At Pulte, Gear worked full time to lobby Congress for a housing stimulus that would hopefully increase housing demand and cut supply by offering a true tax credit for home purchases and a reduced rate on 30-year fixed mortgages.
At Fix Housing First, he's doing the same thing—while supervising a huge crew of volunteers working for the coalition of some 600 organizations that includes home building companies and manufacturers.
BIG BUILDER senior editor Teresa Burney caught up with Gear just days before Christmas.
BB: How did this job change happen?
KG: I've been sort of in the middle of the Fix Housing First legislative effort, putting the coalition together, and driving it. While that was going on, there was down-sizing at Pulte. One of the costs they cut was the government affairs department. Right about the same time, the coalition was taking off, so the coalition asked me to stay on and continue to fight.
BB: These are exciting times.
KG: You are right at the cutting edge of probably the biggest decision Congress is going to make here in recent memory. The economic situation in the country is at stake here, and we're right in the middle of that.
BB: What are your chances of success?
KG: We've come a long way in a short period of time. Just a few weeks ago it was unclear whether there would be a stimulus bill at all. And now it appears there will be. Now the challenge is getting Congress to address housing in that bill. We have been arguing pretty forcefully that housing is the underlying problem in the economy, and many of the proposals out there focus on symptoms and not the underlying problem.
BB: What gives you an advantage in pushing Fix Housing First's message?
KG: We are not asking for anything for builders and companies. We are asking for help for buyers and sellers. The one point I think is critical is that, if it doesn't work, it will cost us nothing.
BB: What's a typical day for you?
KG: There isn't a typical day. Every day brings a new challenge. We have a sort of war room set up here in my office, and we have numerous things happening at once. We have a team focused on lobbying. We have a team focused on research. We have another team that keeps our coalition focused on what's happening, and then sort of a steering committee that helps coordinate all the information that is coming in and getting it out to all the right people on the Hill. So it's hectic, but it's also exciting.
BB: So you're working through the holidays?
KG: The holiday break will be abbreviated for us. We will spend a little time with the family on Christmas, and then right back at it the next day. …We are using the break to emphasize and make sure [members of Congress] hear from us. There are a lot of people asking for a lot of things, so it's important that we continue to amplify our voices here. …To be a member of Congress right now is very challenging, and they have a lot of very difficult decisions to make. The stakes have never been higher. This is the most significant downturn since the Depression, and it requires dramatic action.
BB: So what do like to do when you're not at work?
KG: Spend time with my three kids. They are 7, 5, and 3, so it's always an adventure.