Policy

25 Finalists Named In '23 Ivory Prize For Housing Affordability

Ivory Prize Winners will be announced in May, at this year's PCBC Conference in Anaheim. $300,000 in prize money will be distributed between at least three winners selected across the three award categories — construction and design, public policy and regulatory reform, and finance.

Policy

25 Finalists Named In '23 Ivory Prize For Housing Affordability

Ivory Prize Winners will be announced in May, at this year's PCBC Conference in Anaheim. $300,000 in prize money will be distributed between at least three winners selected across the three award categories — construction and design, public policy and regulatory reform, and finance.

February 27th, 2023
25 Finalists Named In '23 Ivory Prize For Housing Affordability
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There comes a point where whatever you hear or read or see that's wise, or stirring, or brilliant, its raw meaning streams back to and from housing's once and future challenge: Affordability.

This is why a passage New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie crafted so beautifully for use on an entirely separate matter – democracy – struck us as the obvious and only way to give due respect to effort, investment, and focus on housing's pre-eminent chronic pain point. In its intended context, the passage calls powerfully to our "better angels" to continue a nearly 250-year-old experiment in governing. Out of context, where "Everything Is About The Housing Market," Bouie's words resonate with realism and a glimmer of undying hope.

He writes (and we'll parenthetically add the words "housing affordability" where our involuntary reflex sees them as if they were included in the text):

The great virtue (or perhaps curse) of democracy [housing affordability] is that it doesn’t settle — it keeps moving. There are no final victories, but there are no final defeats either. There is only the struggle for a more humane world or, for some among us, a more hierarchical one."

Now, in the "housing theory of everything" framing, although the matter may be chronic and may have plagued generations of solutions seekers as far back as anyone might care to look, affordability and the lack thereof never do truly settle. "It keeps moving. There are no final victories, but there are no final defeats either."

Pursuing solutions – come victory or defeat – remains the only path forward, however discouraged we are and discouraging the realities stack up to be.

The Atlantic contributor Annie Lowrey writes:

Housing costs are perverting just about every facet of American life, everywhere. What we eat, when we eat it, what music we listen to, what sports we play, how many friends we have, how often we see our extended families, where we go on vacation, how many children we bear, what kind of companies we found: All of it has gotten warped by the high cost of housing. Nowhere is immune, because big cities export their housing shortages to small cities, suburbs, and rural areas too."

The only truly wrong – unacceptable – answer is futility.

In housing affordability's case, the magnitude of the challenge is in every real way the dimension of the opportunity. Economists John Myers, Ben Southwood, Sam Bowman write:

If we fix those [housing] shortages, we will help to solve many of the other, seemingly unrelated problems that we face as well."  – The Housing Theory of Everything

Areas of progress over the past decade or so include these two:

  • Recognition that the affordability "crisis" stems from a stack of affordability "traps," the solution for one but not all of which leads perpetually to defeat. In other words, affordability (for a working household) is in most cases a condition that results from economic and financial traps in political will, producer productivity, and/or capital investment. Solving for any of these in isolation feeds back into the crisis' vicious circle of frustration. Each needs to be solved both discretely and in a fully integrated and aligned way.
  • Recognition that solutions – for what they are – can come only of both knowledge and new and ongoing understanding. As Jamelle Bouie writes, the need never settles, nor can the solutions. Affordability's moving target requires a deep time-tested bank of practice and gained wisdom, as well as an equally deep well of humility and willingness to keep learning.

This is why efforts – starting in 2019 and continuing for a fifth consecutive year -- of the Ivory Innovations team, today recognizing the Top 25 Finalists for the 2023 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability, rank as essential to pursuit of real solutions. From a total of 203 entries, eight stand-outs in Construction & Design, eight in Finance, and nine in Public Policy and Regulatory Reform rose to distinction for innovative impact, a sustainable operating model, and scale-ability and/or replicability.

The 2023 Top 10 Ivory Prize Finalists will be announced in April, and the final Ivory Prize Winners will be announced in May, at this year's PCBC Conference in Anaheim. $300,000 in prize money will be distributed between at least three winners selected across the three award categories — construction and design, public policy and regulatory reform, and finance.

The impact of the Annual award – as both a catalyst for innovation, an influential incubator for early-phase organizations and models, and a spotlight for opportunity among investors, builders, developers, and other parts of housing's macro ecosystem – has been spooling upward each year.

Per the press statement:

Over the last five years, Ivory Innovations has recognized 14 Ivory Prize Winners across the country and awarded $890,000 in prize money. In addition to financial support, Ivory Innovations connects all of its Top 25 Finalists with leading practitioners, capital partners, student interns, and pro bono consulting or capacity-building 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, from today's press statement, is a brief statement on each of the 25 finalists in terms of how Ivory Prize Advisory Board jurors characterize each's value proposition:

Construction and Design

BotBuilt | Durham, North Carolina

BotBuilt is revolutionizing the building process and solving the labor crisis in construction through flexible, precise robotic systems, patented hardware, and cutting-edge software. BotBuilt uses the latest technology to implement advanced motion planning with computer vision to build a more sustainable future for construction, forever changing the way the world builds with automation.

