5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development 5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development | Winterspring Capital

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

As a real estate developer, you’re going to have to confront politics whether you like it or not.  I’ve seen deals that seem completely uncontroversial on paper descend into political bloodbaths with strong feelings on all sides. 

A funny anecdote I heard once was that the residents of Paris fervently opposed the construction of the Eiffel Tower when it was being planned.  I don’t know if that story is actually true or not, but based on my experience I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. 

Development involves change, which people have a tough time with.  A lot of the politically active residents that oppose your projects will often be older and have sentimental feelings attached to their position.

The sad truth is that there are lots of shady developers out there and that in the not-so-recent past there was far more of them.  Regulations and oversight have helped fight the shoddy workmanship and illegal occupancy issues of the past and buildings being built today in the United States are safer and more environmentally efficient than ever before. 

An issue that has hurt developers’ reputations in the past and continues to do so today is insensitive development.  A common example of this could be building structures that do not match or blend in with the character of the neighborhood.  A more malicious and complex version might be aggressively buying up condominiums in a condo complex that you hope to re-develop, in order to wrestle control of the association from the residents.  

There are unfortunately actual developers today who do this.  If you’ve ever read about the living conditions of immigrants in America’s urban areas only 100 years ago, you can also see how a century of negative sentiment makes development a pretty controversial topic.  That’s why understanding political outreach, specifically working and compromising with individuals who are not fond of you by default, is a skill that any successful developer will have to work on over the course of their career.

Remember that if you are doing smaller projects the neighborhood and politicians in the area will probably have less control over what you do, but anyone can sue you.  It becomes really important to get involved with outreach when you are looking to entitle projects by getting special permission to build something not specifically allowed by the zoning code. 

These projects will have politicians weighing in and they will be reluctant to support any project that has made their voter base very upset.  Some areas also give the neighbors a direct vote in the process through neighborhood meetings organized by the municipality and local civic groups.

Here are a few strategies we’ve employed in order to work projects across the finish line:

1. Introduce Yourself to The Neighborhood:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

When you purchase a property, have you or one of your team members spend some time knocking on doors and getting to know the people of the neighborhood. 

We usually leave letters introducing ourselves and our intentions for the property with our contact information included and a request to meet.  You can set up informal meetings in the conference and office areas available at most hotels, unless your company’s office is nearby. 

Depending on the culture of the area, these can sometimes be nice get-to-know you events, or they can get hostile right from the start.  It’s good to get out in front of things to begin with because if there are politically involved and aggressive members of the neighborhood, they are going to blindside you eventually.

2. Hold Lots of Meetings:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

This depends on how involved the entitlement process is for your project.  For very complicated and lengthy entitlements, we’ve found holding lots of meetings and continually trying to work out the issues and finding compromises is key for residents of the area. 

They want to feel like the developer cares and isn’t just trying to ram something down their throats.  Just remember to always listen and try to make changes based on their comments, even if you can’t incorporate every suggestion or demand.

3. Get to Know the Area's Politicians:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

Put a face to your company and meet up with the local representatives that will be involved in supporting or opposing your project. 

These might not be members who sit on the board that determines your project’s approval, but rather the elected officials from the municipality. 

They will likely still weigh in on your project as that is one of their responsibilities in representing the community.  Don’t be surprised to find politicians you have a friendly working relationship with oppose your projects from time to time.  They’re just doing their job. 

The next step is figuring out how to overcome that opposition and if you already know and have a working relationship with these officials, they can help bridge the gap and may serve as your pathway to finding a compromise.

4. Work With the Right Architect for Your Team:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

Your architect and members of your design team should also be skilled at working with the neighborhood and have connections to the various government agencies needed in order to achieve project approval. 

A good architectural firm will have networked for years in the markets they operate in and their reputation can help carry your projects forward.  Look for architects that are designing memorable buildings in your area and have good reputations with other developers. 

The right architect will be able to prepare beautiful renderings and other details to allow you to more properly explain your proposal, or will work with a graphic design firm to prepare those for you.

5. Emphasize the Changes You Make With Each Design Iteration:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

People are busy and often have a single emotional reaction to your project that it will be your job to work to change. 

If you’ve held several meetings and gone through a few design changes based directly on neighborhood feedback, you need to emphasize every specific change at the start of each new meeting. 

You need to refresh people’s memories and remind them that you really are putting in a lot of work and money to make them happy.

