25 innovative solutions to the housing affordability crisis

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Today, Ivory Innovations announced the Top 25 Finalists for the 2024 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability. Finalist organizations demonstrated dedication to housing innovation with feasible, scalable, and ambitious approaches to critical challenges faced by builders, residents, and communities across the country. This year’s finalists join 122 others in Ivory Innovations’ network of innovators dedicated to advancing housing affordability.

“We spoke with more than 200 organizations for the sixth annual Ivory Prize, a record since we launched the Ivory Prize in 2018. This illustrates the growing number of innovators across the country working on important efforts to increase affordability,” said Abby Ivory, President at Ivory Innovations and Program Manager at the University of Utah’s Ivory Boyer Real Estate Center. “We are passionate about increasing the impact and scale of new ideas with the potential to improve the housing ecosystem. These innovators are notable for the strength of their innovations, focus on affordability, and optimism to build solutions that can make a real difference for the country.”

The Ivory Prize is one of the longest standing and most prestigious awards of its kind in the United States, culminating in $300,000 of grants to winners in three categories: Construction & Design, Finance, and Policy & Regulatory Reform. This year’s competition marks the sixth year of Ivory Innovations’ effort to shine a light on the most promising housing solutions. All finalists are included in the Ivory Innovations Housing Innovation Database, a comprehensive overview of more than 500 promising housing organizations across the country.

Today’s announcement welcomes 25 exciting organizations to the Ivory Prize portfolio. Their new status as portfolio members gives them access to Ivory’s network of innovators, capital partners, and capacity builders and unlocks in-kind support such as sponsored student interns and pro bono consulting services. Finalists for the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability are selected by the Ivory Innovations’ Advisory Board, which is composed of the top minds in housing across the U.S.

Here are the 2024 Ivory Prize Top 25 Finalists (listed by category and alphabetical order):

Construction & Design

Apis Cor – Melbourne, FL

Apis Cor develops highly mobile 3D printers and construction materials for homebuilding. Their robot is smaller than most others on the market, and is ready to work within 30 minutes of arriving at the job site, driving down the transportation and set-up costs associated with a project.

Capsule – Anaheim, CA

Capsule exists to bring a new streamlined construction workforce online. Their team of engineers, machines, and assembly technicians manufacture buildings as components to increase the number of units of housing available. In everything, Capsule does more with less.

Canvas – San Francisco, CA

Canvas is helping contractors build in bold new ways by putting better tools in the hands of skilled workers. With Canvas’s worker-controlled robotic machine, contractors are able to make drywall finishing safer and more attractive to a shrinking pool of skilled labor, while realizing unmatched metrics for schedule, cost, quality and safety.

Onx – Carrollton, TX

Onx is accelerating a new era of homes and neighborhoods, combining proprietary X+ Construction technology, design, and advanced material science expertise in concrete. Onx’s solutions—scaled at speed—deliver more value at every step of the homeowner journey.

On3 – Madison, WI

On3 is an award-winning AI/Mobile Based Learning Application for fieldworkers in construction, trade contractor, and manufacturing industries. On3 allows companies to seamlessly capture their critical work processes in video, create multilingual video-based learning modules, and transform their teams by using artificial intelligence (AI) to verify retention of critical knowledge among frontline personnel.

PathHouse – Portland, OR

The PathHouse modular housing solution is the first-ever application of true Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA) techniques to our nation’s housing problem. By combining carbon-sequestering mass-timber products together with our SmartCassette, the result will be the production of over 50,000 housing modules per year within four years.

Revalue.io – Oakland, CA

Revalue.io prepares communities for the transition to clean energy by removing home health hazards and fossil fuel based systems. Leveraging resources from utilities, government and community programs, Revalue.io provides local minority contractors access to a sustainable pipeline of projects to increase the skilled labor workforce and diversity within the construction and energy industry.

TANGOBuilder – San Francisco, CA

TANGOBuilder uses AI to automate buildings’ structural design by transforming architectural sketches into construction-ready blueprints in seconds. The platform shows consistent savings of up to 50% on engineering time and faster approval time by the city, allowing construction to start up to 3 months earlier.

Villa – San Francisco, CA

Villa is a homebuilding platform that focuses on building prefab homes in “missing middle” infill locations. Villa uses an asset-light approach by partnering with factories to build homes based on Villa’s designs; with a focus on technology, modern design, quality construction, and affordability, Villa is creating a scalable solution that can meet the needs for more attainable housing production across America.

Finance

Foyer – New York, NY

Foyer is designed to be the entryway to homeownership for the next generation of first time homebuyers – providing confidence at a time when homeownership has never been more difficult. Foyer offers members personalized financial planning together with a First Time Homebuyer Savings Account aimed at helping them reach their homeownership goals faster and more responsibly.

HIAS: Housing Guarantee Fund – Silver Spring, MD

The HIAS Housing Guarantee Fund (HGF) is an efficient and sustainable mechanism for mitigating rental market forces that exclude newly arrived refugees from housing opportunities and expose them to homelessness. By providing financial backstopping for refugees’ first leases in the U.S., the HGF reduces risk to housing providers and increases housing access, affordability, and stability for recently arrived refugees.

