The HAND network is hard at work to address the growing housing affordability challenge across the Capital Region. Five Minutes With is a series highlighting these members and other stakeholders. This informal conversation delves into their recent projects, the affordable housing industry, and more. In this edition, we had a conversation with Gregory Hare, who has recently transitioned to his new role as the Assistant Secretary and Director, CDA, for Maryland DHCD. Check out our dialogue below to learn about Gregory’s journey in the affordable housing space, what he believes is the “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability, and his views on how leaders of color in the real estate industry can tip the scales differently.
HAND: Congratulations on our new role as the Assistant Secretary and Director, CDA, for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development! What excites you about your new role? Do you foresee any challenges?
GH: Thank you, I appreciate all the well wishes. There are so many things that excite me about coming into this role. First, I have the opportunity to work with talented and high-performing people – who’ve I’ve grown and learned alongside since I’ve been with the Agency. This position gives me the freedom to incorporate new perspectives into CDA’s approaches. I realize the potential and the opportunity in front of us – to intentionally do more – and knowing how we can positively transform communities excites me.
Like any organization, if you want to be effective in today’s environment, you have to be innovative, open to new ways of doing and new ways of thinking; and that’s not just from an operations perspective; it has to be deeper, which takes time with any organization, but especially in State government.
HAND: You have extensive experience in the affordable housing space – can you tell us about your journey to this point?
GH: Like many things in life, your spark is often your frustration. I wanted to impact the community, so after college, I joined Baltimore Housing, working in various capacities before ultimately serving as the Administrator for the Rental and Assisted Housing division. Early in my career, I recognized the power of policy and its impact on our communities. When I joined DHCD in 2014, I quickly realized that if you listen to people, they’ll tell you what’s at the heart of problems, and, in most cases, they’ll also share how to fix them if you keep an open mind. So, my journey has really centered around what people say their needs are and creating or improving programs to respond to those.
HAND: What is one thing you wish you would have known at the beginning of your career?
GH: At the beginning of my career, I wish I’d known to narrow myself before looking to expand. Being really good at one thing will serve one well throughout an entire career. So, taking my time to reach mastery in one space has been significant. Subject matter expertise will serve you for a lifetime.
HAND: Keeping in mind the history of racism and its impacts on housing. How can leaders of color or in the real estate industry tip the scales differently?
GH: I think we’re fighting a trillion-dollar problem with a one-hundred-dollar mindset. Leaders often take what is happening in the world today, and they don’t look back. They look at the surface-level ways to help disadvantaged people and think they’ve fixed the problem, but the deeper issue to solve is why they are disadvantaged. And when you start to understand those institutional issues, you realize this work won’t move until we work intentionally and collectively to tip the scales.
HAND: Do you believe there is a “secret sauce” to addressing housing affordability and creating more equitable communities in our region? If so, what do you think that is? What do you think is the largest obstacle?
GH: The activist Jane Jacobs’ quote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” If you have a goal you can do by yourself, it’s not big enough, so we must change our mindset and come together on solutions as big as our problem.
HAND: What is your “why”? What keeps you motivated to continue your work in this space?
GH: People are my why. Everything I do is to serve people in a way that makes circumstances better for them.
HAND: If you weren’t working in this industry, what might you be doing?
GH: If I weren’t working in the affordable housing industry, I would probably be an inventor. Over twenty years ago, I built a device to measure “how well” one was driving, like today’s insurance devices that reward good driving. During a presentation of the concept, I glanced down at the executive’s notepad and realized he was drawing stick figures, so I canned that idea.