An Interview With Jason Hartman
Commitment and tenacity pay off. As a person of color, I have learned that to get ahead, you need to be able to bring tenacity and perseverance in the face of obstacles to the table and demonstrate unwavering commitment to your work. These traits are what have helped propel my career and driven me to always do better.
In many large cities in the US, there is a crisis caused by a shortage of affordable housing options. This has led to a host of social challenges. In this series called “How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable” we are talking to successful business leaders, real estate leaders, and builders, who share the initiatives they are undertaking to create more affordable housing options in the US.
As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Neveo Mosser.
As Chief Executive Officer of Mosser Companies for over two decades, Neveo Mosser has built a game-changing real estate investment and property management firm that has thrived in America’s most competitive markets. Neveo is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of the company’s private equity unit, Mosser Capital, which manages real estate assets in some of California’s largest and most sought-after cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
Neveo’s work has instilled in him a great sense of community commitment, which has manifested into numerous leadership roles within the public sector. For over 22 years, he served as Commissioner on the San Francisco Residential Rent Board, a mayoral-appointed position. He was also a member of the iREOC Board of Governors and the University of California Berkeley Fisher Center Policy Advisory Board and serves on the Executive Board of Directors of the San Francisco Apartment Association and the Coalition for Better Housing. Previously Neveo served as president for the San Francisco Apartment Association, the Coalition for Better Housing and as an executive board member for the California Apartment Association. He also has served on the board for African American Cultural Center of San Francisco, the Tenderloin Community Business Improvement District, and the Tenderloin YMCA.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My pleasure. My name is Neveo Mosser. I am the Chief Executive Officer of Mosser Companies and Chairman of Mosser Capital Management. My family has been in the real estate business in San Francisco for my entire life. My father started Mosser 65 years ago.
I started as a janitor in the family business and worked my way through every area of the business. I spent 30 years living in the different buildings we owned to get a feel for our inventory and ensure we were offering a quality living experience. This has led me to my current position, where I’ve spent the past two decades building a game-changing real estate investment and property management firm that has thrived in one of America’s most competitive markets.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Living alongside and experiencing my father’s approach to life and his accomplishments, including his perspective, philanthropy and humility throughout his lifetime are, by far, the most interesting part not just of my life, but of my career. This was a man who grew up dirt poor and built an everlasting legacy. He was my greatest mentor and I have tried to emulate his positivity throughout my life and career.
One particularly interesting story that comes to mind is when my father chose to migrate to the Philippines to promote organic farming and the reforestation of denuded forests. He also worked to create education opportunities for the impoverished there. At that point, in the sunset of his life, he became a chief, or datu, of an indigenous group of people in the mountains on the island of Mindanao — he was not even of Philippine descent. There was nothing uninteresting about my father and the hundreds of lessons he imparted to me.
I am proud to be carrying on and growing the family business he began.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
I started to see the most success, both personally and professionally, when I truly leaned in on community development in my day-to-day work. In the mid-1990s Mosser purchased central towers in Downtown San Francisco and grew our footprint in the city’s Pacific Heights and Russian Hill neighborhoods. In the midst of this incredible community development, I was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District, which prioritized the goal of leading the evolution of the Tenderloin into a vibrant community for all.
I also joined the Board of Directors of the Tenderloin Museum, the San Francisco Apartment Association, the Coalition for Better Housing, and the California Apartment Association. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed CEO of Mosser Companies.
This tremendous community involvement that resulted from my daily efforts to better the many neighborhoods Mosser was in allowed me to successfully achieve what was and still is my main goal: creating better places for people to live by delivering caring management and community development.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father was a tremendous influence on the way I do business. He taught us that we had a great responsibility to lead by example and give back to the community in support of our residents — who are as diverse as they come.
In the 1970s our father invested in a full block in the Western Addition with over 117 apartments. The neighborhood was predominantly African-American, and the properties were run-down, but he saw the great opportunity to improve the community both physically and operationally. Through upgrades and service, we were able to benefit both the residents and the neighborhood, and that is exactly what he did. He called it the Mosser Magic.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The Alchemist, by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, resonated with me from the first read. In following the journey of shepherd boy Santiago, I learned the importance of thinking outside the box, thinking big, and working hard to achieve my goals. These lessons have turned into the pillars of success in my career and I am fortunate to have picked up this book early on in my life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My father used to say, “the eye of the owner fattens the horse,” as he taught us benevolent capitalism. Because when businesses operate consciously, they can be an architect or a catalyst for making the environment a better place and contribute to the greater good. I have experienced this myself now as Mosser found we could do this by strategically investing in and improving neighborhoods that need some positive attention, with the goal for the community to win too. Our goal is to be good community stewards, lead by example, and partner with the community to make them better than we found them.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the shortage of affordable housing. Lack of affordable housing has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities. I know this is a huge topic, but for the benefit of our readers can you briefly explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?
