The community of Leveque, a tent city being transformed into a sustainable housing development in Haiti, has received three new houses for the New Story charity following founder Brett Hagler’s presentation at last week’s Luxury Connect conference.
The young tech entrepreneur spoke to the Beverly Hills audience of high-end agents about his mission to build a total of 235 homes to replace the current tent city, which has housed displaced people since the massive Haiti earthquake in January 12, 2010.
Altogether, $18,000 was raised last Thursday, $9,000 by participants attending the one-day conference and a further $9,000 matched by Inman.
With 140-plus homes funded and 48 built, that leaves just 95 homes to be funded before the tent city is no more and New Story moves on to its next housing project.
“We have started in Haiti. That’s where I went personally and saw the problem and where it inspired me to start New Story,” said Hagler.
“I saw the problem and saw how charities were trying to fix it. There was a lot of frustration and a lack of transparency, innovation and technology.”
Hagler, a tech entrepreneur based in San Francisco, a former marketing director at Syrup and co-founder at Hucksley, said he initially approached the tech community to contribute to the innovative charity but is now targeting the real estate industry because he believes agents and brokers can relate well to the idea of giving people in need a sense of community and a roof over their heads.
“I think it is such a compelling story to tell residential real estate agents. They are trying to sell the most beautiful houses in the world.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with selling $35 million houses — they should be trying as hard as they can — but at the same time, there should be a giving component to it so that there’s a synergy,” said the New Homes founder.
Agents have a number of options to give. A real estate company or agent could start a digital fund- raising company and rally employees to raise funds, or a single agent could draw on a network of clients and fund a home. Another option is to set up a facility, where for every sale, an agent or agents give back a small percentage to New Story to build a home for a family.
“We would let them know who that family is. There is great content to market that part of their story,” said Hagler. And yet another option is to give directly.
The emphasis with New Story is on 100 percent of donations going to projects and transparency throughout the process.
“We have two bank accounts — one for public donations which go to the projects, while the overheads are paid by a small group of private donors, who we call ‘the builders,'” Hagler explained.
One of “the builders” is Pete Flint, founder of Trulia and an advisory board member.
New Story hires local building contractors to do the building work. Wanting to provide local employment, New Homes employs a 36-strong local construction team to build the houses.
“We think having local workers is a more efficient model,” said Hagler.
“Local employees are much more efficient, and obviously it is good for the economy.”
“Once we have 95 more families housed, it will no longer be a tent slum; it will be a beautiful place,” added Hagler. The community is close to Caberet.
The next couple of New Story projects are likely be in other developing countries, such as Nepal, but Hagler expects to do things in the U.S. in the future.
Finding land is a key part of the puzzle — and partners, he said. New Story is working with Giveback Homes in some situations to raise awareness and funds.