Want to learn more about our Assistant Director of Real Estate, Ben Harris? Keep reading for an inside look at Ben, what led him to Intend, and his favorite part about this line of work.
Tell us a bit about your background.
I have 20+ years of experience in various realms of real estate, and was a real estate agent for about a decade. My second day of class for real estate was actually on September 11, 2001—so, as you can imagine—I started out in real estate in a very volatile market. I’ve also sold through 2 recessions.
Though I really enjoyed real estate, I needed a change. I ended up going back to school full time and got a degree in geography with a focus in GIS mapping. From there, I went on to work for Simon property group in their research department. Here, I began working in the more corporate/commercial side of real estate: acquisition and data.
What led you to Intend Indiana?
Come to find out, I wasn’t really passionate about malls and began to search for something new. In my search, I came across the Community Builder position for the Quality of Life Plan and was hired by King Park on contract employment in December 2012. I spent 3-4 years organizing 14 neighborhoods across many different challenges and needs, from the Old Northside all the way to Keystone/Monon.
I can’t express how fortunate I feel to have found this role, as it helped ground me with grassroots organizing and helped me to develop listening skills for those people/neighborhoods. This work really sparked my passion to lead and made me want to learn everything I could about how to improve quality of life in these communities.
More recently, I’ve spent the past 5-6 years in housing development, and I can say it’s been the role I’ve been most passionate about throughout my career.
What have you seen in your time from the transition of King Park to Intend Indiana?
There were truthfully a lot of uncertain moments at the beginning with King Park. The Executive Director left a few months after I started, and I didn’t know if we’d be able to stay afloat as an organization. That’s of course until Steven Meyer came onto the scene. You could immediately tell he was there to bring innovation and creativity to our organization. Steven was looking ahead and wanted to be different and really create an impact—and I’d say he’s accomplished just that.
From the first 2 years through the merger with Renew Indianapolis and now Intend, it’s a completely different organization that provides a great impact. Nothing is off the table when it comes to trying new ideas.
What is your job position at Intend and what do your daily operations look like?
As Assistant Director of Real Estate, a big upfront goal of mine is to share what I know with my team members. We’ve brought on a lot of new staff, and I’m excited to spend time with them and help them grow and learn about their strengths.
My goal is to be their support system and assist them in their growth at the company. This is a fairly young team and I’m excited to be there to walk with them throughout this new journey.
Why is improving housing, economic development, and quality of life in the metropolitan Indianapolis area so important?
Affordable housing. Due to the cost of real estate right now, it’s more important than ever. And this goes beyond metro Indy (hence the rebrand to Intend Indiana). Many communities are lacking affordable housing because low to moderate income households cannot compete with the high costs associated with real estate. They will always be beat out when bidding.
I’ve never seen anything like it—and I’ve been in real estate for 20 years! I’m hoping we’ll get back to a time when buying a new home is a fun process, but that just unfortunately isn’t the case in this current worldly climate.
Affordable housing leans into and catalyzes economic development and quality of life. All other programs within Intend can really take off when there is more affordable housing. With that being said—if it’s on your radar—we’ll do everything we can to get you into a quality home.
What is your favorite part about this line of work?
The people that come to the organization. We get to be creative and build beautiful affordable homes for them, and I love helping match people to their houses. Getting to see the joy in the faces of these people when they realize it’s actually possible to attain affordable homeownership and life-long wealth-building is unsurpassed. Additionally, hosting our Homeownership 101 classes has given me a renewed vigor for what I’m doing. I feel incredibly fortunate.
What is your proudest moment at the company thus far?
Probably the Monon16 Project. This was a generational wealth building project and focused on affordable housing needs. I’ll always remember it as a catalyst project for learning (mistakes included) how to be better and do better. The project brought real goal setting to the organization, and allowed us to start reaching for bigger projects due to having some real skin in the game.
What are some of your hopes for the industry?
I would really love to see more organizations working together and creating more partnerships around affordable housing. These partnerships are crucial because not all organizations do everything, each has their own niche that they excel in.
I also want to see Intend grow even more than it has to reach the ceiling of available homes. It’d be great to see more and more houses become available each year—whether it’s new construction, land banks, or rehab houses. Revive the neighborhoods!
What are some of your passions outside of work?
I’ve always been super active in tennis, and even used to participate in tournaments across the country.
I also love traveling and immersing myself in different cultures. Right now, Las Vegas is one of my favorite places to visit because I enjoy hiking in the desert climate. I hope to never stop exploring.
Final thoughts from Ben…
I feel so fortunate about all the relationships I’ve developed with Intend staff and partners over the years. I believe change keeps the work refreshing and new ideas flowing. The ability to work with like-minded individuals and partners is a very exciting part of what I do.