Diamond Age | Phoenix, Arizona

Diamond Age’s mission is to get first-time homebuyers into their first home faster, using 3D printing and advanced industrial-scale robotics – AKA – building robots bigger than houses to build houses. Diamond Age is automating new home construction for the production housing industry – solving the massive labor shortage plaguing the home construction industry and bringing more entry level housing to market to balance demand. Diamond Age is currently building entry-level homes for the 9th largest homebuilder in the U.S..

Inherent L3C | Chicago, Illinois

Inherent L3C believes in the power of community reinvestment through the creation of trade careers, homeownership, and community-based businesses. From their community housing production facility delivering all-electric, solar-ready smart homes, to their work with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to prepare households for homeownership, and their suite of support services for a household’s first five years, Inherent L3C believes that by coming together, “we can bring the best of us to the most of us”.

Madelon | Denver, Colorado

Madelon simplifies infill housing development by streamlining and productizing the entire process. They seamlessly integrate each component, including pre-designed housing products that are compatible with industrialized housing manufacturers, into their online REDtech platform. This allows small local developers, non-profit institutions, and even community trusts to get into the driver's seat and finally leverage new construction technology to identify and build more affordable housing supply at scale.

Plantd | Durham, North Carolina

Plantd makes durable carbon-negative building materials for homebuilders using fast-growing perennial grass instead of trees. To fulfill their mission to rapidly remove atmospheric carbon dioxide in the field and lock it away within the structures of new homes, they are establishing a new agricultural supply chain and building novel manufacturing technology that lowers costs, reduces carbon emissions, and produces superior-performing materials.

Timber HP | Madison, Maine

TimberHP manufactures loose fill, batt, and continuous board insulation from waste wood chips leftover from the production of lumber, boards, and sheathing; they also use woody debris removed from forests to improve tree growth and can even use wood scraps that pile up on construction sites. Most insulations are made from petroleum, such as foam, or require large energy inputs, like in the case of mineral wool. TimberHP’s cost-competitive, high-performance products land at the job site carbon negative and do not suffer from large price fluctuations tied to the use of fossil fuels.

Tough Leaf | New York, New York

Tough Leaf is a B2B SAAS platform focused on empowering certified Minority, Women, and Veteran owned businesses (Diverse Firms) to grow by connecting them with opportunities and capacity-building partners. Tough Leaf does this by seamlessly connecting General Contractors & Developers with Diverse Firms to meet and exceed their compliance requirements on projects.

Vantem | Greensboro, North Carolina

Vantem builds affordable, energy-efficient, climate-resilient homes at scale. Vantem reduces the cost of delivering quality homes by leveraging an innovative structural panel technology to factory-craft modular structures, including full Net Zero homes.

Finance

Arx | Miami Beach, Florida

Arx is an AI-driven real estate analytics platform that automatically underwrites the future potential of millions of properties in advance, enabling developers, investors, and agents to source and evaluate optimal investment & development opportunities in seconds. Arx is on a mission to catalyze the development of an equitably built world by empowering professionals to instantly understand the regulatory and market forces impacting a region, drastically improving their ability to deliver housing where needed most.

Bilt Rewards | New York, New York

Bilt Rewards is the first-of-its-kind rewards and payments program for the $600 billion/year rental market, enabling the country’s 109 million+ renters to build their credit and earn points back on rent with no fees for them or their landlord. Bilt is the only program that helps renters accumulate general savings and build their credit score while renting, while also enabling them to use points earned on rent and other everyday expenses towards a downpayment on a home.

CoFi | Lindon, Utah

CoFi is a fintech startup that has developed a fully vertical construction finance platform to address slow payments, complex lending, and risk of default in construction. The construction business has one of the highest project failure rates of any industry. CoFi streamlines this process, decreasing failure rates and helping project leads spend more time on their projects and less time on the financials. CoFi is piloting a new modular construction financing program with Manufactured, an end-to-end inventory manufacturing & finance solution.

Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth | Denver, Colorado

Launched by Gary Community Ventures, in partnership with Denver's Black community, The Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth provides up to $40,000 in down-payment assistance to first-time Black and African American homebuyers to help build generational wealth. The Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth aims to close the racial wealth gap and accelerate Black homeownership by generating an average of $100K in net worth for 500-600 Black families, leading to $50-$75M in wealth creation for the Black community in Denver, CO. The fund seeks to build a community of practice and replication model to assist other cities in deploying this innovative fund model in their markets.

Frolic Community | Seattle, Washington

Frolic is paving the way for thousands of new, multi-family housing cooperatives to be built on lots with single-family homes in cities across the U.S. Their homes require down payments of $10-$30k, creating opportunities for low-wealth and BIPOC families that have generationally rented to enter into homeownership.

