Jaebadiah Gardner likes a challenge. As the founder and CEO of Gardner Global, Inc., a real estate development firm, he faces stiff competition in the Seattle housing market. He’s learned to navigate the bureaucratic streams of local regulation as well as leverage the relationships he’s built as he’s worked to develop both multi-family and market rate housing. The fact that he is young and African-American adds another layer of complexity.
“In Seattle, when it comes to multi-family development, it’s like going to Nordstrom the day after the big sale,” said Gardner. “The real estate that’s left on the market is not conducive to a profitable deal.”
Add to that the difficulty of obtaining financing because lenders and investors are less willing to take risks on such projects, especially in a heavily regulated environment. Gardner has to work harder and longer to find the right deal.
“In a market with less stringent regulations, like Vancouver, B.C., you will see a lot of development creating multi-family homes from single-family zoned properties,” he said. “In Seattle there’s a polarized view of development between those who support building more housing, whether affordable or market rate and those who are opposed to upzoning single-family properties to do that.”
Gardner appreciates the city’s efforts to fund affordable housing, but he also sees it driving up costs for those very homes while construction costs continue to climb as well.
“It’s hard to make projects pencil out,” he said. “In this market covering costs is not near enough to attract debt or equity partners. There needs to be a competitive advantage and we have worked hard to obtain that.”
Gardner sees gentrification as an effect of institutionalized racism and a lack of job opportunities, not necessarily due to lack of housing supply or a strong economy driving up prices.
“I’m no economist but I would bet that there is direct correlation between the groups of people who are not employed at high earning jobs in Seattle and those being displaced,” he said. “If we don’t address diversity and employment practices, how can we expect to change the outcome of home ownership and livability?”
Gardner says that it is important to create a safe space to address the history of discrimination, especially for people in the private sector. People should not feel personally attacked because it is a systemic problem that requires everyone to help solve it.
“I want to create generational wealth to benefit those who’ve traditionally been excluded from the opportunity to do so, and I’m using real estate as a vehicle to do that,” said Gardner.
Gardner will join Greater Seattle Partners and the Washington REALTORS at MIPIM next month to deliver a keynote address highlighting the greater Seattle region’s assets and to help interest international investors in our market. MIPIM is the world’s leading property market. His first book, “Believe In Yourself: Business Essentials for the Millennial Entrepreneur,” will soon be available for pre-sale orders.