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$200K for ideas improving housing affordability

Ivory Innovations sponsors national challenge to address critical need for affordable housing construction and design, financing and public policy.

Nominations for the Ivory Prize in Housing Affordability are now being accepted and self-nominations are welcome. Preliminary nominations are encouraged by Monday, Nov. 5, with the final deadline being Saturday, Dec. 15. Finalists will be announced at the Utah Winter Innovation Summit Feb. 6-8. Awardees will be announced in March 2019.

Ivory Innovations has announced a $200,000 Ivory Prize in Housing Affordability to honor innovations in design, financing and policy that seek to increase access in housing affordability.

This new prize is supported by the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation and the Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. It seeks to recognize the most ambitious, adoptable and innovative solutions to address housing affordability and generate awareness and new ideas to address this national issue.

“Housing affordability is among the most pressing challenges facing our nation and we need new ideas to tackle it,” said Clark Ivory, CEO of Ivory Homes, Utah’s No. 1 homebuilder. “I know there are thousands of entrepreneurs, advocates and problem solvers who have found impactful ideas that we can highlight and support.”

To find nominees and evaluate ideas for this new award, Ivory Innovations is working with an advisory board of housing experts and partners, including representatives from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, UC Berkeley and the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., that represent many of our nation’s top leaders in housing. The emphasis for the prize will be on projects that provide a pathway to homeownership; however, those that address reducing rents also will be considered.

“Housing affordability in the U.S. is a longstanding problem that has worsened in recent years due to supply constraints and rising interest rates. Nearly a third of American households paid more than 30 percent of their income for housing in 2016,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, and Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability Advisory Board member. “The Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability is an admirable approach to finding innovative, scalable solutions to addressing this pressing challenge.”

The prize is designed to award innovators for their efforts and provide material support to allow them to advance their projects and is open to private-sector organizations, nonprofits and public-private partnerships. Proposals must make an impact through construction and design (including rehabilitation projects), public policy and regulation reform and finance, where some of the greatest barriers to affordability, such as qualifying for a mortgage or meeting down payment or monthly payment requirements are impacted.

The issue of housing affordability is especially relevant in Utah, which has long been considered a leader in homeownership. A recent report by the Eccles School’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute highlighted that, since 1991, the increase in housing prices in Utah ranks fourth-highest in the United States. The state is not alone in the trend as rising home prices across the country are making it increasingly difficult to find reasonable accommodations, with many families facing a cost burden of more than 30 percent of their household income.

“As I learned while touring the state this summer, housing affordability is a critical issue in Utah, one directly related to economic vitality,” said University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins. “To enable the state’s continued robust growth, Utah’s workforce must have access to affordable homes. On behalf of the University of Utah, I am pleased to partner with Ivory Innovations to find creative and scalable solutions to this problem.”

Ivory Innovations believes that dedicating time, talent and funding to solving the crisis in housing affordability can create momentum for change in the housing market and improve the quality of life for millions. The hope is that no one will be priced out of reasonable housing.

“Housing affordability is an urgent, seemingly intractable problem. I’m a realist in knowing that you have to keep chipping away if you’re going to make change, but I also know we need big ideas to make that change as transformative as it needs to be,” said Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation, and Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability Advisory Board Member. “It’s going to take multiple solutions and a political commitment. The Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability is a real effort to find the entrepreneurs, innovators and other problem solvers who are deploying new approaches to impact millions of people by making housing more affordable.”

The prize also will give students the opportunity to become the next generation of housing affordability experts, with the creation of the Housing Affordability Innovations Lab. The class, a partnership between Ivory Innovations and the Eccles School, allows students the chance to investigate and perform due diligence on the companies nominated, giving them insights into the housing market, as well as valuable contacts in the housing industry. Students are not only from the Eccles School, but also other diverse departments across campus.