving and our building expertise in these cities to help them build a stronger community and ensure housing for their hard-working families,” Flagan says. “Our investments in community engagement, like the work we've done with Oasis Village, are integral to who we are.”

This multifaceted engagement not only facilitated the project's completion but also offered local students an invaluable learning experience, intertwining community service with educational opportunities.

Oasis Village, conceived in response to Governor Kotek's emergency orders, was a direct response to the escalating homelessness crisis. The project's rapid development — from ground-breaking to completion in months — underscores the potential for impact when governmental vision aligns with private sector capability and community support. The initiative aimed to create a sustainable model for addressing homelessness. Hayden Homes was pivotal in achieving this goal by ensuring the project's alignment with local housing needs while fostering a sense of community and belonging for its residents.

The success of Oasis Village, facilitated by Hayden Homes' involvement, mirrors Governor Kotek's broader objectives of increasing housing production and improving the state's responsiveness to homelessness. It represents a practical manifestation of the collaborative approach Kotek advocates for, underscoring the importance of public-private partnerships in solving complex societal issues.

Bob Bohac – discussing the multi-faceted approach required to effectively address homelessness – draws an insightful parallel to the monumental task of the Apollo moon missions in the 1960s. He observes that while no single aspect of the moon project was insurmountably difficult on its own, the true challenge lay in orchestrating the myriad components to function cohesively. He says,

No part of [the housing crisis] is difficult to understand or even consider what needs to be done. But you'd have to create a system where things work together, and we don't have that in this country right now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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