As a real estate developer, you’re going to have to confront politics whether you like it or not.  I’ve seen deals that seem completely uncontroversial on paper descend into political bloodbaths with strong feelings on all sides. 

A funny anecdote I heard once was that the residents of Paris fervently opposed the construction of the Eiffel Tower when it was being planned.  I don’t know if that story is actually true or not, but based on my experience I certainly wouldn’t be surprised. 

Development involves change, which people have a tough time with.  A lot of the politically active residents that oppose your projects will often be older and have sentimental feelings attached to their position.

The sad truth is that there are lots of shady developers out there and that in the not-so-recent past there was far more of them.  Regulations and oversight have helped fight the shoddy workmanship and illegal occupancy issues of the past and buildings being built today in the United States are safer and more environmentally efficient than ever before. 

An issue that has hurt developers’ reputations in the past and continues to do so today is insensitive development.  A common example of this could be building structures that do not match or blend in with the character of the neighborhood.  A more malicious and complex version might be aggressively buying up condominiums in a condo complex that you hope to re-develop, in order to wrestle control of the association from the residents.  

There are unfortunately actual developers today who do this.  If you’ve ever read about the living conditions of immigrants in America’s urban areas only 100 years ago, you can also see how a century of negative sentiment makes development a pretty controversial topic.  That’s why understanding political outreach, specifically working and compromising with individuals who are not fond of you by default, is a skill that any successful developer will have to work on over the course of their career.

Remember that if you are doing smaller projects the neighborhood and politicians in the area will probably have less control over what you do, but anyone can sue you.  It becomes really important to get involved with outreach when you are looking to entitle projects by getting special permission to build something not specifically allowed by the zoning code. 

These projects will have politicians weighing in and they will be reluctant to support any project that has made their voter base very upset.  Some areas also give the neighbors a direct vote in the process through neighborhood meetings organized by the municipality and local civic groups.

Here are a few strategies we’ve employed in order to work projects across the finish line:

1. Introduce Yourself to The Neighborhood:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

When you purchase a property, have you or one of your team members spend some time knocking on doors and getting to know the people of the neighborhood. 

We usually leave letters introducing ourselves and our intentions for the property with our contact information included and a request to meet.  You can set up informal meetings in the conference and office areas available at most hotels, unless your company’s office is nearby. 

Depending on the culture of the area, these can sometimes be nice get-to-know you events, or they can get hostile right from the start.  It’s good to get out in front of things to begin with because if there are politically involved and aggressive members of the neighborhood, they are going to blindside you eventually.

2. Hold Lots of Meetings:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

This depends on how involved the entitlement process is for your project.  For very complicated and lengthy entitlements, we’ve found holding lots of meetings and continually trying to work out the issues and finding compromises is key for residents of the area. 

They want to feel like the developer cares and isn’t just trying to ram something down their throats.  Just remember to always listen and try to make changes based on their comments, even if you can’t incorporate every suggestion or demand.

3. Get to Know the Area's Politicians:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

Put a face to your company and meet up with the local representatives that will be involved in supporting or opposing your project. 

These might not be members who sit on the board that determines your project’s approval, but rather the elected officials from the municipality. 

They will likely still weigh in on your project as that is one of their responsibilities in representing the community.  Don’t be surprised to find politicians you have a friendly working relationship with oppose your projects from time to time.  They’re just doing their job. 

The next step is figuring out how to overcome that opposition and if you already know and have a working relationship with these officials, they can help bridge the gap and may serve as your pathway to finding a compromise.

4. Work With the Right Architect for Your Team:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

Your architect and members of your design team should also be skilled at working with the neighborhood and have connections to the various government agencies needed in order to achieve project approval. 

A good architectural firm will have networked for years in the markets they operate in and their reputation can help carry your projects forward.  Look for architects that are designing memorable buildings in your area and have good reputations with other developers. 

The right architect will be able to prepare beautiful renderings and other details to allow you to more properly explain your proposal, or will work with a graphic design firm to prepare those for you.

5. Emphasize the Changes You Make With Each Design Iteration:

5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development

People are busy and often have a single emotional reaction to your project that it will be your job to work to change. 

If you’ve held several meetings and gone through a few design changes based directly on neighborhood feedback, you need to emphasize every specific change at the start of each new meeting. 

You need to refresh people’s memories and remind them that you really are putting in a lot of work and money to make them happy.

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5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development
5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development
5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development
5 Political Outreach Strategies for Real Estate Development