@the Terner Center, UC Berkeley

Updates from the Lab


Announcing the Inaugural Housing Lab Cohort

September 26, 2019

BERKELEY, CA -- Today, the Housing Lab, a program of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley announced the six ventures selected from over 135 applicants for its inaugural cohort. In addition to a $100K grant, the Housing Lab will tailor its resources to meet the individual needs of each venture and provide the support necessary for sustainable growth. This will include six months of intensive coaching in business model design, support in further fundraising, training in leading with an equity focus, and access to a technical network led by Carol Galante, Faculty Director of the Terner Center and former Assistant Secretary of Housing at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

The ultimate goal of the Housing Lab is to help these ventures build a strong foundation for future growth and to encourage meaningful contributions to solving the housing affordability crisis. Each of these six ventures represents a unique approach to tackling a piece of the housing affordability puzzle: 

Digs (Chicago, IL) is an educational savings app that partners with lenders and homeownership counseling agencies to support people incrementally saving for a down payment and learning about the home buying process along the way. Digs has demonstrated early traction and a strong potential for their products to serve communities who historically have not had access to fair and quality mortgages. 

Dweller (Portland, OR) builds small houses in people's backyards as inexpensively and quickly as they can. Dweller walks the homeowner through the entire process, including partnering with builders and creating new tools to finance the units. This allows lower- and middle-income homeowners access to own these small units. 

Esusu (New York, NY) works with both landlords and tenants to ensure rent payments are included in credit scores. Currently less than 1% of renters report this data to credit bureaus. Creditworthiness is foundational to homeownership, and without a tool like Esusu, many “thin-file” customers are left out of the homeownership market, even if they are reliably making their rental payments.  Esusu leads with a strong intent to serve communities that need support keeping economically insecure customers at the focus of their work. 

Hurry Home (South Bend, IN) serves people trying to buy homes valued at or under $80k. There are very few financial products that serve this market. Hurry Home is bringing a different  model and approach to a financing problem that’s been difficult to solve in the past. 

PadSplit (Atlanta, GA) helps modify apartments and houses to increase occupancy, opening up space and making the resulting rental space more affordable. While other co-living companies exist, Padsplit is unique in focusing on creating housing affordable for low-income workers. 

prefabADU (Fairfield, CA) brings 14 years of experience to designing innovative kits to build small houses in backyards that are easy, fast, and affordable to put together. prefabADU is working on making these kits as inexpensively as possible while partnering with local government to pre-approve plans to build the units quickly. With some areas of the country looking to increase density in single family neighborhoods by easing the regulations on backyard units, but little movement forward of actually building these units, the Housing Lab saw an opportunity to partner with a second company working on this solution.

The Housing Lab is inspired by the expertise, creativity, and leadership represented by each of these ventures. 


About The Housing Lab:

The Housing Lab is the first national innovation lab exclusively focused on lowering the cost of housing. We will support a small cohort of ventures offering new construction methods, financial tools, and ideas to increase density that can tackle housing costs at scale. In addition, we’ve built a broad network of experts and mentors to work 1x1 with the companies. They bring a range of expertise from housing policy, construction technology, start-up fundraising, business strategy, and leading with a racial equity lens. The work of the Housing Lab sits within the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley - a collaboration between the College of Environmental Design (CED) and the Haas School of Business. The mission of the Terner Center is to formulate bold strategies to house families from all walks of life in vibrant, sustainable, and affordable homes and communities. As the Terner Center  does this work through evidence-based research and explores creative new policy approaches, the Housing Lab sits alongside this work to elevate new ideas that will make housing more accessible and fair.

The Housing Lab’s Supporters

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI): 

CZI was the major initial supporter of the Housing Lab.  Founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in 2015, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is a new kind of philanthropy that’s leveraging technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges – from eradicating disease, to improving education, to tackling housing affordability. Across three core Initiative areas of Science, Education, and Justice & Opportunity, CZI is pairing engineering with grantmaking, impact investing, policy, and advocacy to help build an inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. Core to this work is the belief that access to safe, affordable, and accessible housing is essential to community stability and shared prosperity. CZI has partnered with numerous organizations working on innovative solutions in the housing sector, such as: Landed, TechEquity, Eviction Lab, and the Kelsey. CZI has also supported ballot measures related to housing in California, and helped launch the Partnership for the Bay’s Future -- a public-private partnership focused on producing, protecting, and preserving housing in the Bay Area. 

The James Irvine Foundation:

Since 1937, The James Irvine Foundation has provided more than $1.87 billion in grants to nonprofits working across California, including $95.9 million in 2018. The singular goal of their grantmaking is a California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically.

Ivory Innovations:

Ivory Innovations is an applied academic institution at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business dedicated to catalyzing high impact innovations in housing affordability. Ivory Innovations seeks to promote the most compelling ideas in housing affordability by working across sectors, providing monetary awards for groundbreaking innovations and leveraging its network and resources.

Howard and Irene Levine Family Foundation:

Howard and Irene Levine have displayed extraordinary altruism and generosity to address timely and critical issues related to urban housing markets, housing policy, sustainability and redevelopment, particularly the housing needs and outcomes of lower-income and workforce households. David Levine currently serves as the Executive Director of the family foundation.