Only in the Bay Area: Real estate for progressives at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley is launching a new graduate program that puts a politically progressive stamp on real estate development.

It’s not just about the money.

The Masters in Real Estate Development + Design (MRED+D) will teach emerging real estate developers to merge finance with cutting-edge design principles in order “to build sustainable, equitable and prosperous cities,” according to an announcement from the College of Environmental Design, where the program will be based.

The announcement cites challenges in “our rapidly urbanizing world,” including climate change and social inequality. A new wave of developers must “understand the power of design and have a deep knowledge not only of the mechanics of real estate, but also how development can bring positive benefits to society and the environment.”

Creating a new wave of socially minded developers is a lofty goal in a region where spiraling housing costs already are driving out service workers and the middle class. The program — the first of its kind in the UC system — will be led by faculty director Chris Calott, who holds the Lalanne Chair in Real Estate, Architecture and Urbanism, and practice director Carol Galante, the I. Donald Terner Distinguished Professor in Affordable Housing and Urban Policy.

A former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Galante is also faculty director of Cal Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation. Speaking at a housing forum in San Francisco last week, she warned that the region’s middle class is being “hollowed out” by housing prices.

The announcement of MRED+D, an 11-month interdisciplinary degree program, notes that the Bay Area “is a vibrant nexus of technology, innovation, business leadership, and progressive real estate development firms — an ecology in which” the program “is embedded.”

Students will study with experts in real estate development, housing and credit markets, land use and environmental law, infill development, conventional and prefab construction, urban transportation, sustainable design, green infrastructure and more.

“Developing well-designed, sustainable communities in urban areas requires vision, creativity and a skill set to navigate today’s real estate development complexities,” said Cynthia Parker, president and CEO of Bridge Housing, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing. One of the experts who will mentor students, she added, “This program will provide those tools for future leaders in the industry.”

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