The developer who was desperate to save a struggling neighborhood

Out of pure desperation, trying to make my community a little better, hoping that my kids and my friends wouldn’t move away, I started doing development.

Monte Anderson of Options Real Estate is a developer from the wrong side of town. Instead of fleeing for greener pastures and easier money, however, he stayed in his community and worked to make it better. Here's how he did it.

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Charles Marohn:    Hey everybody, this is Chuck Marohn with Strong Towns. You are about to listen to a recording that I did with a real estate developer in Duncanville, Texas. A guy named Monte Anderson. 

I've had Monte on the podcast before. He was on last year when I was at CNU with John Anderson. Monte is such a good man, such a nice guy, and I've grown to really adore him in many ways. He is one of these guys who just did the nitty-gritty, in the trenches, unheralded kind of work to build some great places with some fantastic people. Along the way, he helped a ton of people out, and I just find him to be a very inspiring person. 

I wanted to have him on this week because I wanted him to talk about some of the ways that things are financed. I want you to get a sense as you listen to Monte of all the things he had to go through to make this stuff work. 

We're talking a lot this week about housing policy and particularly about federal rules and regulations regarding what can be funded and what can't be funded. You'll hear Monte talk about the need to go to friends and family and try to get money, to find local investors, people needing to put 35% down payments. All this stuff that is heroic. When we look at Monte we can see this is a heroic person, but as he says towards the end, it's really difficult to scale. It's really difficult to scale. He's involved in a project right now to try to create 1000 small developers around this country. I think a heroic effort and it deserves our admiration and applause. Wouldn't it be better, wouldn't it be wonderful if it wasn't so difficult? If you didn't have to be a hero? If you didn't have to fight "the Man" in order to be able to do just simple things? 

With that, I give you Monte Anderson. I'm so happy to be able to share this one with you. Enjoy, listen to his story, and understand that we need a country full of Monte Andersons. The way we're going to get them is by removing all these obstacles that unnecessarily impede them from coming forth. Monte Anderson, everybody.

Announcer:     You're listening to the Strong Towns Podcast.

Charles Marohn:    Hey everybody. This is Chuck Marohn with Strong Towns. Welcome back to the Strong Towns Podcast. Today I've got Monte Anderson with Options Real Estate out of Texas with me on the phone. Monte has been on the podcast with me before but I want to have him back this week to talk about housing, incremental development, and finance. 

Monte, welcome back to the Strong Towns Podcast.

Monte Anderson:   Thanks, Chuck. Glad to be back. Glad to talk to you, as always.

Charles Marohn:    Thanks for taking the time. Give us a little bit of background on how you got started in real estate development.

Monte Anderson:   I got started many years ago. My dad was in the construction business working in southern Dallas County, which is on the side of the city where the have-nots live. I got into the business through sales. I wanted to get into brokerage and leasing and things like that and get into the real estate business. I got in. I didn't like the construction as much, so I became a broker and a realtor. 

 Over the years, as I tried to get businesses to come here and I tried to rebuild my neighborhoods and tried to get things going, nobody would come. Out of pure desperation and trying to make my community a little bit better and hope that my kids and my friends wouldn't move away, we started doing development. Out of that desperation, that attitude of desperation, we learned how to do things incrementally. We learned how to do things with no money. 

Only, we discovered over time New Urbanism, the congress for the New Urbanism, and Strong Towns, and other organizations that look for sustainable ways of doing things. That's how we became the small, incremental, New Urbanist developer that we are today. Really, pure desperation. 

Charles Marohn:      Now, when you describe these neighborhoods as places where there's a lot of have-nots, what are you talking about exactly? You're talking about the old neighborhoods that have been walked away from? What do these kind of places look like?