Leadership

Top 25 Ivory Prize Finalists In Construction, Policy And Finance

The 2022 cohort of standouts in design and construction, finance, policy and regulation, innovators feature high- and low-tech gamechangers that can scale, sustain, and exert impact on housing affordability's chronic pain points.

Leadership

Top 25 Ivory Prize Finalists In Construction, Policy And Finance

The 2022 cohort of standouts in design and construction, finance, policy and regulation, innovators feature high- and low-tech gamechangers that can scale, sustain, and exert impact on housing affordability's chronic pain points.

February 21st, 2022
Top 25 Ivory Prize Finalists In Construction, Policy And Finance
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A meeting in Cambridge, Mass., a flight back home to Salt Lake, a book to read on the flight, a glowing ember of an idea from the book is what it took.

As a privately capitalized, long dominant provider of new homes and communities in the state of Utah, Clark Ivory had arrived in Boston for that business leadership conference in 2018 an outlier America's trillion-dollar a year new residential construction and development. When he landed back in Salt Lake after that trip – and his reading of "The Medici Effect," a 2004 title by Frans Johansson, with a subtitle updated in a 2017 reprint issue of "What Elephants & Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation" – something changed in Ivory's own trajectory.

The company that carried his name – Ivory Homes – and its business and operations developing and building market rate homes for Utahn family households that had flourished through several real estate boom and bust cycles for three plus decades, in Clark Ivory's mind and heart, needed to stand for something more than it had.

The book's ember of an idea ignited an already roiling sense of urgency Ivory had been aware was gnawing at him in a deep-felt, vague way that suddenly felt clear.

Nevermind that the first edition of the book published in 2004, Ivory's reading on the plane that day awoke in him a sense that it everything in it spoke to the moment – where more and more people and households find themselves priced out of attainable options for living in a society, and economic backdrop, and culture that's seismically parsing who's in and who's left behind in housing's new, used, and supplementary supportive alternatives for shelter.

The book dwells in 'how and why combining ideas from different fields, disciplines, industries, and cultures increases the probability of inventing something remarkable ... [and shows that] once we train ourselves to step back from our habitual way of viewing concepts – linearly, one-directionally, in black and white – we are able to see that Intersections exist everywhere. And what happens when we harness the power of Intersections is simply revolutionary.'

By the time he got off the plane back in Salt Lake, anything theoretical, or hypothetical, or academic, or pie-in-the-sky Ivory had come across in the book took on vivid, profoundly practical life in his real world, his livelihood, his professional-world mission to impact people's lives in a way he knew how and had the means to do.

The pivot point of Johansson's book was an intersection, a confluence of people, ideas, a setting, and circumstances that could harness power enough to break through a vicious circle of talk, tail-chasing, and frustration, and ineffectiveness around the topic of market rate private sector impact on the growing housing affordability challenge. In Ivory's mind, "harnessing the power of Intersections" meant recognizing not one, but multiple intersections.

  • One is the crossing point of housing's three root-cause-and-effect vectors that impact what people pay for where they live – construction and design, capital finance, and policy and regulation.
  • A second is the age, gender, racial, and cultural diversity of stakeholders around the table.
  • Third, of course, is the intersection of human capability and the power of data and technology to enable results no human could otherwise produce.

So, as Clark Ivory attests, the genesis of an initiative known as the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability – now in its fourth annual cycle – sparked at 35,000 feet. It really took hold on the ground, when one day soon after, he'd locked himself in a conference room with University of Utah graduate and undergraduates who'd opted in to one of Ivory's first planned "intersection" ideas following that flight.

We'd first invited students from the University into a 24-hour 'hack-a-house' challenge," Ivory says. "The challenge was for them to break up into teams who'd then go on to model, develop a business plan, and pitch a new idea to solve for housing's affordability crisis. Just before we launched into the hack-a-thon format, each of the young participants talked about his or her relationship to the issue of the shortage in affordable housing options. One of them, a young fellow graduate student, says, 'I can totally relate to that issue. I'm currently living out of my car.' "

Hearing that young student's plight blasted like rocket fuel in Clark Ivory's mind, and the students' work all that night into the next day, and their heartfelt, fresh, unjaded energies and approaches to an affordability crisis that would have been bad enough without the pandemic.  

But there is no "without the pandemic." COVID-19, worsened the affordability crisis algorithmically – accelerating a deeper, wider gulf between those fall on the wrong side of economic vulnerability – due to its impact on the economy and its households.