Home Lending Pal – Orlando, FL

Home Lending Pal transforms the process of determining eligibility for HUD vouchers to pay for a mortgage and other home-buying assistance programs, making it scalable, efficient, and user-friendly. By automating the complex analysis required to assess eligibility criteria, their AI-driven platform swiftly identifies potential beneficiaries, significantly reducing the time and manual effort traditionally involved in supporting underserved communities.

HON Partners – Dallas, TX

High Opportunity Neighborhood Partners is a full-service real estate company that acquires quality homes in High Opportunity Neighborhoods. They provide these homes along with supportive services (Services Enriched Housing) to Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher holders in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Montgomery County Housing Production Fund – Kensington, MD

The Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) of Montgomery County, Maryland partnered with Montgomery County to create the Housing Production Fund (HPF) in 2021. The HPF is now expected to produce as many as 2,000 new housing units in the county by the end of the decade, of which at least 30% will be affordable. The HPF is a $100 million revolving fund that provides low-cost construction financing for the development of publicly owned, mixed-income housing. Jurisdictions across the country are now exploring how they can adapt this model as explored in recent stories in Vox and the New York Times.

Rent Butter – Chicago, IL

Rent Butter aims to create a resident screening solution that offers valuable and unbiased insights to housing providers while expanding housing options for individuals with less-than-ideal credit histories.

Roam – New York City, NY

With interest rates at their highest point in 20 years and housing affordability at its lowest point in history, Roam offers a unique solution to help homebuyers wind back the clock on interest rates by purchasing a home with a low-rate assumable mortgage, saving them up to 50% on monthly payments compared to buying with a traditional mortgage. Roam’s platform makes it easy for buyers to search listings with assumable mortgages, and Roam streamlines all steps in the assumption process, working with the mortgage servicer on behalf of buyer, seller and agents to ensure the transaction closes on time.

US Modular Capital – Chicago, IL

Volumetric construction is a scalable and sustainable solution to the affordable housing crisis. US Modular Capital is the only lender exclusively dedicated to financing volumetric construction. They provide developers with flexible and innovative financing solutions required for volumetric projects.

Policy & Regulatory Reform

City of Detroit: Land Value Tax Plan – Detroit, MI

For too long, an outdated property tax code has unfairly burdened homeowners and affordable housing developers in Detroit while rewarding land speculators and encouraging blight. Detroit is proposing a Land Value Tax plan, which would provide long-overdue relief to homeowners by reducing property taxes while encouraging growth and reinvestment; the plan shifts the tax burden from property improvements and buildings to land.

City of San Diego: ADU Bonus program – San Diego, CA

The City of San Diego has implemented a Bonus Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Program that allows for increased density for Affordable ADUs. This incentive has led to the construction of deed restricted ADUs and naturally affordable ADUs throughout the City.

Compass Working Capital – Boston, MA

Compass Working Capital (Compass) partners with families with low incomes – primarily families led by Black and/or Latina women – to build savings and assets as a pathway out of poverty. Since 2010, Compass has developed and implemented a series of innovations to expand the scope and impact of the Family Self-Sufficiency program, the nation’s largest wealth-building program for families with low incomes, made available in HUD-assisted housing.

First Repair – Evanston, IL

First Repair has taken a local-to-national approach in the centuries-long movement for Black reparations. Localities nationwide, like Evanston, IL, are prioritizing housing-related redress as a first tangible step to repair the legacies of slavery in the United States.

FwdSlash – East Brunswick, NJ

FwdSlash is bringing the healthcare industry into housing. Through novel contracts with managed Medicaid that generates up to $30 billion annually in health cost savings at scale, FwdSlash is enabling communities to guide the healthcare investment of these savings to increase housing supply and services for people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness.

Minneapolis Public Housing Authority: Family Housing Expansion Project – Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN

Minneapolis Public Housing Authority helps provide 26,000 people with quality, safe, and affordable housing through its various housing assistance programs. In 2023, the agency brought 84 new, deeply affordable family homes to 16 sites in Minneapolis by leveraging upzoning, modular construction, and financial partnerships.

Placemate – Truckee, CA

Placemate helps tourism-based communities thrive by unlocking new affordable rental housing for the local workforce. Through their innovative public-private partnerships, they have designed and implemented incentive programs to convert underutilized housing stock into new long-term rentals.

Pronto Housing – New York, NY

Pronto Housing provides software to streamline affordable housing resident qualification so property teams can fill units faster and improve the resident experience. The software is configurable for any affordable program to reflect the myriad of regulatory agencies and financing permutations for properties across the US.

The 2024 Top 10 Ivory Prize Finalists will be announced in April, and the final 2024 Ivory Prize Winners will be announced on May 16. To learn more, visit www.ivoryinnovations.org.

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Neel Achary is the editor of Business News This Week. He has been covering all the business stories, economy, and corporate stories.