Uber started eight years ago. Today, the company has more than 30.5 million drivers in more than 630 cities worldwide.

Andrew Salzberg, head of transportation policy and research, Uber
EnoTrans Andrew Salzberg, head of transportation policy and research, Uber

As Andrew Salzberg, panelist at the upcoming HIVE conference and head of transportation policy and research at Uber, notes, a very quick and passionate public adoption of Uber helped pave the path to change regulations. With so many people using the system, policymakers had to listen. Plus, the speed of adoption for the new company put pressure on local legislatures to make quick decisions to appease growing consumer demand.

Meanwhile, demand for housing continues to grow and parallels a demand for affordability. Will an Uber-type technology be able to transform housing as it exists today? Could new technology create a path for housing to force new regulations and policies that facilitate builders in ways that have previously been impossible?

Issi Romem, another HIVE panelist and chief economist at BuildZoom, wrote a report on the rising cost of housing. Zoning and other rules governing land use often limit or block opportunity for new development. Romem’s report, available here, was meant to take a hard look at the way to open those opportunities, or how, as a housing community, leaders can focus efforts to make an impact by opening access to future opportunities.

How Uber’s Innovation Impacts Housing
As Salzberg points out, a revolutionary product like Uber can force the conversation. The company recently crossed a huge milestone by being able to work with policymakers at the state level instead of at the local market level. This transition creates enormous efficiencies in operations for the organization. Something similar in the housing industry could allow builders to save substantially on resources and pass savings on to consumers for more affordable housing options.

With a strong past in urban planning, Salzberg understands some of the significance that ride sharing can have on a major metro area. He talks about:

  • Reduced congestion. Less traffic means easier commutes and maybe, eventually, less infrastructure.
  • Less private car ownership. If more people are able to use fewer cars, it could lead to less infrastructure and free that space up for more density.
  • Less parking. Some estimate that parking costs $50,000 per spot to build. Salzberg says that as parking goes away, there will be a direct consequence. New spaces will need to be created, such as waiting lounges and curbside pick-up stations. But there also could be huge savings for consumers and organizations that pay thousands a year today for parking permits.

Lessons Learned
A data science team at Uber examines the company’s impact on cities, road congestion, earnings, and positive and adverse consequences of the way Uber operates. Results drive critical decisions to make operations more efficient and effective.

Similarly, experts in housing are sifting through data to find opportunities to turn the corner. How can housing create more opportunities for efficiencies, cost savings, and affordability for buyers? Zoning regulations drive land prices and result in sought-after suburban areas being blocked from further growth and densification, reducing the number of urban areas that can be developed.

Issi Romem, chief economist, BuildZoom
BuildZoom Issi Romem, chief economist, BuildZoom

As Romem reports:

Both expensive coastal metros and affordable expansive ones would benefit from the relaxation of restrictions on housing density, but for slightly different reasons. Whereas the former need greater housing density to combat a full-blown housing affordability crisis, the latter need it in order to wean off sprawl without creating an affordability crisis of their own.

Working with local legislations to increase lot density, or upzoning, is a solution that Romem favors based on the fact that it will increase the number of units in the market as a whole, and will therefore reduce the demand.

So what’s the next Uber step for housing? Is there an equivalent quick, passionate public adoption of upzoning that can help pave housing’s future? Is there a technology that will allow housing to put pressure and urgency on local legislatures to make quick decisions that provide for growing consumer demand?

Find out more at HIVE, December 6 to 7, in LA.

This story appears as it was originally published at www.hiveforhousing.com.