Now in its fourth year, Ivory Innovations has now evaluated more than 600 innovative approaches to housing affordability in areas of construction and design, finance, and public policy and regulatory reform. Over that period, 11 winners have been awarded more than $650,000 in prize money. In addition to financial support, Ivory Innovations connects its Top 25 Finalists with leading practitioners, capital partners, student interns, and pro bono consulting or capacity building services. Additionally, Ivory Innovations is partnering with the Terner Housing Lab to send a top entrant through their accelerator program.

A full two years into the pandemic, the ember of an idea that caught fire in Clark Ivory's mind now leads to fourth cohort of 25 finalists for the prize, spreading across the three categories that define one of the key intersections – construction and design, policy and regulation, and capital finance.

In the Construction and Design category, finalists include organizations focused on labor force education and the deployment of new materials and technology, while the Policy and Regulatory Reform category features multiple city-level innovations that are addressing the critical issue of homelessness and eviction prevention. In the Finance category, finalists include organizations deploying new funding models to support vulnerable populations and software that increases the efficiency of the housing market.

What makes this year's cohort different than those in the past is the number of innovative data and applications technologies that don't simply attempt to lower the cost barriers to expand people's access to safer, decent, affordable homes. Instead, a good number of the programs spotlight tech and data-enabled human initiatives that rather than just lowering the barriers, they work to trigger innovative means and capability in people to elevate their own payment-power when it comes to their housing needs, desires, and aspirations.

Many of the capital finance finalists, for instance, tap into a user's own agency, resolve, and – with education, support tools, incentives, and focus – self-determinism with respect to savings, financial discipline and management, and holistic progress.

Policy and regulation innovation themes this year work more deeply than in prior year cohorts into the weeds of systemic points of impasse – focusing on super specific, data-enabled zoning and code, linkages to job training, health services, and rental assistance programs to target homelessness, racial bias, and income disparities in access to fair, decent housing options. In many of these cases, as well, aspects that integrate people's own ability to help themselves as well as offerings that lower the hurdles in front of them give each of this year's innovative approaches stronger likelihood of scale-ability, impact, and sustainability.

Among construction and design finalists, standouts look to establish sustainable beachheads solving for specific, well-defined and measurable needs, rather than to promise world-changing fixes that realistically require more than just lowering construction costs. ADUs, for instance, that can fully-financed by a capital and management company as a way for a homeowner to tap a new income stream to pay for the overall property – and then earn out the full ownership of the backyard ADU – involve a self-help aspect to property management as well as a macro tool to expand affordability in the region.

Each year, advisors – representing an array of expertise areas in policy and regulation, finance and capital investment, building technology, urban planning, architecture, and construction – sorting through the more than 170 nominations for the award shift to an ever higher gear of recognition, appraisal, and filtering to arrive at the 25 finalist list. Meanwhile, a corps of Ivory Innovation associates – under direction of Ivory Innovations managing director Abby Ivory -- out of the University of Utah run point on the research, the initial vetting, and the follow-up challenges to each of the nominees to make a further case for inclusion in two more rounds of judging – a top 10 finalists round in April that will lead to announcement of this year's award winners in May.

For Clark, his daughter Abby, the Ivory family and its extension not just across the homebuilding enterprise, but rippling directly across into the University of Utah, and outward, now to universities, partner enterprises, entrepreneurs, architects, city planning agencies, housing authorities, building and construction leaders, tech and data innovators, the Medici Effect is a real-world self-sustaining endeavor, no longer the ember of an idea.

Here's the line-up of 25 finalists (from a statement):

CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN

Connect Homes l Los Angeles, CA - https://connect-homes.com/

Connect Homes designs, builds, and installs modern, green, award-winning single-family homes and interim housing solutions. Using its revolutionary modular platform, Connect builds the equivalent of a medium-sized home every six days – at a fraction of the cost and waste of site-built alternatives. The company’s radically simpler process and beautiful structures are evidence that the housing crisis can be successfully overcome through innovation.

Eightvillage l Atlanta, GA - https://eightvillage.com/byatl

Eightvillage is a design and development firm focused on placemaking and community building. The firm started an initiative in 2019 called “Backyard ATL” that builds, designs, and manages ADUs for homeowners in Atlanta, GA to create more affordable housing options in Atlanta’s low-income neighborhoods.

