Mike DeGrant is stepping down as president of the Housing & Building Association Cares, a nonprofit branch of the HBA that assists other nonprofits with construction needs. But as he vacates the position he’s occupied since 2014, DeGrant is preparing to move into his new role as Colorado Springs HBA’s 2018 president.
He is also the director of land acquisition and entitlement for Oakwood Homes, and is part of several committee boards, including the Life of Faith Church, the city’s Initiative to End Homelessness and the Development Review Enterprise board, among others.
DeGrant spoke with the Business Journal about his plans as HBA’s next president.
How did you get into the building and development industry?
My [interest] started when I was in elementary school with my dad who was a builder in Denver — [so] I grew up in the business. Then I went to college for construction management and, after college, came from Denver to Colorado Springs and started a career as a homebuilder. Then, in the early ’80s, I moved into the land development side of the business. I’ve been associated with the HBA for over 30 years.
It’s fun to build communities, it’s fun to build homes, it’s fun to fulfill family dreams. So as a community developer, I’m proud of the projects that I’ve worked on and the communities I’ve worked on in Colorado Springs throughout my career.
What are your plans as the next HBA president?
A lot of things we tackle on a day-to-day basis. Our primary mission is to provide safe and affordable housing within the community. We obviously advocate for better rules and regulations we deal with as an industry, so we’ll be continuing on with that, along with really strengthening what we do within the community. You’ll see a new push for better [public relations] with the organization throughout the year and [we’ll] get out to the community the good things we do and what we provide as an organization. We’ve got 500 members within the HBA … so we impact the community and economy in a large way.
What do you hope to accomplish?
We’ll tackle limited growth initiatives and statewide ballot issues. We’ll be working closely with the city of Colorado Springs on the new Comprehensive Plan and land code development this next year. We’re really passionate about … our Careers in Construction program. We just received a grant [for more than $500,000] from the state to expand that program in southern Colorado and to additional high schools in town.
[We also hope to define] housing affordability. From homelessness, veterans, families, to how do we get workforce housing built in the community for people who work at Starbucks or Target? It’s a community-wide effort. It’s not just a homebuilding issue. How do we change regulations? How do we provide more funding?
How will you approach these challenges?
Working side-by-side with community leaders. … When you look at the Comprehensive Plan with the city, really that engagement and transparency with city leaders and city government [is important to figure out] what is right thing for the Comprehensive Plan. We’ve kind of put the plan on the backburner for years during the downturn and now the city is really ramping up to make the Comprehensive Plan a viable document. Now we’ve got people who are [asking], ‘What does the city see for our future? Do you want more roads? More parks? How do we collaboratively work as a community to make that work?’
What should people know about the HBA?
One of the things I think the general public needs to know more about the HBA and homebuilders and developers: We’re not the bad guys. We react to growth, we don’t create growth. We go through ups and down in the economy like every other industry. We will have a slump in the economy again on the housing side, and we try to regulate how we go into those and come out of those, but we are reacting to the growth that is here today.
In most instances, 99 percent of the roads and the parks … built in our community comes from builders and developers. The cities do not build those. When you see a neighborhood being built — signage, parks, trails, swimming pools — those are paid for by developers. So again, with that added cost, that increases the cost of each one of those lots, which then goes to the whole cost [of a home]. nCSBJ