CALEB ROOPE is president and CEO of The Pacific Cos., an affordable housing developer headquartered in Eagle, Idaho.
The firm, which owns roughly 3,000 units, is active throughout the West and has roughly a dozen new projects slated for financing applications in any given year.
Roope has managed the development and construction of more than 80 projects during the past decade.
Q How did you get started in the affordable housing industry?
A My first job out of high school primarily involved building playgrounds on affordable housing projects. Every summer home from college I would learn more about the construction, development, and financing of affordable housing. I graduated from college in 1994 with an accounting degree and promptly immersed myself in the affordable housing industry. I started my own company in 1998.
Q What’s the biggest challenge that your company is facing, and how are you overcoming that challenge?
A Maintaining our competitive advantage continues to be a challenge. There are a lot of smart, sophisticated, and talented people in the industry, and we are all competing for a limited amount of resources. I actively work to stay ahead of the competition by not allowing myself to get bogged down in the daily challenges of development and construction. Sure, the day-to-day needs to be managed, but I also stay focused on reading the world around me, anticipating industry and market shifts, and working on the deals that are two and three years out. This challenge is coupled with the difficulty of finding high-level, high-caliber employees to join the team and help take the company where I want it to go. We always need good help, and although we’ve been successful in retaining the shining stars in the organization, recruiting new management-level people remains a significant challenge.
Q What’s the best move that The Pacific Cos. has made recently that other developers may learn from?
A We made an investment in gaining knowledge in the application of solar energy generation and other green building methods. In many deals, the financing really does work. It is the right thing to do for the environment, it benefits the residents, it contributes to the overall sustainability and longevity of the project, and it assists in longterm asset management. The financial tools available to help make projects green are continually increasing, and local governments, even those that are more conservative, are incredibly supportive. There just isn’t a reason not to do it, and I would encourage developers to explore these opportunities whenever possible.
Q What are your plans for the firm in 2008?
A We will maintain our production levels of 10 to 12 new affordable housing projects spread throughout the Western states in which we work. California will continue to be prominent for us by providing the bulk of our activity. 2008 will see our firm place a much heavier emphasis on the use of solar energy and green building applications. Our new business activities will incorporate more high-density urban and suburban new construction developments along with a moderate increase in the amount of acquisition/rehabilitation projects we undertake.
Q What’s your favorite design touch or amenity at one of your developments?
A I love water features. Our waterfall at Park Creek Village in Farmersville, Calif., pleased the city so much that they invited us back for a second project—as long as we did another waterfall. On a more conscientious note, our newest project there will feature a full photovoltaic energy generation system that will essentially eliminate each resident’s electricity bill.
Q What’s your dream project?
A One that is on schedule, on budget, and profitable. But more seriously, I am constantly working toward achieving a dream project that local government and industry leaders can point to as a model for affordable housing. It’s an award-winning infill project that organizes population around transportation hubs, maximizes the use of the land with a classy architectural style that incorporates solar energy and other green building features, and boasts common space that facilitates a safe and cohesive community. The project must be livable and appealing for residents and the local community for many years into the future.
I have a special affection for mountain resort communities as well, and we’ve had great success developing affordable housing in these difficult to develop areas that desperately need housing for their service industry workforce. My dream project has million dollar views and is built in the back yards of glamorous vacation homes.
Q Besides the usual work papers, what’s on your desk?
A A picture of CSI: Miami’s Horatio Caine. I know it’s just television, but David Caruso and the writers and directors of that show have created a powerful example of a modern-day white knight. The guy helps everyone—the poor, the disadvantaged, and those without hope. Helping other people with their problems is probably my favorite thing to do in life, and it’s one of the reasons I love to be in the business that I’m in.
Q If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?
A Any soldier who stormed the beach at Normandy. What our men and women in uniform accomplished that day forever changed our lives. Because of them, I enjoy the freedom to build housing for those that need it most. What a special privilege it truly is to be an American.
Q What’s something people don’t know about you?
A I was the 1989 California State Scholar Athlete of the Year, which is an accomplishment I am very proud of that started my adult life off on the right foot. On a more amusing note, I can commonly be found singing in the office and serenading my employees. I’m not sure if they love it or hate it, but they definitely tolerate it and occasionally join in the fun. Finally, if I ever get tired of doing what I’m doing, I’m inclined to run for an elected office at the state or federal level. I think I could make a difference.
Q If you unexpectedly had tomorrow afternoon off, where would we find you?
A Golfing with my wife, Andrea, or on my way to see my grandpa, both of whom I am very fortunate to have in my life.