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The B&D Interview: Jeff Montejano, CEO, BIASC

BIASC executive discusses California’s market influence and housing crisis, and what future efforts can be made

Builder and Developer: As we celebrate our centenary this year, tell us about BIASC and its importance, and why firms should participate.

Jeff Montejano: As we celebrate our 100th anniversary, it is a momentous occasion to reflect on the importance of our association and why it is crucial for businesses and members to join our ranks. Southern California stands among the most prominent real estate markets in the world, but with that distinction comes the challenge of navigating rigorous regulatory policies. In this landscape, the Building Industry Association of Southern California (BIASC) has and will continue to emerge as a beacon of support, guidance and opportunity for our industry.

As the birthplace of several of the largest national homebuilders in the country, Southern California holds a rich history in the building industry. We are proud to have every major homebuilder as a member, a testament to the trust and value we bring to the table. With strong leadership at the regional level and four chapters, we continue to be the largest building industry association in California, with a footprint that spans Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial counties.

Over the past six years, we have undergone a dramatic transformation, reshaping our organization to better serve the needs of our members. We have strengthened and sharpened our focus on advocacy, recognizing that in a landscape marked by regulatory challenges, our collective voice holds immense power. Through our new and improved advocacy efforts, we strive not only to create a favorable business environment but also to protect businesses and jobs, ensuring the sustainability and growth of our industry.

Furthermore, we have embraced innovation and technology as critical tools in how we advocate and communicate. By leveraging modern technology such as our advocacy mobilization program, revamped social media channels and a newly developed app (BIZ Net), we have revolutionized our ability to bring people together, create business opportunities and mobilize for change. We understand that in today’s interconnected world, effective communication and collaboration are essential to our success.

Our association has also placed a strong emphasis on hosting new types of signature events that foster networking, knowledge sharing and industry advancements. These events serve as a platform for industry professionals to come together, exchange ideas and forge valuable connections. By facilitating these interactions, we not only bolster business opportunities but also strengthen the collective knowledge and expertise within our community.

It is essential that we emphasize the significance of housing for current and future generations, allowing them to fulfill the American dream.”

B&D: What influence does California have on the rest of the states in terms of housing?

JM: California has always been at the forefront of innovation and housing trends. Historically, we have been one of the largest states in terms of housing production. However, over the years, this production has significantly declined due to regulatory laws and anti-housing policies that drive up costs and add lengthy litigation processes to housing projects.

As a building industry association, it is our responsibility to address these challenges and advocate for change. California’s real estate market remains a high-demand market, but we must ensure that the regulatory and anti-housing laws do not hinder its growth or expansion. It is imperative that these laws be stopped or amended to create a more favorable environment for housing development.

B&D: What additional efforts can be made to help tackle California’s housing crisis?

JM: There is no doubt that this housing policy crisis plagues our beloved Southern California. It is now more crucial than ever that we pursue a more aggressive and highly strategic approach to tackling this challenge. We cannot afford to stand idly by and watch as our communities struggle with skyrocketing housing costs and limited availability. The time has come for us to take a bold stance and advocate for change. 

To overcome this crisis, we must be aggressive in our pursuit of housing solutions. This means actively engaging with policymakers, raising awareness about the dire consequences of the housing shortage and proposing practical strategies to address the issue. We need to highlight the economic benefits of a thriving housing market and emphasize the importance of affordable housing for our communities’ well-being.

As we navigate through this housing crisis, let me remind you of a quote by one of our esteemed board members, Tom Grable, division president of TriPointe Homes. He said, “California doesn’t have a housing crisis. California has a housing policy crisis.”

These words resonate deeply with us, as they encapsulate the heart of the matter. Our homebuilding committee possesses the knowledge and expertise to construct quality homes in a timely manner. However, it is the endless regulatory restrictions and litigation that impede our progress. To tackle this crisis, we must focus on two key areas—member mobilization and advocacy.

Mobilization is crucial in bringing together our passionate members, uniting our voices and mobilizing for change. It is through collective action that we can demonstrate the urgency of the situation and demand meaningful reform. By organizing rallies, events and grassroots campaigns, we can create a groundswell of support that reverberates throughout the state.

We must also emphasize that the California housing crisis affects us all. It impacts families searching for affordable housing, workers struggling with long commutes and communities grappling with housing instability. It is not a problem that can be disregarded or swept under the rug. It requires bold and decisive action.

B&D: What does the future of Southern California housing look like to you today?

JM: In envisioning the future of housing in Southern California, it is clear that we face significant challenges. The market’s high demand coupled with limited housing supply is a result of regulatory confinements, CEQA litigation and the reluctance of several local governments to approve housing projects or their housing elements. NIMBY groups persistently push back against housing project proposals in their neighborhoods. However, amidst these obstacles, there is still a glimmer of hope for a brighter future.

To realize this future, we need to advocate for and educate the public about the urgent need for government intervention in prioritizing market-rate housing production. It is essential that we emphasize the significance of housing for current and future generations, allowing them to fulfill the American dream. 

Currently, housing affordability is at an all-time low, but this can change with policy reforms from Sacramento and local government entities. Better collaboration is necessary, and elected officials must grasp the critical importance of housing for the state of California. For those officials who fail to understand our cause, we must exhaust every effort to educate them or, if necessary, remove them through the electoral process.

B&D: What’s next for BIASC?

JM: We have our 100-year anniversary Gala scheduled for this November, where all four of our chapters will come together. It will be a celebration of our history, achievements and the collective efforts that have shaped our industry over the past century.

As we enter the next century, we remain committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation and communication. We have introduced our new BIZ NET app, along with cutting-edge social media applications, which will provide us with innovative platforms to connect, communicate and navigate the evolving landscape of our industry. Through these tools, we will be able to foster stronger connections, share valuable insights and stay ahead of the curve.

Looking ahead, we are determined to organize bigger and better signature events in the coming year. These events will not only engage and inspire our members but also serve as platforms to promote and support underserved communities. We take great pride in our initiatives, such as the first and only Jr. Builder program in the country, which empowers young children to explore the construction industry. Additionally, our Veterans Housing Initiative program strives to include and support veterans interested in pursuing better veterans housing policies and more access to careers in construction. 

B&D: Tell us about the 2023 Building Industry Show (BIS). What can attendees expect?

JM: Our show will mark a significant milestone in its history as it takes place for the first time in San Diego, California, in partnership with the San Diego BIA. This exciting new show will kick off at the historic USS Midway battleship, where attendees will be treated to an incredible fireworks and airshow, featuring a Medal of Honor recipient. This event is part of our Veterans Initiative, which aims to honor and recognize veterans while emphasizing the importance of veterans’ housing and fostering inclusivity for those interested in joining the building industry. We conclude the evening with a live rock show and some special surprises.

One of the highlights of the show will be the largest “Meet the Builder” networking event on our trade floor, providing a unique opportunity for businesses and members to connect with influential figures in the builder community. With an expected attendance of 2,000 to 3,000 people, the show continues to grow every year, making it an ideal platform to forge valuable connections and explore new business opportunities.

We also have an impressive lineup of guest speakers who will share their insights on various topics which include the topic of artificial intelligence and homebuilding, shedding light on the exciting possibilities and advancements in the industry. Additionally, a second special Haunted evening event will be held, offering attendees a chance to network and socialize in a relaxed and enjoyable setting.