May 27, 2022

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Future Technology

Laurie Baker, named COO at Camden, is the first woman to take a C-suite position at the company

When Laurie Baker joined Camden House Have confidence in in 1999, most apartment complexes did not have a website. Without having centralized data, huge apartment landlords tediously referred to as on-web-site staff for updates on occupancy or leasing at their properties. Prospective people relied on phrase-of-mouth or print adverts to master about new projects.

But Baker joined the Houston-primarily based countrywide apartment developer just as the net was revolutionizing the business. Baker served to oversee Camden’s embrace of technology, together with rolling out a person of the industry’s 1st web-dependent property administration methods and 1 of the first on the web earnings management units that allowed the business to take care of its countrywide portfolio more competently.

Over the earlier two decades, Baker participated in but a different wave of technological improve spurred by the pandemic. The will need for social distancing forced the sector to quickly come across approaches to implement digital tours, digital leasing and keyless entry into communities. While these improvements had been underway ahead of 2020, Baker stated, but the pandemic accelerated them.

“It turned just about an crucial that we adapt right away in get to keep on jogging our business enterprise,” Baker reported. Now lots of of these pandemic-influenced upgrades are here to remain — and the market is certain for even a lot more automation, Baker reported.

Baker was lately named chief running officer at Camden Property Rely on, the 1st female to take C-suite posture at the organization. As COO, Baker said she will proceed to press Camden towards technological innovation as she oversees asset and income administration for the full portfolio 176 houses and 60,000 apartment units nationally.

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A Houston indigenous, Baker is the maximum-ranking female at the business, which has 1,700 staff, such as 499 in Houston. As 2022 chair of the Diversity, Fairness and Inclusion Committee for the trade team the Nationwide Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), Baker is also in a popular leadership function in the industry’s attempts to improve illustration of women and folks of shade.

Baker not long ago sat down with the Houston Chronicle to focus on how the condominium industry is continuing to adapt post-pandemic. The job interview is edited for length and clarity..

Q: The business real estate industry is still dominated by white adult men, whilst it is transforming gradually. What are marketplace leaders performing to improve representation of ladies and persons of shade and why is this work even now significant?

A: I employed to walk into serious estate situations, and it was a sea of gentlemen. There are a good deal more women currently and we we’re generating great progress. At Camden, I’ve never ever felt like we did not presently assistance the expansion of females. Now I am on the Camden’s (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee) that we formed formally two years in the past to get extra participation throughout the corporation. At NMHC, they are producing diversity a concentration. They are sharing ideal procedures. They’re developing toolkits.. There are men and women (at genuine estate providers) that don’t have the means like Camden to seek the services of a DEI director or have a human sources office or have folks that each working day are recruiting men and women at outstanding historically black colleges.

(Diversity) is not as just an initiative, it really is an imperative for our business. A good deal of investors are earning it a need that you to have a DEI method. So, if you want to keep on to get cash from investors, pension funds and foreign funds, you better be in a position to make your figures (all over variety plans).

Q: What are some of the massive engineering variations Camden built throughout the pandemic that you consider will stick all-around?

A: One particular of the key points we had been performing pre-pandemic was Chirp (now termed CommunityConnect Good), our system that will allow individuals to utilize a cell phone application as a doorway lock and to get into our communities from the entrance door, the amenity areas, the pool region and into their models all with one application.

The natural beauty of Chirp is that it is not just managed at a house level, but our make contact with middle could control it throughout the total portfolio. So, if we had to shut all the amenities areas at the moment (we could do this remotely) in its place of bodily possessing to go and lock all those doors. Now when somebody phone calls our contact centre, (if they want a self-guided tour) we can send out them a authorization through the app for 30 minute or 15 minutes. Kristy Simonette, senior vice president in excess of strategic providers, and myself had been greatly involved in incubating this. We wish we could have been totally rolled out when the pandemic hit. Now its’ put in in 95 percent of our houses.

Q: Camden has benefitted from elevated migration to the Sunbelt for the duration of the pandemic, considering the fact that so substantially of your portfolio is in the area. How extended do you think these migration tendencies will proceed?

A: Who knows if it’s going to be at the very same levels that we have observed in the final pair of years, but I really don’t see the migration developments shifting considerably. You might be observing firms go to Phoenix from California, you are observing Northeast organizations migrate to Florida. Which is not to say the large cities are not going to still have a great deal of folks that take pleasure in the lifestyle of San Francisco or New York City. But I think because of the capability for folks to perform remotely, individuals do not have to shift to people towns in get to obtain a career. Persons shift to the Sunbelt for a good deal of motives. 1 is warmer local weather, and yet another is in lots of of the Sunbelt states and towns, it is uncomplicated to do business.

Q: Are there any marketplaces where by you see Camden deepening its investments or expanding into and how does like Houston suit into that? I know you recently entered Nashville.

A: The markets we are in right now, we system to remain in people markets. We have always mentioned that we want to have very good geographic diversity. For Houston, we marketed two assets (in the fourth quarter 2021). The strategy is for us to get underway this calendar year on our condominium undertaking in The Woodlands (the 188-device Camden Woodmill Creek).

Q: How is Houston’s condominium current market performing when compared to other marketplaces in your portfolio, which his virtually totally in the Sunbelt but also consists of homes in southern California and Washington?

A: Houston variety of got hit with a double whammy we experienced the vitality difficulties and then we went into to COVID. But over-all Camden’s exact same-retailer home profits progress is projected to be 7.75 % to 9.75 per cent for our total portfolio for 2022.

There are individuals now working from house who maybe never want a roommate any more mainly because it is really pretty difficult to have your conference calls. So, we feel that there will be an unbundling (of households, which will enhance demand for flats.) We even now have a really huge populace of millennials who have a propensity to rent, which bodes perfectly for the multifamily marketplace. So even if you might be in a marketplace that’s been a minor softer, like a Houston or D.C., you’re nonetheless likely to see definitely superior advancement. We imagine that Houston will continue to be a solid market place — you may perhaps see small extra power in Florida and Phoenix or Austin where by there is certainly a ton much more migration and work opportunities being designed- but we’re very long on Houston.

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