Leadership

4 Winners Of 2023 Ivory Prize Celebrated At PCBC In Anaheim

Housing's affordability crisis is not a challenge that wants to be solved. Which is exactly what gets some so fully determined to do it.

Leadership

4 Winners Of 2023 Ivory Prize Celebrated At PCBC In Anaheim

Housing's affordability crisis is not a challenge that wants to be solved. Which is exactly what gets some so fully determined to do it.

May 24th, 2023
4 Winners Of 2023 Ivory Prize Celebrated At PCBC In Anaheim
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You could ban the word innovation from usage. But then the problem of giving more people more access to safe, healthy housing would still require doing the job of innovating, whether or not the word was around to apply to it.

Absent a four-syllable management consultancy buzzword, smart committed souls would still need to solve hard problems to alter America's arc of unattainability. Minus this catch-all term so many overuse and some can't stand, solutions for today's spreading pernicious housing crisis would still need a double-mandate: (1) to lower barriers that stand in the way of that access, and (2) to elevate people's resolve and expectations of themselves to become part of a solution.

And if innovation were never coined, and if self-serving types didn't latch onto it like a badge of honor, people would still strive to do it. They'd work to lower those barriers and raise those levels of determined resolve for people locked out of access to any decent home because they can't pay for it. They'd innovate, because they do that. That's who and what they are, and they don't need a 25-cent word as proof to anybody else.

Housing's affordability crisis is – as has been proven over time despite countless initiatives and infinite numbers of debates and studies and trillions of dollars of investment and incalculable amounts of effort – not a challenge that wants to be solved. Ever.

One might say now, especially.

In mid-2023 – after the Federal Reserve turned the screws on the cost of investment and debt financing, and gave equity owners an involuntary haircut, and turned a couple of large regional banks upside down, ones that happened to be at the center of America's most fertile ground for start-ups of all kinds, including housing, property technology, and building technology – housing's affordability challenge doesn't want solving.

  • building better and cheaper won't alone solve it, because a home needs a property where neighbors and officials support or resist it.
  • policy alone won't solve it because private enterprise ingenuity and business systems and industrialization are necessary to lower cost barriers
  • private sector investment capital by itself won't solve it because citizens and their elected officials hold sway over what does and doesn't get built everywhere.

Efforts, first at the fringes of each of these critical housing ecosystem stakeholder domains, and then jumping the fences into the fray, need to crisscross and integrate and ultimately work as one for the purpose of reaching the goal: access for more Americans to homes they can live in and love.

For start-ups – most of them, especially in mature industries full of legacy systems and practices and resource allocations ... like residential construction – need two lifelines, time and money.  Further if they have money, they normally have time; and if they have time, they typically can keep pace with the money.

But events and developments at the Fed monetary and fiscal policy level – in an effort to crush a damaging inflation – left innovative start-ups in every sector with less money and less time.

Fact is, though, those people who are doing the work – to make access to homes and homeownership and decent places to live more doable – don't launch into their ventures because they know they're going to have a long runway or a treasure trove of easy capital to work through the proofs of concept and prototypes and pilots and early-stage operational go-to-market periods, eventually to get to scale and 10X margin capability in a five to seven year run.

They do it – irrespective of the capital investment and lending environment, and the macro economic backdrop, and the zeitgeist around innovation – because people need homes. They need the fuel of motivation and empowerment to elevate their own stake in making access to a home come true, and they need elimination of friction – a clearer, smoother, more navigable path and a lower barrier to hurdle – to help them pave their own way.

And even if innovation wasn't a word at all, and didn't confer a rarefied kind of distinction among business and operational groundbreakers, people would devote their lives and livelihoods to transforming how housing works in the U.S., because they know and believe with a passion it has to happen.

That's the kind of people Ivory Innovations has recognized  – starting in 2019 and continuing for a fifth consecutive year -- in its Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability, and this year's four honorees stand tall among winners for all five years for doing just that, the work of solving hard problems.

