Each year The Housing Lab interviews our partners, community leaders, and investors to understand where they think innovation in the housing sector can best increase affordability, equity, and sustainability. These conversations, along with the Terner Center’s research and policy work, inform our areas of interest for each year’s Housing Lab cohort.
We’re excited about these areas, but they won’t limit the makeup of our final cohort. In past years, many amazing ventures The Housing Lab supported were a surprise - they did not align neatly with our areas of interest, but they blew us away. The Kelsey, Esusu, and Blackstar Stability are just a few examples.
- Exploring creative ways to increase housing stock quickly . Increasing the supply of affordably priced housing through new construction has many barriers, especially in urban areas. We are looking for innovative ideas that create living units in the very near-term, such as co-living and converting underutilized spaces, and in the medium-term, such as duplex conversions, adaptive reuse of commercial space, and accessory dwelling units.
- Integrating data and technology to address systemic inequities in housing. Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, and low-income households continue to face discrimination when it comes to selling, obtaining, renting and/or maintaining their homes. We are looking for solutions that are using data collection, transparency, and dissemination to increase equity. This might include better matching of Housing Choice Voucher holders with available units, remedying biased appraisal practices, or using non-traditional data like rental payments in the underwriting process.
- Connecting sustainable solutions with affordability. The built environment accounts for 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions - 27% of that is driven by building operations and the remaining 13% from construction. Many states and municipalities are putting policy goals in place to encourage sustainability in this space - for example, building electrification. Sustainable building materials, industrialized construction, and waste reduction on job sites are some exciting examples of sustainable construction practices. Connecting multi-family condos, low-income homeowners, and other harder-to-reach property types to clean energy upgrades are another important innovation area. We are looking for ventures that are incorporating these practices and thinking about how they can translate into affordability for homebuyers and renters, instead of raising costs.
- Creating structures to increase housing stability among low-income renters. Low-income renters are especially vulnerable to eviction and instability. We are looking for ideas that protect and support renters. This may include ventures that use technology or replicable systems to ensure renters’ needs are being met, facilitate access to legal representation, ensure minimum housing quality standards, or help renters generate wealth in new ways.
- Initiatives to build wealth through innovative homeownership models or to create pathways to homeownership for historically excluded populations. Throughout U.S. history, home ownership has been a primary means of generating wealth and familial stability. The fact that BIPOC individuals were systematically excluded from governmental support mechanisms in the last century has exacerbated wealth inequality and housing instability. We are seeking ventures that see the current climate of high interest rates and have found a mechanism to increase access to homeownership for people who have previously been denied the opportunity. This includes improving availability of and access to responsible financing sources or helping low-income homeowners reinvest into their properties to add rental revenue.