Doing things differently than everyone else is a tough road walk—even tougher to pave. Home First came at affordable housing at a very different angle, they understood homelessness, they understood government and they understood development. For many, it was quantum mechanics—tough to comprehend.
There was a place, err… space, where it all fit. A mix of wisdom, knowledge, and humility. State of Assembly happily presented designs and words that said what Home First wanted to say. No more would they struggle to describe their fundamental theories of development and the physical property and nature of what they do. It would only be about getting people in homes first.
How do you describe something so divergent from an industry? It would be inaccurate and unfair to put a house on their logo and call it a day. Home First was building in ways no one else could. The only way for us at State of Assembly to properly articulate their purpose was for them to talk us through it. Explain it all, the whole process, from soup to nuts.
Fighters of social injustice. Landowners losing tax breaks. Stand-alone banks utilizing community reinvestment act credits. Insurance companies and banks with federal income liability to defray. These are highly visible organizations forced to spend money on community development. “Forced” seems like an odd word choice, but hear us out. Each example, in a way, is forced to spend money on affordable housing—and they are monitored by the public. Meaning, if a developer messes up? It can be argued that it looks worse on them than the developer. So when these organizations choose a partner—they have got to be sure it is the right one. What will tip the scales of trust towards Home First? Having a purpose, a guiding light. For these trusted companies, working with a company that has an aligned purpose can be just enough to tip good fortune the Home First way. These investors still want, need, to look good in the public eye; they need to look like they care. It’s good for business. Since these organizations are forced to spend their money on funding affordable housing, wouldn’t they jump at a chance to work with a developer with an aligned purpose? The purpose is why you exist. Not what you do, but why you do it. Home first was built on a powerful idea —you can’t expect people to get their lives together until they are in a good space. You can’t be a great person without self-esteem. You can’t have self-esteem without feeling loved or having a sense of belonging. You can’t feel like you belong unless you feel safe. And you can’t feel safe unless your basic physiological needs are taken care of air, food, drink, warmth, sleep, clothing, AND shelter. The founders of Home First knew it. That’s why Home First’s purpose is to get people in a good space. Getting people into a good space begins with a good space—a home. A place of safety, a place of security, financially and physically. It’s one step closer to a feeling that they belong, surrounded by community. A place where they can learn to have self-esteem. Getting people in a good space is also about communicating with your partners and lenders. To let them know “we can handle this,” “we got you.” It’s being worthy of their trust. It makes them feel secure in their investment of time and money. Getting people in a good space is about treating your employees well, ensuring they are taken care of now. That their families will be taken care of in the future. When worries are lifted, it leaves more space for thoughtfulness, creativity, and efficiency. Leadership is trickle down. Reading through the Home First competitor’s leadership backgrounds, you can visualize the communities they intend to develop. What they look like, who they would serve, themselves, their investors, the status quo. None of these leaders have a boots-on-the-ground view. None of them have leadership that comes from social activism. From people who know because they’ve been there first hand. Yes, Home First knows how to get people in a good space; they also authentically know why and how. The leaders of Home First come from non-profit backgrounds and government policy creation. That knowledge has a lot of power, and it speaks to expectations, communication, and assurance their clients want from them. These clients want the most for their money to take care of more people. They need to look good in the public eye, so they are looking for reasons to trust Home First. and when we looked for what was different about Home First from their competitors, what made them the only, we broke it down to one long wordy sentence. In a time of social and governmental distrust and doubt, Home First is the mission-driven affordable housing developer using efficient and effective methods to provide assurances to public, private, and social investors while working through complex regulatory procedures to ensure the Northwest has necessary affordable housing for its vulnerable population. Here are the big points; first off, Home First understands that government is complex, but it comes from a good place. Second, public, private, and social investors want to find someone they can trust. These organizations yearn to find others who are trustworthy. You gain people’s trust, not by hiding something but by showing. Teaching. Teaching the ins and outs of something very complex shows you can be efficient with time and money and effective and worthy of trust. And what is worthy of trust but worthy of loyalty. When we thought about the Home First values, we wanted them to align with their client’s mores. We want to cause intangible affinities. They don’t know why they like Home First; they just do. For values to work, they have to come naturally. Values that aren’t followed by every person in an organization make the organization unauthentic, unworthy of loyalty. The values we wrote for Home First don’t come out of left field. We highlighted the best things they do every day, ensuring they continue. Values include considering and respecting all, asking questions, figuring it out, being efficient to be effective, and staying humble while you deliver. These are the core of Home First and align with people who want to believe in what they do. Sometimes people get purpose, mission, and vision mixed up. We’ve seen many businesses within a single industry having similar missions. It wasn’t any different in this one, either. The missions of the Home First competition were confusing. At best, it was a little too on the nose. At worst, it mixed metaphors to make them sound like they could jump over tall buildings that sit on solid foundations. As with everything State of Assembly writes for our clients, this mission is loaded with meaning: Build and maintain affordable housing for the Northwest’s vulnerable population. Building and maintaining is simply what Home First does and will always do. We wouldn’t put it past the folks who work there to dip back into legislation and right the ship that is not doing enough for affordable housing. Home First is Northwest. They know the state, the towns, the communities, the people, their names. As for the vulnerable, those susceptible to physical or emotional harm, that speaks to the safe place they provide—the safe place to be in a good space. The vision is what success looks like. How will Home First know we have done a good job? For the most part, this was straight lifted from Home First’s original mission: Access to a safe, affordable home for every person in the Northwest. It’s a simply stated vision —that will take a lot of effort. But we don’t think that’s a problem because it’s what Home First leads with. To get people in a good space. A place that you can call your own is a safe space. It’s more than four walls and a roof; it is a home. It won’t fix personal struggles. It can be the foothold—a foundation for a better quality of life. A home is humanity’s first step towards community; to preserve a thriving society. We need homes first in the Northwest. Take part in your community, partner with Home First, and put your neighbors in a good space.