There may be only two true certainties in life—death and taxes, of course—but according to Greg Vilkin, housing isn't far behind. “It's not an option—everyone has to live somewhere,” says the new president of San Francisco-based developer MacFarlane Partners. “It's just a question of at what price and with what timing.” With that in mind, Vilkin is enthusiastic about putting his 20 years of real estate experience—most recently as president of Forest City Residential West—to work at a firm whose projects span multifamily, mixed-use, and single-family.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in your new role?

A: Bring structure to the organization that allows it to grow to the next level. MacFarlane is close to $12 billion in assets, and we will grow to $20 billion over the next five years.

Q: What do you see as a significant challenge for the multifamily industry in the coming year?

A: I think the whole industry is awash in capital. It reminds me of the early '80s, when there was too much capital chasing too few opportunities. The real estate industry ran itself out of business. There was a crash in real estate in the late '80s, and while I don't think that'll happen now, I do think it's difficult to expect ... double-digit returns. Also, everyone who's come into real estate in the last 10 years has never seen a down cycle. ... That's tricky.

Q: What do you enjoy about working in the multifamily industry?

A: I've been in the real estate industry since I was 19, before I graduated college. I've always loved real estate. I was raised by a single mom who was a real estate broker, so I've been involved in painting walls and turning units since I was 10 or 11. I specifically love the development aspect, because there's something incredible about seeing something that doesn't even exist yet ... come to reality. There's something amazing about providing housing for people.

Q: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you about your career?

A: That if you say, “That's not my job,” then you're right. Your job is to do anything that's necessary to get the job done. There is nothing that's beneath you or below you. As a young executive, I became president of a company in my early thirties because I never thought of anything as “not my job.” Before FedEx, I routinely was a human courier on the red-eye if I had a transaction in New York. You'd be surprised how fast your career will advance if you never say “that's not my job.”

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