This week’s HW+ member spotlight features Sharon Park, co-founder and CEO at Home Starter Inc.
Below, Park answers questions about the housing industry:
HW Media: What is your current favorite HW+ article and why?
Sharon Park: My favorite article is “Opinion: Taming inflation requires making housing affordability a national priority.” I believe that closing the housing supply gap — particularly the affordable homeownership supply gap — is one of the most critical issues we face as a society today. Stable housing and homeownership are the bedrock of long-term, meaningful and sustainable positive change in terms of race and wealth equity outcomes. The racial homeownership gap in our country is the worst it has been in 50 years. We need to come together to focus on promoting innovative and practical solutions to solve this issue.
HW Media: With HousingWire Annual right around the corner, which session are you looking forward to this year and why?
Sharon Park: I am looking forward to the conference in general, but am most looking forward to the “Fireside Chat with FHFA Director Sandra Thompson” given the importance of the GSEs in the affordable homeownership ecosystem.
HW Media: What is your most useful tech tool?
Sharon Park: My most useful tech tool is the Home Starter platform! I am an anchor investor in a debt fund that provides capital to emerging developers in Philadelphia who are renovating and rehabilitating homes specifically for affordable homeownership. The Home Starter platform allows me to see how my capital is being deployed and track outcomes.
The emerging developers who do this difficult and risky work are critical to creating affordable homeownership opportunities. They are doing extremely valuable work that is often overlooked when we talk about solutions for the affordable homeownership crisis. It is critical that we figure out how to provide capital to this specific group of emerging developers at scale.
HW Media: What is the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Sharon Park: The weirdest job I ever had was as a young attorney. I am about to date myself, but I was an intern at a large, white shoe law firm in New York City. I was working on a very heated corporate litigation case. The senior attorney on the case was a bit of a chain smoker and smoked in the office (that is the dating myself part). My job one very late evening was to sit in the office holding an ashtray with the sole mandate of making sure that when the cigarette’s ash got long enough, it landed in the ashtray and not on the stack of papers on the desk.
HW Media: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Sharon Park: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is to try to look at things through other person’s lens. While I may not always succeed at that, I believe that keeping that in mind is very helpful whether in one’s professional or personal life.
HW Media: What keeps you up at night and why?
Sharon Park: The affordable homeownership crisis literally keeps me up at night. We are unfortunately in the perfect storm in the current environment. The supply demand imbalance is a huge factor, but when coupled with inflation and a rising rate environment, homeownership affordability is just getting hammered. To me, housing stability can dictate the forward of a person much like that of a root of a tree.
You need strong roots for strong trees. We talk a lot about the importance of homeownership for wealth creation and race equity, but I would like to see us focusing more on the “how” we get there. How do we promote affordable homeownership in an intentional, practical and sustainable way? Unless we do this, we won’t have strong trees.
HW Media: What’s one thing that people aren’t paying attention to that you think they should be paying attention to?
Sharon Park: On the affordable homeownership front, I don’t think people are paying enough attention to really unpacking how an affordable homeownership opportunity is created, especially in today’s environment. I believe that if we really want to solve this crisis, people need to get into the weeds about what the barriers and points of pain are for the key participants along the way.
I will never forget what a former FHFA director once said to me almost a decade ago — on the supply side, new construction is one piece, but on the affordable homeownership front especially, we need to fix the housing assets we already have. This is so true today more than ever.
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