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Top 25 Finalists for 2020 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability Announced

Housing innovators selected for their work to make housing more affordable

Salt Lake City, UT, Jan. 27, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ivory Innovations announced the Top 25 finalists for the 2020 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability. Now in its second year, the Ivory Prize recognizes innovators seeking to make housing more affordable across three distinct categories: finance, construction and design, and public policy and regulatory reform. The Prize is focused on applicants with ambitious, feasible, and scalable solutions to housing affordability. The Top 25 were selected by the Ivory Prize's Advisory Board, which is comprised of some of the top minds in housing across the U.S.

This year’s Top 25 finalists highlight emerging advances in construction and design, including AI-enabled construction equipment, innovative construction practices to address homelessness and affordability, and efforts to further streamline and standardize modular and panelized housing construction. Innovations in the finance category have potential to bring the FinTech revolution to housing, expanding access to homeowner equity and empowering renters to achieve homeownership. Finalists in the regulatory reform and public policy category include recent efforts to “upzone” communities to allow for higher density, facilitate ADUs and affordable housing projects, and addressing construction and labor challenges.

"The Advisory Board is very impressed with the second group of applications for the Ivory Prize," said Kent Colton, Chair of the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability Advisory Board. "In this era of housing shortages, these finalists - and ultimately, winners – highlight the mission of the Ivory Prize to recognize and reward those that make housing more affordable, more accessible, and more abundant. We look forward to sharing further information about their innovations in the coming months."

The Top 25 for the 2020 Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability are:

Construction and Design

Built Robotics - San Francisco, California
Built Robotics retrofits off-the-shelf heavy equipment with AI guidance systems, enabling the machines to operate fully autonomously while still preserving manual operation. Their technology makes construction safer, faster, and more productive.

Entekra - Modesto, California
Entekra is implementing a fully integrated off site building technique that streamlines their panelized building process from permitting to assembly so that it can be completed in just a couple of days.

Fullstack Modular - New York, New York
FullStack Modular merges modular building with new construction technologies to bring a higher level of control, predictability, and scalability to development. Fullstack is the first fully integrated modular solution, allowing them to innovate modular building in the areas of design, manufacturing, and construction. FullStack Modular built the modules for 461 Dean Street, which currently is the tallest modular building In the world.

Hammr - San Francisco, California
Hammr is a professional network and labor marketplace for the construction industry. Hammr empowers the people who boot up and build our world.

New Story - San Francisco, California
New Story is a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit that pioneers solutions to end global homelessness. New Story creates breakthrough tools, drives innovations, and identifies best practices to share with other nonprofits, governments, and businesses that are working towards building communities for the over 1.6 billion people in need of shelter.

Panoramic Interests - San Francisco, California
Panoramic Interests is designing a high-density, prefab, studio apartment building. The prototype, CITYSPACE Studios, is a prefabricated affordable dwelling with units for the homeless that can be easily configured into apartment complexes on existing underutilized city-owned lots.

United Dwelling - Los Angeles, California
United Dwelling partners with homeowners to convert garages into accessory dwelling units (ADUs). United Dwelling handles every aspect of the remodeling process, including permitting, partnering with a contractor for construction, finding suitable tenants, and managing the property.

oWow - Oakland, California
oWOW constructs, renovates, and remodels spaces in order to implement its innovative and affordable unit design, which consists of ‘magic walls’ in its MacroUnit product and a CLT podium structure called oDeck.


Digs - Chicago, Illinois
Digs is a financial platform that empowers a consumer to build wealth through their home. Digs' educational product allows renters to set and track savings goals leading up to buying their first home and existing homeowners to monitor their equity and optimize their mortgage. The company works with mortgage lenders as a way to help them build a relationship with their customers outside of the transaction.

EasyKnock - New York, New York
EasyKnock is a financial service focused on making the home a more liquid asset. EasyKnock’s Sell and Stay product provides homeowners with access to home equity without the burden of moving before they are ready.

ESUSU - New York, New York
Esusu is a digital platform that helps renters save and build credit. Users report their rent payments, which increases their credit score and join online communities that help create accountability for saving.

HomeFundIt - Baltimore, Maryland
HomeFundIt is an online crowdfunding platform that allows home buyers to use gifts from family and friends for the down payment on a home. HomeFundIt also incorporates a grant opportunity and a cash-back shopping network to help home buyers increase their down payment even more.

Housing Partnership Network - Boston, Massachusetts
Housing Partnership Network (HPN) is an award-winning business collaborative of 100 of the nation’s leading affordable housing and community development nonprofits and a top-rated CDFI. Creating partnerships and enterprises that achieve ambitious social missions, HPN and its member organizations work together to scale innovation and impact, helping millions of people gain access to affordable homes and thriving communities that offer economic opportunity and an enhanced quality of life.

Rhino - New York, New York
Rhino works with landlords to eliminate costly security deposits and replace them with a small monthly insurance payment, helping users avoid cutting into their savings when they need to move.

