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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With The Habitat Co. President Matt Fiascone

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Matt Fiascone is president of The Habitat Co., one of the largest residential property developers and managers in the United States, with over $3B in assets and more than 22,000 units under management in six states. The company’s portfolio includes mid- and high-rise condos, apartment and adaptive reuse developments, and senior and affordable housing communities.

The Fiascone family: Regan, Austin, Karen and Matt.

Fiascone, who joined Habitat in 2011, has led the firm in the development of joint ventures, recapitalization of existing ventures and acquisitions. Recent deals he has overseen include assuming management of 18 affordable housing communities owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, and acquiring two new properties in Michigan and one (its first) in a suburb of Minneapolis.

Before coming to Habitat, Fiascone spent nearly his entire career at Inland Real Estate Development Corp., and he said he has been fortunate over the years to work with two real estate legends, both named Dan: Dan Goodwin at Inland and Dan Levin at Habitat.

Bisnow: What is your favorite part of your job?

Fiascone: Building relationships with my fellow team members and fostering an environment for successful teamwork. These relationships make work enjoyable, in addition to successful.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Fiascone: Working at Wendy’s for one summer during high school. Besides it being hard work, the uniforms were really goofy looking — even for the late '70s.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Fiascone: Disc jockey or radio talk show host. I was on the radio as a teenager and went to college planning to pursue a career in radio. 

Bisnow: What deal are you proudest of?

Fiascone: In some ways deals are like your children — you’re equally proud of each of them for different reasons. But I have to say the most recent Habitat deal (Ogden Commons) takes the prize for biggest achievement. It was a team effort like no other, and had more complex components than any transaction I’ve ever been involved with, including opportunity zones, city incentives, nonprofit partners, land acquisition from a government agency (CHA), five separate lease negotiations with tenants, and layers upon layers of compliance requirements on top of all the normal challenges of a ground-up development. 

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Fiascone: My prior company had a joint venture with a large institutional investor during the Great Recession. We weren't well-positioned for the economic downturn, and the losses, both economic and to the people involved, were painful lessons.

The Habitat Co. volunteering at the Chicago Food Depository (with Fiascone marked by the circle in the middle of the photo).

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Fiascone: People who believe they’re entitled to special treatment or a different set of rules because of their connections or position. Or even worse, people who treat others differently based on their position.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Fiascone: Travel. Starting when my kids were young, we made a conscious decision to experience many parts of the world and a number of spectacles, like the Olympics.

Bisnow: What motivates you?

Fiascone: Competing and succeeding while never sacrificing dignity and pride.

Bisnow: What advice do you wish you got when you started in CRE?

Fiascone: Learn as much as you can, but still rely on others for their expertise. No one person can achieve as much as a good team.

Bisnow: What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Fiascone: Leaving a company I had been with for over 25 years to take a new role at Habitat. I have no regrets — it turned out very well.

The Habitat Co. President Matt Fiascone

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Fiascone: When someone I care about is facing problems that I can’t help solve.

Bisnow: What is your favorite place to visit?

Fiascone: Tie between Rome and Napa Valley.

Bisnow: Outside of work, what are you most passionate about?

Fiascone: Food, wine and longtime friendships. The combination of all three is the best. Oh, and golf, too.

Bisnow: What CRE trend do you think will have the most impact over the next few years?

Fiascone: Housing affordability. Specifically for the housing industry, but also for all of CRE, solving that is critical to the people that occupy all types of real estate. I'm confident that Habitat will continue to make a positive difference in this area.

Bisnow: What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Fiascone: That I am a McRib aficionado (prefer that description to addict). I stock up when they’re available and keep them frozen to satisfy my habit.

Bisnow: What do you want your legacy to be?

Fiascone: I have the privilege of leading a great company with a team dedicated to providing housing to residents regardless of their means. With privilege comes responsibility. My wish is that I ultimately leave the team having fulfilled that responsibility by mentoring and empowering them.