HIVE: Housing Innovation Vision and Economics

"Housing has a public relations problem."

This is how prominent USC demographer and housing policy expert Dowell Myers phrases one of the critical issues the U.S. economy continues to face, which boils down to millennial adults and their role in it.

Dowell is convinced that the nation, its 50 states, its 3,143 counties, and its bazillion cities--each with a byzantine thicket of regulations, codes, fees, approval loops, entitlement and zoning laws, are all effectively forcing a condition of economic stagnancy.

Don't let anybody tell you different. The statistics may show that in absolute numbers, adults 35 and younger represent a large and growing share of the home buying populace. This is a case of numbers shielding an uncomfortable truth (not to mention inconvenient).

Dowell Myers, PhD
Dowell Myers, PhD

"It's a structural problem," says Myers, who has joined a small team of highly influential leaders to help us engineer an entirely new conversation aimed at addressing some of housing's structural problems, called HIVE. "The people who have no housing can't vote. The people who own homes use their votes against the ones who want to own them."

Here, as an illustration, Wall Street Journal staffer Chris Kirkham supports a story's headline, "Hurdles to Multigenerational Living: Kitchens and Visible Second Entrances," with evidence:

A growing number of Americans are living in a household with multiple adult generations as baby boomers look to support older parents as well as boomerang children struggling with student debt and a tough job market. The rub: There is a shortage of homes designed for multigenerational living arrangements.

Wall Street Journal analysis of Census Data on multigenerational household trends

In all, more than 18% of the U.S. population lives in a multigenerational household, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, up from about 15% in 2000. Multigenerational households are defined as those that include at least two adult generations or with a skipped generation such as a grandchild living with a grandparent.

The figures likely would be greater, experts said, if not for the labyrinth of local zoning rules designed to prevent the spread of attached apartments or Airbnb-style room rentals in settings dominated by traditional single-family homes. Local restrictions can run the gamut, from prohibitions on stoves and ovens to steep fees for separate utility hookups.

The problem, says Myers, is that a major share of the 63% of householders who own their homes don't want the cost, the bother, the traffic, the added stress to their resources that more homeowners or apartment dwellers--in their backyards--would cause.

As we've said here before, we 63% may be looking at the issues and the consequences to our own detriment and ultimate self-destruction.

Affordability is at the crux of another of housing's "solvable challenges." An election year ahead will cloud, and layer, and inundate the word, with definitions and applications, misappropriations, and, sadly, lies. Affordability and action come down to choices, priorities, reason, if we want them to. We need to stop considering basic needs housing and workforce housing as "affordability" initiatives we may or may not be able to afford. What we need to understand is that safe, healthy, durable housing for people is something we can't afford not to do.

Says Myers:

"I'm worried because Los Angeles is losing its young people, and if the trends continue, there will be no people to come into the jobs we need them to do, and no people coming up demanding the homes we need them to buy to support the rest of the housing economy.

"It's a human capital issue. "

Myers will work with the Hanley Wood HIVE team on one of housing's five critical "solvable challenges," in our first year's initiative, culminating with a live event, "Disrupt or Be Disrupted," on September 28 and 29 , at the JW Marriott, Los Angeles.

Here's more about HIVE.

Myers' focus on HIVE is his forte, demographics and policy. Joining him on our S.W.A.T. team of advisors and principal speakers will be Ivy Zelman, CEO, Zelman & Associates, William McDonough is a designer, a globally recognized leader in sustainable development, Stuart Miller, CEO of Lennar, and Sarah Susanka, architect, author, and leader of the "Not So Big" movement.

Each of those partners will align with a critical "solvable challenge" that we'll expose to the applied brilliance of our expanded community of stakeholders. HIVE is where profit, purpose, and technology meet.

Stay tuned to this space for more on how we team up with our charter trusted advisors to develop a conversation you will want to be a part of and an event in September you can not afford to miss.

Especially if you want to do something about housing's "public relations problem," which has intensified to Code Red.