For years, there has been push and pull between landlords, policymakers, and cities, particularly with regard to land use regulations and restrictions on development. Because of that, there is a shortage of developable property that causes land costs to go up and creates scarcity of various development projects.
Currently, no state has an adequate supply of affordable and available homes for extremely low-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2021 GAP report. In order to address this problem, policymakers, landlords and cities must be able to join forces. In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis is forcing these groups to collaborate, and hopefully we start seeing some substantial change sooner than later.
Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact to address this crisis? Can you share some of the initiatives you are leading to help correct this issue?
Mosser seeks to create opportunities for policymakers and business leaders to come together and discuss and enact remedies to the housing crisis. We strive to offer our expertise in rent regulated housing to create more opportunities to convert rent regulated properties and market rate buildings into long term, affordable and covenant restricted housing. Moreover, our experience with rent regulated affordable workforce housing allows us to help lead California with strategy and on preserving true quality, well managed affordable housing.
We are also presently working with regulators on land use and density matters to achieve more potential program development that will improve and preserve naturally occurring affordable housing.
Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?
I am most proud of the differences we make to communities while keeping their cultural integrity intact. We work to empower tenants and residents in the transitional areas we work in and assist in bringing in our resources into these neighborhoods that are less desirable, making them more vibrant. We are a unicorn of the industry in the way we stand for diversity, inclusion and equity, and the way we are able to maintain individual neighborhoods’ character as we restore their vibrancy makes me proud.
In your opinion, what should other home builders do to further address these problems?
I believe it is less about home builders and more about regulators in terms of addressing these problems. In order to tackle the housing crisis, regulators must reduce the regulations on deed restricted buildings and enable more supply. This will help with both affordability and availability.
With current hurdles and restrictions in place, it is not possible to open up these properties for more uses, such as affordable housing, which stunts the movement to address the crisis. Cities change over time, and in order to best address this crisis we need to build housing across income levels.
We must address NIMBYism and its effect on reducing the ability to create smart density and move for smart and innovative building developments in and along transit nodes and retail areas. We, collectively, must thoroughly look at the 40-plus years of failed housing policy in many of our cities, which has resulted in displacement and a lack of affordable housing, and not repeat what hasn’t worked.
If you had the power to influence legislation, are there laws which you would like to see introduced that might help you in your work?
I would love to see laws that support smart growth in suburban communities with exceptional public transportation services or along transit corridors. These communities are home to untapped potential in terms of increasing housing development opportunities.
State Assemblyman Scott Weiner had introduced legislation pre-pandemic that made good sense in this regard. However, NIMBYism and local control arguments prevailed to stop the passage of what constituted a commonsense approach to increasing affordable housing opportunities across the state.
In the absence of legislation that supports development in these critical neighborhoods, it is challenging to create more affordable housing and help these communities grow and realize their full potential, which is what we are all about.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Communication is key. In the absence of strong communication many messages and efforts are lost. I have learned this the hard way, as inaccurate assumptions have been made in the past about Mosser. Because of this, I have had to learn to work hard at stepping up my communications efforts to be more visible and transparent. In the past I would simply do the right thing but not talk about my actions, and now I am making an effort to make sure people know more about me and Mosser’s efforts.
- Commitment and tenacity pay off. As a person of color, I have learned that to get ahead, you need to be able to bring tenacity and perseverance in the face of obstacles to the table and demonstrate unwavering commitment to your work. These traits are what have helped propel my career and driven me to always do better.
- Do not place too much emphasis on pedigree. I have never subscribed to the notion of pedigree as a necessity, but the pressures to do so in business are imminent. Throughout my career, I have done my best to turn no blind eyes to the talent in front of me. For this reason, many minorities have found thriving careers at Mosser. Pedigree, nor image for that matter, is not a perquisite to working hard and making a difference in this world.
- Details matter. While in the midst of long work days and career stressors, it is easy to focus on the macro themes related to your business. But, diving deeper into those themes and soaking up as many smaller details as possible will serve you well. Focusing on the details has allowed me to learn how to manage top to bottom and inside out.
- No start is too small. As I mentioned earlier, I started my career as a janitor at Mosser. Obviously, this was no glamorous entry level job. But the lessons I learned and the values that were instilled in me during this time are what have made me who I am today. No first job is perfect, and no first job determines who you are and where you are headed.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe the most good can be done for the most people if more people could learn not to judge a book by its cover and give everyone a fair and equal chance. Throughout my career, I have sought to enact this approach whenever and wherever possible, and I hope that has inspired others to act the same and grow this movement for equality.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Barack Obama is an inspiration to me. He is a person of color who has been incredibly successful, relatable and all around a great person and I have often admired him throughout my career.
I have a long list of role models that are now deceased who I would have loved to have a meeting with and will forever admire.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success!
Neveo Mosser of Mosser Companies: How We Are Helping To Make Housing More Affordable was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.