These 10 Game Changers Are Finalists For The 2021 Ivory Prize

A glimpse at the 2021 cohort of 10 most innovative, impactful, and scalable programs to bring affordable, equitable housing to more communities.

John McManus April 23rd, 2021

It's a myth that housing innovation is an oxymoron.

In fact, innovation has always been there, but hard to notice because it goes on mostly in the cracks and crevices of this notion we know as local.

Yet, those abundant examples of applied brilliance pale in the face of certain stark and worsening realities, like this:

Housing challenges are compounded by racial disparities; households of color are far more likely to be cost-burdened and less likely to be homeowners compared to white households.
Renters experience housing cost-burdens (i.e., spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs) at a rate double that of homeowners. In 2019, 21.2% of homeowners were housing cost-burdened, compared to 46.3% of renter households. Among renters with annual incomes of less than $15,000, 83.5% were housing cost-burdened. Black and Latino renter households experienced cost burdens at a rate of 53.7% and 51.9%, respectively, compared to 41.9% of white renters.

And these conditions don't even begin to speak of housing's eventual, nearly inevitable head-on collision with climate collapse.

Excepting for the promise of people, organizations, and sectors who innovate – reframing the epic challenges as a broad, electrifying frontier of opportunity.

In the 2021 to 2030 decade ahead – partly by virtue of a heart-stopping moment of existential pause around the onset of Covid – society, business, communities, even people in construction and real estate themselves, expect more of housing's ability to achieve more, to constantly improve rather than backslide, to find solutions for access, for equity, for inclusion, and for resilient harmonious prosperity inside the embrace of Earth's regenerative capability.

For three years now, a committed investment in recognizing, incubating, and nurturing solutions among entrepreneurs and purpose-driven enterprises that impact housing affordability, equity, and access has resulted in spotlighting some of the most innovative new initiatives in housing's landscape. Behind the annual program, Salt Lake, UT-based Ivory Innovations has this week unveiled its 10 finalists in the running for this year's Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability.

Here are the 10 overachievers, who've risen to the top from among more than 250 nominations across three categories, Construction and Design, Finance, and Policy and Regulatory Reform:

Innovations in Construction and Design:

Rapidly rising construction and material costs are making innovations in Construction and Design increasingly necessary and impactful for affordability. Finalists in this category are pioneering new material applications and construction methods that are more efficient, scalable, and importantly, more sustainable, resulting in greater affordability.

Sustainable Bamboo with BamCore Windsor, California: Since April 2020, “unprecedented spikes in lumber prices have added more than $24,000 to the price of the average, new single-family home, and nearly $9,000 to the price of a multifamily home,” according to the National Home builders Association. BamCore’s innovative bamboo-based framing solution has the potential to address this crippling rise in material costs, provide a more climate positive supply chain, reduce the need for skilled labor and speed up the build time by more than 50 percent, while producing a much more energy-efficient home.

3-D Printing with ICON – Austin, Texas: Productivity in construction has declined by nearly half over the past fifty years. ICON seeks to reverse this trend through advanced construction technologies providing dignified housing at scale by leveraging robotics, 3-D printing technology, software, and advanced materials. Icon aims to create dramatic improvements in speed, quality, resiliency and sustainability.

Healthier Buildings with Curtis + Ginsberg Architects (C+GA) New York City, New York: Often sustainability and affordability are competitive goals for housing development. However, C+GA is pioneering new approaches to break through the budgetary barriers that previously made building energy-efficient and affordable multifamily housing difficult. C+GA has designed the largest completed Passive House affordable housing building in the United States. Their primary strategy in designing energy-efficient Passive House standards is to reduce the operational cost of buildings, in turn, maintaining affordability long after a building is built, while providing healthier buildings for residents.

Innovations in Finance:

Often, innovations in finance are the quickest and most scalable solutions to housing affordability. This year’s finalists work to improve homebuyer and homeownership education, rehabbing and preserving naturally occurring affordable housing, and developing innovative solutions to create supplemental income for homeowners and those needing affordable rental opportunities.

Rehabbing Lives and Homes with Acts Housing – Milwaukee, Wisconsin: For families with the largest barriers to homeownership, access to traditional loan capital is often impossible. Acts Housing provides a replicable model that has enabled more than 950 families to purchase and rehabilitate distressed properties into stable homes through homebuyer education, a path to attaining loan capital, real estate services, and support in the home rehab process all under one roof.

Preserving Affordability with Housing Impact Fund – Charlotte, North Carolina: The preservation and rehab of existing homes is proving to be one of the most effective strategies to address affordability. The Housing Impact Fund is an innovative social impact equity fund to preserve and create affordability for thousands of Charlotteans that earn between 30% and 80% of the area median income in naturally occurring affordable housing in neighborhoods across the city.

Preparing for Homeownership with Keep by Framework – Boston, Massachusetts: Framework® Homeownership's Keep by Framework helps home buyers understand the process to purchase a home and how best to maintain and stay in that home for the long term. With an emphasis on first-time, first-generation potential homeowners, Keep guides users through the entire process of purchasing a home, with a keen focus on how to assist homebuyers confronting structural and persistent racial barriers, to democratize the homebuying process.

Senior Homesharing with Silvernest – Denver, Colorado: Taking advantage of existing homes, while generating supplemental income is a unique and low-cost way to increase the overall supply of housing. Utilizing new COVID-conscious tools, Silvernest is a homesharing platform that targets empty nesters, boomers, and those with extra space. It provides them with the opportunity to find a housemate, as well as create an additional form of income.

Innovations in Public Policy and Regulatory Reform:

Public policy and regulation can represent significant barriers to housing affordability, but there is growing groundswell of action to instead achieve positive systemic impacts on affordability. Finalists present a diverse set of approaches, including a comprehensive and solution to financing ADUs reserved for low-income residents, improving community communication on new developments, and combating racial equality, reentry, and NIMBYism.

Accelerating ADUs with City of Pasadena – Pasadena, California: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are beginning to break through many policy, financial and construction barriers that have limited scalability. However, helping homebuyers navigate the process, financing and ensuring that these new units support affordability has been a challenge. The Pasadena Second Unit ADU Program provides “Comprehensive Assistance” for financing, designing, permitting, and constructing a new ADU in the City of Pasadena to provide housing for very low income Section 8 households that could be a model for cities nationwide.

Adding New Voices in Development with CoUrbanize – Cambridge, Massachusetts: Engaging communities in thoughtful discussions on growth and development are critical to allow for greater supply of housing. CoUrbanize is an online platform designed to connect developers and planners to their neighbors. With Covid-19, CoUrbanize has become an effective source for community members to continue to engage in the development processes while in person public/community meetings are on hold. This approach also helps to ensure that the loudest voices are not the only ones weighing in on a project.

Housing After Incarceration with Impact Justice / The Homecoming Project – Oakland, California: Thousands of Americans are not only priced out of affordable housing but are often intentionally left out of many housing options. The Homecoming Project is a program that ensures successful reentry back into communities by providing safe and stable housing and a welcoming host. Formerly incarcerated people are able to integrate more easily into the community by quick placement into stable housing right out of prison.

These finalists will be eligible for more than two hundred thousand dollars in prize monies that will be distributed between at least three winners selected from each of the three award components. In addition to financial support, the Ivory Innovations network includes interns, capital partners, and strategic planning. This year, Ivory Innovations is partnering with the Housing Lab at the Terner Center at UC Berkeley to send a top entrant through the accelerator.


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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