Per a press statement:

The winners of the 2023 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability actively address the challenge of affordable housing through interconnected approaches. The Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth empowers Black homebuyers by providing down-payment assistance, enabling the creation of generational wealth. Diamond Age uses cutting-edge industrial-scale robotics, revolutionizing new home construction and addressing the labor shortage while increasing affordability. The National Zoning Atlas brings transparency to zoning laws, illuminating their impact on housing availability. PermitFlow streamlines construction permitting processes, expediting housing development in ways that can lower costs and increase affordability. These winners embody innovation, equity, transparency, and efficiency, collectively driving solutions for housing affordability."

Abby Ivory, Managing Director of Ivory Innovations, says:

This year's winners represent the very best in innovation and their solutions offer a glimpse into what the future of housing can be. We are honored to showcase their groundbreaking work and remain dedicated to supporting and amplifying their impact in making housing more affordable for everyone."

Here is a brief description of each of the four prize winners – who together took home $300,000 in prize money awarded by Ivory Innovations in recognition of their ventures' impact, level-of-ambition, sustainability as going-concerns, and scale-ability to many markets.

(1) Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth (Denver, Colorado) – committed to closing the racial wealth gap and promoting Black homeownership by providing crucial down-payment assistance to first-time Black and African American homebuyers.

Many Black and African American families are considered 'mortgage-ready,' but lack the capital needed for a down payment due to historic housing discrimination that has prevented Black people from building wealth. Moreover, the rising cost of housing in many U.S. cities leaves families vulnerable to displacement due to rising rents. To address this centuries-old issue and advance housing stability, we've created a new financing tool that invests in and alongside Black homeowners in the form of returnable down-payment assistance," said Aisha T. Weeks, Managing Director of the Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth. "The Ivory Prize is meaningful to us because it recognizes the program for our place-based impact, and elevates the Dearfield Fund as a scalable and replicable solution that can be used nationally to address housing affordability and to build generational wealth."

(2) Diamond Age (Phoenix, Arizona) – an automation platform that makes people more efficient and productive to drive affordability in single-family home construction.

Winning the Ivory Prize is a milestone event in the short history of Diamond Age – it’s a tribute to our team's dedication to create affordability in single-family housing,” said Jack Oslan, CEO of Diamond Age. “The current state of innovation in construction technology, though robust, is primarily focused on incremental improvements vs. systemic change. Diamond Age is focused on changing the way homes are built – converting physically demanding manual labor into technology-focused jobs that will attract a new generation of workers into the industry. Although capital intensive, our first principles approach to replace not all, but the majority of onsite manual labor with automation, enables a practical, affordable, and scalable solution with a clear roadmap to profitability.”

(3) National Zoning Atlas (Ithaca, New York) – an extraordinary collaboration of researchers dedicated to digitizing, demystifying, and democratizing approximately 30,000 U.S. zoning codes.

For the first time, the National Zoning Atlas is democratizing, demystifying, and digitizing our nation's 30,000 or more zoning codes," said Sara Bronin, founder of the National Zoning Atlas."By analyzing a hundred different regulatory characteristics on every inch of zone-able land, we're informing state and local policy decisions about housing, transportation, climate change, and public infrastructure. We are so grateful to be recognized by the Ivory Prize for this work, and we hope with this recognition that more people will use our data to catalyze reform - or even join or start an atlas team.”

(4) PermitFlow (San Jose, California) – accelerating the construction permitting process to reduce risk and costs, creating new avenues to build housing more affordably and efficiently.

We are grateful for the Ivory Prize recognition and it will help us further our work of improving the construction permitting process,” said Francis Thumpasery, CEO of PermitFlow. “Permitting processes and timelines can vary greatly for each project, and this lack of standardization makes it hard for builders to develop new units in a timely and cost effective manner. We are excited to scale our solution across the industry and look forward to continued technology adoption to lower costs, increase efficiency, and improve housing affordability.”

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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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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