• If you've got an initiative that takes a brand new approach to giving more people more access to homes they can afford in more markets, click here now.

Others, consider this.

Talk about kitchen table issues ...

Housing, healthcare, and education weigh ever more heavily on American households, averaging $78,635 in annual household wages, and $61,224 in yearly expenditures.

A frightening reality in the Consumer Expenditure Survey data are two glaring facts. One, is that the burden of these three pillar areas of household spending is getting heavier as wage growth loses ground to spiraling costs. And two, is that households in the lower two or three quintiles bear the brunt of this widening wedge--between what they take home and what they have to pay--for these foundational needs as time passes and costs escalate. It's this wedge that dominates kitchen table talk, and poses a threat to that blend of aspiration, motivation, and drive we call the American Dream.

Once, in a now-bygone era, well-managed home builders could secure access to cheap skilled labor, land for home sites, and capital financing to help young and challenged working households gain a first toe-hold toward financial and social mobility, and a real taste of the Dream.

That option, in most U.S. markets today, is gone for good.

Housing eats up between 30% and 37% of total annual consumer outlays across six different household composition types, and adding in health and education means between 45% and 55% of consumer household total expenditures are gone after paying for these three areas of the household budget.

It's not so much a case of "something's got to give" as it is "something's already given."

So what kind of invention might we expect from the throes of such desperate, deeply wounding forces of social and economic stagnancy, polarization, and shrinking bands of opportunity?

Clark Ivory of Ivory Homes
Courtesy of Ivory Homes Clark Ivory of Ivory Homes

Utah home building executive Clark Ivory, ceo and principal of Salt Lake City-based Ivory Homes, has chosen to double-down on an initiative he started last year, the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability. The Prize works in effect like an innovation incubator, set up to identify entirely fresh solutions to chronic challenges to housing affordability and stress-test them for impact, scalability, and their ability to show feasibility and be sustained through lean times.

Three of residential construction and real estate's painful pillars--outmoded building technology, regulatory and policy burden, and financial friction--stand as the lanes within which the Ivory initiative casts its nets, seeking bright spots, ground breakers, and game changers.

Firms, individuals, organizations, inventors, collaborators, and disrupters--any and all who are looking to transform housing affordability by breaking down or cutting through or jumping over barriers of cost, waste, opposition, conflict, or lack of resources--can apply for consideration by clicking here.

A press statement notes:

In 2019, 126 nominations and applications representing organizations in 28 states were judged by an advisory board representing some of the top minds in housing from across the U.S. Ivory Innovations is an outgrowth of Ivory’s commitment to community and making a significant impact on housing affordability, both in Utah and across the United States.

“Housing availability and affordability will be one of the defining issues of our time,” said Clark Ivory, CEO of the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation and Ivory Homes, which has been Utah’s largest home builder for more than 30 years. “The Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability rewards those who are thinking outside of the box about how to make housing more affordable and abundant. From innovative financing models, groundbreaking construction technology, and visionary policy and regulatory reform, our 2019 inaugural class showcased what’s possible in housing. I can’t wait to see how our 2020 winners will take solving the housing affordability puzzle to the next level.”

For those who want more concrete examples of the kind of innovative initiatives that rise to the fore in the Ivory Prize process, here's a glimpse at 2019 winners and why they won:

  • Factory_OS (Construction and Design): Factory_OS, which is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, is transforming the construction industry by vertically integrating 21st century off-site building technologies, software operating systems, lean manufacturing, and workforce development. They are striving to deliver multifamily housing more than 40% faster and at 20% lower cost.
  • The Alley Flat Initiative (Policy and Regulatory Reform): The Alley Flat Initiative was recognized based on their innovative efforts to change the policy framework in Austin, Texas to allow for the adoption of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) – often using underutilized alleys to create additional dwelling units by tucking small, single-family homes on existing lots. In addition, the Alley Flat Initiative has developed a “one-stop shop” for income-qualified homeowners providing personalized support through the development process including green design, financial education and pre-qualification, property management and construction guidance. It has also partnered with the City of Austin to develop programs to promote income-restricted ADUs for lower-income owner-developers who are at risk of displacement.
  • Landed (Finance Co-Winner): San Francisco-based Landed is on a mission to help essential professionals (starting with educators) build financial security near the communities they serve. They invest alongside teachers and school staff when they are ready to buy a home in expensive cities. The Landed “shared appreciation” model has broad applicability and could make a significant impact. To date, Landed has helped nearly 150 public school teachers and employees purchase homes valued at $100 million. Landed in helping teachers help put deep roots in their communities.
  • Home Partners of America (Finance Co-Winner): Chicago-based Home Partners of America (HPA) launched in January 2013 in response to the impact the Great Recession and foreclosure crisis had on millions of homeowners, Home Partners of America has built an innovative financing and operating platform that has enabled thousands of households who currently are not mortgage-qualified to gain access to quality for-sale listed homes in local neighborhoods by participating in their lease-purchase program. Since its launch, HPA has purchased over 12,000 homes in 40 metropolitan markets and 20 states nationwide for a total investment of over $3.5 billion. HPA is now piloting a program to target low-to-moderate income households. This program known as Choice Lease supports residents whose household income is at or below 100% area median income (AMI), with an expected average of 80% AMI. Funding for this program is provided through socially motivated capital.

Clark Ivory and his team's passionate efforts to surface and salute innovation's bright spots, on the fringes of typical construction operations, cases in isolation from conventional practice, fledgling models, experimental structures, untried approaches all may add up to one man's war against a social phenomenon--housing's affordability crisis--that defines us.

These bright spots, however, exert outsized influence on what may still come, a kind of acupuncture that can cause healing and hope far from the original source of change. At the end of the day, change needs to happen not only to lower the barriers--cost, regulation, skills scarcity, etc.--but to elevate the capacity of people to believe that working can and will rekindle their own Dream, and spark it in a generation to come.