Forterra Forest to Home Initiative l Seattle, WA - https://forterra.org/

Forterra’s Forest to Home initiative brings together a coalition of Tribes, communities of color, land trusts, and architects to re-engineer the affordable housing supply chain. At the center of the initiative is an all Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) Modular prototype. The CLT Modular prototype replaces traditional carbon-intensive building practices and materials and lowers the cost of construction. It yields a triple bottom line solution to affordable housing bringing environmental sustainability, economic development and social equity. This is a long-term sustainable solution for future generations.

Home Builders Institute l Washington D.C. - https://hbi.org/

The worker shortage in residential construction is severely hurting housing supply and affordability. To solve the crisis, HBI is thinking of new, innovative ways to train skilled workers for the industry. In order to meet the needs to make fundamental changes, HBI is working on bringing public and private industry partners together. HBI’s research shows that to meet the nation’s housing demand, the residential construction industry will need to train and place 2.2 million new workers within the next three years. HBI is addressing the worker shortage head on. To fill the severe worker shortage, HBI is advocating and working towards increased training, compensation, diversity and productivity.

KairosXR l San Francisco, CA - https://www.kairosxr.com/

KairosXR combines traditional online training techniques for various trades with virtual reality technology to provide a more immersive training experience than traditional online training. It bridges the gap between effectiveness and availability for users. With the changes in workforce training and education brought upon by Covid-19, KairosXR provides a solution to recruit more young professionals to skilled trade positions.

Novin Development: ProForMap | Walnut Creek, CA - https://proformap.com /

ProforMap is on a data-driven mission to increase production of affordable housing by finding and evaluating suitable properties for development or preservation and informing better housing policy.

Rural Studio l Newbern, AL - http://ruralstudio.org/

Rural Studio is an off-campus design-build program, rooted in Hale County and part of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture of Auburn University. The Rural Studio is developing a scalable, sustainable, agile, and resilient delivery process for beautiful, well-designed, high performance affordable homes that can be titled as real property while also supporting an industry of home building in underserved rural communities.

Tstud™ l Ham Lake, MN - https://www.tstud.com/

Tstud's™ mission is to develop and inspire sustainable, tangible, energy efficient building solutions. The BareNaked Tstud™ offers a simple solution to impact the energy efficiency of any building structure by almost eliminating the thermal bridge standard lumber allows. Tstud™ builds have owners already saving 15%-75% on their HVAC costs depending on insulation type with savings not just annually, but for the lifetime of the structure.

Volumetric Building Companies l Philadelphia, PA - https://www.vbc.co/

"Improving lives. Building the future." We work each day to achieve this with a combination of experience, innovation, and brute-force effort. We see our competitors not as the existing construction infrastructure (Architects & GCs) but as the inefficiency in construction methodology. We must continue to enhance value in our method while supporting Architects & GCs to embrace new technologies.

FINANCE

Blackstar Stability l Washington D.C. - https://blackstarstability.com/

Blackstar Stability expands equitable ownership of affordable single-family homes by attacking predatory lending practices and restructuring distressed debt products. It works with families who have land contracts and similar forms of seller financing to refinance their homes with traditional mortgages, improve their properties, and reduce their costs.

Builders Patch l New York, NY – https://www.builderspatch.com/

Builders Patch is a secure, cloud-based platform to manage multi-family housing deals from acquisition to asset management. The platform is automating due diligence collection, collation, underwriting, and loan approval. The underwriting and closing process will take half the time it normally does and free up developers, lenders and governments to line up more projects/units for construction faster and cheaper.

Builders Patch is the only housing finance portal in the affordable housing space. This very structured financing space is riddled with inefficiencies and has had no recent innovation for decades. Our platform is creating an ecosystem of lenders and developers. We will be able to approve tax credits, create new incentives and financing structures, underwrite more construction loans and ultimately build more housing quickly.

DASH Fund l Baltimore, MD - https://www.dashfund.org/

The DASH Fund provides flexible capital to small entrepreneurs who acquire, renovate, and re-sell single-family homes in Baltimore neighborhoods that have historically suffered from disinvestment. The DASH Fund has a double bottom line: (1) helping small, mostly minority developers in Baltimore to grow their small businesses; and (2) providing low- and moderate-income homebuyers with access to renovated and affordable homes for which they do not have to compete against cash investors.

Doorkee l New York, NY - https://doorkee.com/

Doorkee empowers tenants to earn a rent refund (>$1,100 on average) when they move out just by helping Doorkee find the next renter for their current apartment. We never charge tenants broker fees and give special assistance to rent voucher applicants who otherwise have a tough time finding an apartment without us.

