A Conversation with Haroun Cowans of Goshen Development
Recently, The New York Times published an insightful article on the barriers that Black and Latino developers face in the U.S. In 2022, Goshen Development – a development company founded by Haroun Cowans, a Black real estate executive – announced a partnership with Continuum Partners to address workforce housing supply challenges in Colorado. In light of the recent article, we sat down with Haroun to discuss his partnership with Continuum, his experience as a Black developer and where he believes barriers can be overcome to create real change.
Continuum Partners (CP): How did you and Mark Falcone (Founder and CEO of Continuum Partners) first meet?
Haroun Cowans (HC): We first met on a ULI (Urban Land Institute) call focused on housing affordability. Mark and I were the only two private sector developers on the call and found we had very similar outlooks and viewpoints, I appreciated Mark’s desire to solve significant issues through real estate and how he communicated his passion during the conference, especially regarding housing affordability. We both saw things very differently from everyone else due to our private real estate practice and experiences. Mark reached out to me afterwards and suggested we get together as it seemed we both had a genuine interest in exploring some of the gaps occurring in the community, specifically around diversity and solving for housing affordability.
CP: How did you begin working with Mark and forging a partnership with Continuum?
HC: It evolved very quickly. Initially, the conversation was focused on more broad-based development opportunities and talking about the challenges in the neighborhood I was working in. At the time, I was connected with a property enterprise with significant interests in the Welton Corridor, an area where I have spent most of my professional career. In fact, Continuum had a venture arrangement with my then-employer, CTI, back in 2009 and I was very familiar with Continuum’s work. When I left the most recent firm—where I’d been overseeing investments in Five Points—to start Goshen Development, the relationship with Mark came with me and he decided to fund our new development platform. It’s been a huge blessing to forge a partnership where there is a larger company (Continuum Partners) that has done major projects in the city and the region as this helps to build capacity for Goshen. Real estate development is a capital-intensive business, and you need to have access to capital and demonstrate experience to secure that capital. This partnership has provided a runway to be able to grow faster, get more projects underway and has seeded the necessary investment in a way that we can be stable and set up for success, even in the early stages. It has been great to work alongside a partner that desires to make positive impact in communities we develop projects in.
CP: Can you share a bit about how the partnership with Continuum is structured for equity?
HC: Our arrangement is that Goshen Development is 51% owner in the joint venture, which is really quite rare. This is equitable on paper, and, in practice it allows Goshen to be the leader with the authority not just in investments but in the day-to-day day operations of the business. Our partnership is a model for how it can be done and how it can be meaningful to help remove barriers and increase access – it cannot just be a partnership on its face, it must be an intentional partnership. The joint venture between Goshen Development and Continuum Partners exemplifies that.
CP: What are your thoughts on the recent New York Times article and the barriers facing Black and Latino developers in this country?
HC: I do agree that there is a lack of participation from minority communities in commercial development specifically. One of the major barriers is access to capital and, secondly, technical capacity building. I came to real estate development from a finance background and was focused on redeveloping a neighborhood that I grew up in. My first chance to get into development was through a small company doing development in the Five Points neighborhood. That experience allowed me to, over time, get a wider view of commercial real estate. Often, I was the only one representing the African American perspective on any given deal or in any given conversation. Over the last 14 years, the lack of access to capital has certainly prohibited me from exploring opportunities I could have captured earlier. In addition, there were very few peers that I could work with to gain access to capital or explore for mentorship opportunities.
CP: How are you and Continuum Partners working together to address workforce housing supply and affordability issues?
HC: We have developed a platform to deliver attainable housing units that serve middle-income populations on a larger scale, combining several sources of private investment capital to meet Colorado’s increasingly urgent housing needs. The technical way this apparatus and its capital moves allows us to have more impact than you would typically see in “affordable” development. I have been proficient at creating impact and investment in the neighborhoods we work in thus far, but this partnership allows us to expand that impact to other neighborhoods across the Denver Metro area. This is one of the biggest problems city leaders have right now and we need private developers to bring their skillset, innovation and capacity to the table to address the public need of housing. And we are doing that – we are walking in our purpose.
For more information on the CO Middle Income Housing Authority, visit: https://coloradomiha.com/