ROC USA - Concord, New Hampshire
ROC USA is a nonprofit social venture that partners with homeowners in Manufactured (“Mobile”) Home Communities who want to purchase and operate their communities as Resident Owned Communities (“ROCs”). These Resident Owner Communities allow owners to increase the value of their homes and maintain rental costs. ROC USA serves its currently 253 ROCs in 17 states through a national network of regional nonprofits for training and a national Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) for financing.

Small Change - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Small Change is a real estate crowdfunding platform that connects investors to developers to build better cities. On Small Change, anyone over the age of 18 can invest in affordable housing projects, community-centric projects, transit-oriented projects, and projects that make better places for everyone.

Starcity - San Francisco, California
Starcity is an owner, operator, advocate, and builder of co-living communities with a mission to make great cities accessible to everyone. Starcity accomplishes this by creating comfortable community homes that inspire people to live a more intentional life. They are currently working In Northern California to implement inclusionary zoning for co-living spaces.

Till - Alexandria, Virginia
Till’s platform transforms a renter’s ability to pay, stay, and thrive in their home by using real-time data to predict a renter’s ability to pay rent and develop personalized lease structures and payment solutions based to proactively address the renter’s needs. These personalized structures reduce the avoidable costs of delinquency, eviction, and moving out. In addition, as rent is often a renter’s largest household expense, Till drives meaningful improvements across a renter's entire financial landscape.

Public Policy and Regulatory Reform

Casita Coalition - San Francisco, California
Casita Coalition fills a unique need in California’s housing policy landscape by focusing on and advocating for policies and practices to encourage the construction of small homes such as ADUs throughout all types of neighborhoods.

City of Boston: ADU Financing - Boston, Massachusetts
The City of Boston provides gap funding for those approved for an ADU through a zero-interest loan, which can be used for renovating their homes to become ADU compatible. These loans have no monthly payment until the owner either sells or refinances, making this an affordable way for homeowners to secure additional monthly income and create more housing at a minimal cost.

City of Minneapolis - Minneapolis, Minnesota
The City of Minneapolis is “upzoning” nearly the entire city, which will allow more units to be built in areas that previously only contained single-family homes, while promoting transit-oriented development and inclusionary zoning. The so-called Minneapolis 2040 Plan is unprecedented and transformative, providing a model for other cities to broadly address affordability challenges associated with single-family zoning.

Community Action of Allegan County - Allegan County, Michigan
Community Action of Allegan County’s Dual Community Development Program (DCDP) addresses education, employment, and housing through a single program. The core of the DCDP is education in the Home Building Trades industry. The current operational program provides the Pre-Apprenticeship Certified Training (PACT), which is an education curriculum preparing students for careers in the building trades. The program is 20% classroom, and 80% applied learning for actual home construction and remodeling projects.

Minnesota Construction Revolution - Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minnesota Construction Revolution is a cross-sector collaboration to reduce the cost of housing by creating an innovation hub based in Minnesota to support the effective use of off-site construction techniques.

The State of Oregon - Salem, Oregon
The State of Oregon expanded affordable housing options through the passage of HB 2001 in 2019. The law requires all Oregon cities with populations over 10,000 to allow duplexes on all residential lots on which a single-family home is allowed. Cities over 25,000 and Portland Metro jurisdictions must also allow triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes, and cottage clusters in areas where single family homes are allowed.

Symbium - San Francisco, California
Symbium is a computational law platform that mechanizes the rules and regulations of planning codes to help homeowners, design professionals, and planners quickly determine if an ADU is allowed on a property, what the development standards are, and processes needed to build these units.

In November, nine of the Top 10 finalists from the 2019 competition shared their work at "Housing + Innovation: Lessons from the Ivory Prize", a seminar at Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. From unique financing models, factory-built housing, zoning reform, and comprehensive local housing plans, 2019 honorees were truly on the cutting edge of housing innovation. You can learn more about the 2019 finalists in this white paper.

The finalists and winners for the Ivory Prized are determined by Ivory Innovations’ Advisory Board. These include Clark Ivory, President and Trustee of the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation and CEO of Ivory Homes, Utah’s largest homebuilder; Kent Colton, Colton Housing Group; Carol Galante of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California at Berkeley; Chris Herbert at Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies; the Urban Institute’s Laurie Goodman; Natalie Gochnour from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute; John McManus, VP-Editorial Director for Residential at Hanley Wood; and Ryan Smith, Director and Professor of the Washington State University School of Design and Construction.

The 2020 Top 10 finalists will be released in mid-February, with final winners announced in April. Winners are awarded more than a total of $200,000 and provided support through Ivory Innovations' network that includes interns, capital partners, and strategic planning. For more information about the Ivory Prize and Ivory Innovations, check out this video or visit www.ivory-innovations.org.

About Ivory Innovations: Ivory Innovations is an applied academic institution at the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business dedicated to catalyzing high impact innovations in housing affordability. Ivory Innovations seeks to promote the most compelling ideas in housing affordability by working across sectors, providing monetary awards for groundbreaking innovations and leveraging its network and resources.

Lewis Lowe
Ivory Innovations