Each year The Housing Lab checks in with partners, community leaders, and investors to understand where they think innovation in the housing sector can best increase affordability and equity. These conversations, along with the Terner Center’s research and policy, inform our areas of interest for each year’s Housing Lab cohort.
We’re excited about these areas, but they won’t limit the makeup of our final cohort. In past years, many amazing ventures The Housing Lab has supported have completely surprised us - we weren’t looking for them at all. Homecoming Project, Esusu, and Blackstar Stability are just a few examples.
- Combining a focus on housing affordability with sustainability goals. Many organizations prioritize affordability and equity or environmental sustainability. We are looking for organizations that are trying to combine these goals. Environmental sustainability, to us, means many things, including carbon reduction, sustainable materials, and building for climate resilience.
- Increasing access to wealth-building through alternative homeownership models or pathways to own less expensive homes. Rapid house price appreciation has pushed homeownership further out of reach of many families. We’re interested in solutions that create ways for more people to gain the benefits of ownership (i.e., wealth-building, residential stability, political power). This could include ways that don’t necessarily involve outright owning a home; more equitable pathways to own less expensive homes, where these homes exist; and credit initiatives targeting underserved communities (as allowed via new federal legislation).
- Small infill housing development. Recent state policies, including in California, have opened up single-family and low-density neighborhoods for increased housing development. We’re interested in housing financing, construction, and other innovations that can increase housing production in these neighborhoods because infill development can increase sustainability and neighborhood affordability.
- Make existing housing more accessible and better for renters with low incomes: Many existing apartments that are affordable to people with low incomes are in buildings with 10 units or fewer. However, social technologies, financial products, government subsidies, and other incentives designed to support these renters often don’t reach small properties. We’re interested in solutions that help owners of these properties provide more affordable, quality housing to the people who need it most.