Home By Hand l New Orleans, LA - https://www.homebyhand.org/

Home by Hand is a nonprofit affordable housing developer committed to providing pathways to homeownership for low-and-moderate income New Orleanians in a manner that both builds family assets and supports neighborhood revitalization and resilience.

Quicken Loans’ Rocket Community Fund Make It Home Program | Detroit, MI - https://www.rocketcommunityfund.org/2020/02/27/how-we-helped-1157-detroit-families-stay-in-their-homes/

Make It Home, a Detroit based financing program, allows for tenants in underinvested neighborhoods to become homeowners by providing loans and resources to buy and renovate blighted and tax foreclosed homes.

True Footage l Seattle, WA - https://www.truefootage.tech/

True Footage is building technology and a new community of appraisers to collect cleaner data and deliver a more standardized appraisal product that leverages data to inform and validate comparable sales and valuation analysis. True Footage is currently building alternative valuation strategies to evaluate systemic pricing gaps.

Trust Neighborhoods l Kansas City, MO - https://trustneighborhoods.com/

Trust Neighborhoods is a Kansas City based nonprofit creating community-controlled real estate where gentrification threatens displacement. Trust Neighborhoods has designed and piloted a new, innovative approach to tackle affordable housing: the mixed-income neighborhood trust, or MINT, which owns and operates a portfolio of rental housing under community control to maintain permanent affordability.

PUBLIC POLICY AND REGULATORY REFORM

BC Housing l Vancouver, BC, Canada - https://www.bchousing.org/research-centre/library/transition-from-homelessness/modular-supportive-housing-resident-outcomes  

BC Housing is a Vancouver-based public affordable housing provider whose rapid modular supportive housing programs are now being replicated throughout major Canadian cities.

Build UP l Birmingham, AL - https://www.buildup.work/

Build UP tackles root causes of intergenerational poverty--low educational attainment rates, low-skilled workers lacking social and economic capital and mobility, and unstable, unaffordable housing to rebuild the minority middle class and close racial wealth disparities. Build UP’s value proposition redefines what affordable housing is by taking a long-game approach to rebuilding and owning from within a community. This model, at the intersection of high-quality education, workforce development, and community revitalization, results in dignified, affordable homeownership and retention of talent and wealth, both of which seed stable home and school experiences for generations to come.

City of Cambridge (AHO program) | Cambridge, MA - https://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/housing/housingdevelopment/aho

Cambridge, MA's 100% Affordable Housing Overlay significantly promotes more dense affordable housing development by non-profit developers, who often get priced by market-rate developers and are mired by cumbersome zoning and project approvals.

Community Solutions, Built for Zero | New York, NY - https://community.solutions/

Community Solutions is a non profit that leads Built for Zero, a movement of more than 90 communities working to measurably end homelessness and proving it is possible. Community Solutions is also employing new nonprofit-owned models of development and financing to help communities close the housing gap.

DC Flex l Washington D.C. - https://www.huduser.gov/portal/publications/DC-Flexible-Rent-2020.html

DC Flex is a rent subsidy program that efficiently deploys federal rental assistance funds. It allows residents to choose how much financial assistance they need to pay rent each month. Unlike other programs, where rental assistance goes to landlords, DC Flex assistance goes directly to residents.

DesegregateCT | Hartford, CT  - https://www.desegregatect.org/

DesegregateCT is a pro-homes coalition of neighbors and nonprofits advocating for more equitable, affordable, and environmentally-sustainable land use policies in Connecticut, with a focus on expanding the diversity and supply of our housing stock. Formed in June 2020, in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd and the renewed conversation on racial justice, our work leverages original research and grassroots organizing in service of public education and policy change at both the state and local levels.

HomeStart l Boston, MA - https://www.homestart.org/

HomeStart identifies and delivers solutions to homelessness. After recognizing that nonpayment eviction was one of the largest drivers of homelessness, HomeStart developed The Renew Collaborative, a market-driven eviction prevention program that saves property owners from the expense of eviction and eliminates episodes of homelessness by way of nonpayment eviction for the working poor and households with subsidies.

LA Room and Board | Los Angeles, CA - https://larnb.org/

Los Angeles Room & Board’s mission is to end college student hunger and homelessness by partnering with university housing programs and campus adjacent property owners to reimagine the use of their vacant spaces in order to provide low & no cost transitional housing designed to equip students with the tools they need to become more self-sufficient and to ensure they complete their college degree program.

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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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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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