RenoFi | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

RenoFi.com is the first one-stop-shop marketplace for financing a home renovation. Homeowners see on average an 11x increase in borrowing power with RenoFi-powered loans.

Roots Real Estate | Atlanta, Georgia

Roots is the only privately held Real Estate Investment portfolio that allows its residents to build wealth by allowing them to "Own While You Rent"TM. Residents can invest their rental deposit directly into the Roots Fund and earn rental rebates for under the "Live in it Like you Own" it program that are invested in their fund account as well. The Residents are invested alongside accredited investors in a REIT that includes the very homes in which renters live. Roots invites Residents who pay the rent to build wealth along with all the other investors.

Trust Neighborhoods | Kansas City, Missouri

Trust Neighborhoods is a Kansas City-based nonprofit creating community-controlled real estate where gentrification threatens displacement. Trust Neighborhoods has created a new, innovative approach to tackle affordable housing: the Mixed-Income Neighborhood Trust, or MINT, that owns and operates a portfolio of rental housing under community control to maintain permanent affordability. Four MINTs now operate in Boston, Fresno, KC, and Tulsa.

Public Policy and Regulatory Reform

Black Homeownership Collaborative | Washington D.C.

The Black Homeownership Collaborative is a multi-year initiative dedicated to significantly increasing Black homeownership. A coalition of more than 100 organizations and housing advocates, the “3by30” initiative seeks to create 3 million net new Black homeowners by 2030 through an ambitious plan of seven tangible, actionable, and scalable steps to help close the homeownership gap.

California Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loan Program | California, USA

The California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA) uses financing programs that have helped more than 213,000 low- and moderate-income Californians achieve the dream of homeownership and created/preserved 73,000 affordable rental units. On the homeownership side, the Agency uses various down payment and closing cost assistance programs to assist first-time homebuyers. The California Dream for All Shared Appreciation Loan is one of those programs and its unique design reflects the State of California’s desire to assist underserved communities who have faced historical housing discrimination leading to disproportionately low homeownership numbers.

Housing Connector | Seattle, Washington

Housing Connector is a tech-for-good nonprofit that increases access to housing for individuals most in need. Through partnerships with housing providers and an exclusive Zillow-powered marketplace, Housing Connector streamlines and automates the housing search experience to ensure no unit sits vacant while there are families in need of a home.

Housing Navigator Massachusetts | Cambridge, Massachusetts

Housing Navigator Massachusetts connects people to places to call home, adding transparency and equity to the too-often burdensome process of finding an affordable home. They deliver user-centered technology and advocate for systems change working in partnership with the public sector, owners, renters, and human service providers throughout our state. Their first product – a free, 24/7 housing search tool – offers clear, reliable information for one of the most important decisions we all make – where to call home."

National Zoning Atlas | Ithaca, New York

The National Zoning Atlas is a collaborative of researchers digitizing, demystifying, & democratizing about 30,000 U.S. zoning codes through a first-of-its-kind user-friendly online resource. The Atlas will illuminate zoning laws and unlock research that will reveal how zoning impacts housing availability and affordability, transportation systems, the environment, economic opportunity, educational opportunity, and our food supply.

Next Step | Louisville, Kentucky

Next Step is a nonprofit social enterprise that works to address the critical shortage of affordable housing using energy-efficient, factory-built homes. By bringing together housing developers and manufacturers, while supporting homebuyers with counseling and responsible mortgage financing, Next Step’s model creates a pathway to affordable homeownership that better meets the needs of our communities and our environment.

Outreach Grid | Irvine, California

Outreach Grid (OG) is a data platform that enables agencies across a region to collaborate and coordinate on homelessness information on one platform in one language. Over the past six years, OG has created innovative, integrated tools for frontline service workers to collect data at the point of work and for community leaders to visualize their system of care from first contact to housing in real-time. During the pandemic, OG implemented the first-of-its-kind shelter bed reservations to give shelter operators the tools to manage their shelter beds and upcoming reservations in real-time, saving communities thousands of hours in coordination time.

PermitFlow | San Jose, California

PermitFlow is the "TurboTax for construction permitting," providing automation and workflow software that simplifies and accelerates the permitting process. PermitFlow's technology reduces risk and cost associated with construction, creating new paths to build housing affordably.

The Kelsey | San Francisco, California

The Kelsey advances disability-forward housing solutions that open doors to homes and opportunities for everyone. Co-led by people with and without disabilities, The Kelsey co-develops affordable, accessible, inclusive housing and leads advocacy and field-building efforts to create market conditions so inclusive housing becomes the norm.

As we work to address the nation’s housing shortage and affordability crisis, one bright spot is innovation,” said Kent Colton, Chairman of the Ivory Innovations Advisory Board, in a provided statement. “The Ivory Prize Top 25 Finalists in 2023 highlight the important work which is underway to achieve creative change and solutions throughout the country. Most importantly, they will make a difference in the lives of the many people who seek and need affordable housing.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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