Founded in the late 1980s, Hacienda is a non-profit Community Development Corporation specifically created for the Latino community in Portland, Oregon. Hacienda was initially created as a neighborhood advocacy program, and by the 90s, it started developing affordable housing for local communities. Now, Hacienda functions as a business that offers affordable housing, homeownership support, economic advancement, educational opportunities, family and youth services, real estate development, and more.
While their real estate development sector functions as a standalone department, all of their work is done with Hacienda’s overarching mission in mind—building communities. As a community builder, Hacienda takes the time to understand the people they’re building for and lets that data drive their design and construction efforts. Rather than solely focusing on building cookie-cutter, cheap affordable housing, Hacienda designs and builds housing with public purpose and well-being in mind. Hacienda has the same mission when it comes to building its company culture and staff. They want to bring structure, imagination, and out-of-the-box thinking to solve the biggest problems our communities face today.
When Kevin Kellogg joined Hacienda as the development department’s director in January of 2020, he knew that being productive was going to be key because, as he says, “the real estate development process can be inefficient.” He also fervently believes in creating a culture that empowers his team to think innovatively about housing development. Is it possible to be productive and creative in an inefficient, outdated industry?
He quickly realized the need for a digital tool that could help manage Hacienda’s growing development pipeline. Valuable time and money were being spent on simple tasks like finding documents—according to Kevin, a typical project can have up to thousands of files!
“The quickest way to demotivate high performing team members is to assign them repetitive manual tasks that could be automated when they could be making insightful decisions or judgment calls.”
Director of Real Estate Development, Hacienda CDC
Additionally, Hacienda needed a tool that could help them keep up with their competitors, potential partners, and the Portland talent pool.
As Hacienda and Kevin focused on growing their team, they recognized the competition for finding senior real estate talent in Portland. Rather than building a large team, they wanted to focus on hiring motivated individuals who are eager to learn, build, and give back to the community. Hacienda required a platform that would help less experienced employees get up to speed quickly with an established blueprint for the development process. This blueprint needed to be simple enough for anyone to understand.
Kevin, an architect by training and practice, cross-pollinates ideas by comparing the concept of simplifying the development process to architectural design, stating: “we’ve seen this kind of innovation in architecture where you’re building very complex buildings. The process is broken down into digestible pieces that everyone understands, and the language becomes universally accessible. It’s beautiful.”
Kevin encourages his team to exercise creative problem solving and critical thinking and to focus on their strong suits, rather than waste brain energy on menial tasks like manually re-entering data on spreadsheets and uploading and downloading files to collate diligence for loan closings. With that in mind, he sought a technology that would not only empower his team by providing an easy-to-follow structure but also free them to think innovatively about the bigger, more systemic problems.
“I really believe that structure creates space for creativity. Some of the best ideas come from the right combination of people having the time and space needed to think imaginatively.”
After coming across Builders Patch through its newsletters, Kevin reached out to learn more. He spoke with the Builders Patch team and saw that the software held a lot of value beyond task management. Kevin said, 'I realized then that this system is built around the way we developers work.' From project analytics, document storage, and collaborative to-do lists to collecting due diligence and tracking project analytics, it is built specifically for the developer mindset.
"I realized then that this system is built around the way we developers work.”
The Builders Patch team worked closely with Hacienda to onboard all their projects to the platform and get everything up and running. This not only involved training the team on how to use the system, but also included organizational structures and templates to improve the team’s workflow. Moreover, the Builders Patch team had the expertise to speak to the product’s functionality, suggest best practices, assist with any questions, and train newer, less experienced employees.
“Having their expertise was a huge part of why we chose Builders Patch. I’ve worked with other data management tools, but when I've asked them for advice or best practices, they were unsure or unable to answer our questions,” said Kevin.
"The big difference with Builders Patch was their personal experience and expertise in affordable housing finance and development.”
Kevin also found that the Builders Patch platform made data transparent and easy to understand. What was once a complicated sheet of data that needed to be dissected and translated is now a printable underwriting memo that can be easily distributed across business and financing sources, like Oregon Housing and Community Services, and community banks.
Now, thousands of Hacienda’s documents are organized within folders and are simple to find, their due diligence and pro forma processes are streamlined, and significantly less time is spent on monotonous tasks so the team can focus on what matters most—developing real estate.
Hacienda’s development team is most enthusiastic to start using a new Builders Patch feature that digitizes their loan applications. Underwriting is the most intense, time-consuming, manual, and tedious process in a deal closing. Builders Patch offers to send all the organized data to different funding sources digitally, quickly, and efficiently.
As Kevin said, 'changing the current state of housing in our nation requires an immense amount of imagination and creativity,' neither of which can happen when developers are focused on mundane tasks. Having a tool like Builders Patch gives Hacienda a competitive advantage in the development industry because they can now manage less and build more.
The biggest saving has been time. Before, Kevin and his team would spend a lot of time fixing manual errors and looking for lost documents. It once took them over a week to find a contract! Now, Kevin’s team can better manage their time by visualizing which tasks need to be done and which tasks are taking longer than others, encouraging them to stay focused and motivated. And, with more organized insight into projects, Kevin can develop realistic goals and key performance indicators moving forward.
Hacienda is also working to close the talent gap by utilizing Builders Patch as a management tool, enabling them to hire younger, less experienced employees. Even with limited resources, using Builders Patch has enabled Hacienda to continue moving the needle with time and effort to build and develop.
Builders Patch allows Hacienda’s development team to focus on the entrepreneurial and creative side of development and has empowered them to focus on the bigger picture—developing housing that is affordable and accessible for their community.
"We’re not going to improve the situation of housing in this country by using the same standards we’ve been using up until now. It’s going to take creative, imaginative, entrepreneurial types of activity to think of new ways of solving this.”