Danny Haber is the co-founder of oWOW, a B2B and B2C real estate company. An innovative entrepreneur, with a flair for providing workable solutions to the burgeoning housing crisis in California, Haber has been labelled the ‘Oracle of Oakland’ with visionary solutions to the housing crisis. His company, oWOW develops, designs, and constructs net new housing units for consumers and also builds modular units for resale to developers. As a vertically integrated corporation, oWOW operations are geared towards cost-cutting measures, and luxury living courtesy of adaptable units.
oWOW has won the backing of high-profile entities including the former vice mayor of Oakland, Annie Campbell Washington, Elaine Brown (the former head of the Black Panther Party), and Lowney Architect, among others. Haber understands that the housing crisis in the greater San Francisco Bay Area cannot be solved by simply providing to the needs of the well-heeled; a focus on low- and middle-income earners is essential if the San Francisco Metropolis is going to overcome the crisis.
How is oWOW different to other real estate companies?
‘At oWOW we are personally invested in every single project we undertake. We are a vertically integrated company which means that we adopt a hands-on approach to the entire project. We do this with teams of expert strategic planners, designers, developers, builders, and community liaisons. At oWOW we are building luxury apartments and providing them below market price to a diverse demographic of renters. We don’t cut quality to drop price; we boost quality with our MacroUnits to ensure that the highest possible standards are achieved every single time. In short, we are all about providing viable solutions for a market of consumers that has been sidelined for too long.’
What solutions does oWOW bring to the table that other developers are missing?
‘There are several problems facing renters and potential homeowners in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Foremost among them is the lack of available real estate for development, and the slow pace of housing growth. A dramatic increase in employment numbers in Silicon Valley since 2009 has led to a surge in demand for housing. In fact, employment has increased by 23% to 4.1 million jobs created by Silicon Valley companies as of 2019. Housing numbers are not keeping pace with these figures.
So, our company goes in and purchases buildings, completely renovates and remodels the apartments, and provides stylish, luxurious, and affordable housing solutions to tenants. The secret sauce, so to speak is our flexible wall system which we call ‘Magic Walls’. It’s an ingenious concept whereby we can take a fixed area and completely remodel it so that there is more living space available to tenants within the unit. For example, we could take a standard 1 bedroom/2-bathroom unit and convert it into a 2 bedroom, or even a 3 or 4-bedroom unit without any additional construction.
We’ve also built oDECK, which is a high-rise vertical phase concept. To get there, we use prefabricated, cross-laminated timber wood systems. This allows us to work in phases, consistently doubling living space density and upgrading the apartments for our tenants. By doing this we can build on top of an existing building, without disturbing the tenants that are already living there. This is how we manage our multi-phase projects.’
What real estate developments are you most proud of?
‘We have successfully completed several major projects in and around the Oakland area, including 960 Howard Street, 674 23rd Street, 316 12th Street, and 1919 market Street. It is worth mentioning that the 674 23rd Street project was a huge success, with 24 units leased within a month. We went with a live/work-style scenario whereby tenants can work from home, enjoy greater freedom in luxury apartments, thereby saving time and money in the process. The spectrum of tenants in the development surprised me; we have artists and business people, techies and folks working for SMEs at all levels. It’s an eclectic mix of tenants which makes for a great community. Local residents filled up the building quickly and we couldn’t be happier with the end result.’
Why do you think California struggles with a housing crisis?
‘I don’t think that there is a single reason why California has a major housing crisis; it’s a multi-pronged set of problems that has given rise to this situation. For starters, the Golden State is one of the most-prized destinations in the US. California has the world’s fourth largest economy and the tech sector is peerless with Silicon Valley responsible for employing millions of people. With such strong employment growth invariably comes a need for housing. Unfortunately, many town and city councils have laws in place to make it difficult to fast-track construction, particularly in neighborhoods which are resistant to new building. Then there is Proposition 13 which puts limits on the property taxes payable by homeowners (particularly those who have owned properties for many years). With a 2% per annum limit on property taxes, rising real estate prices are really benefiting people who have owned property for many years. Naturally, this hurts the towns, cities and counties since they have to raise revenues in other ways. This places an undue financial burden on new real estate development which then gets passed on to consumers (renters and homeowners). The homeless problem is a function of exorbitant real estate prices, and an inability to find a viable solution to runaway costs, high taxes and so forth.. All in all, I think developers need to focus on the lower- and middle-income sectors and provide for their needs, and not only the top end. BTW that’s what oWOW is doing!’
Photo courtesy: Post News Group Danny Haber.
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