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InnovateHousing: New Ideas on the Future of Home

Posted on by Terner Center

In the face of a national housing crisis, where an unprecedented number of families are struggling to afford a home, can technology and the tech sector offer solutions? This was a key question animating InnovateHousing: New Ideas on the Future of Home, co-hosted by the Terner Center and Fannie Mae on Thursday, November 8th.

The conference was invitation-only, but also accessible via a livestream. It brought together over four hundred people in-person and virtually, with a huge diversity of stakeholders and sectors represented on the panels and in the audience, including policymakers, entrepreneurs, lenders, developers, academics, and advocates.

In opening InnovateHousing, Terner Center Faculty Director Carol Galante remarked: “[This event] is an opportunity to meld innovation in the private sector… with intentionality. We can think about how these platforms, these new businesses can help drive housing affordability… It’s important to remember that there’s a business opportunity here, but at the same time we need folks focused on the opportunity of creating more accessible, more affordable places for more people to live.”

Housing America: A Conversation with Carol Galante and David Benson

Opening Remarks: Carol Galante, Faculty Director, Terner Center for Housing Innovation and David Benson, President, Fannie Mae


Google’s Jeff Hamel outlined the company’s vision for user-centered design to increase housing affordability and access to technology. He also detailed some of the successes and challenges of fitting homes with energy-efficient smart technology.

Keynote: Jeff Hamel, Director of Energy and Enterprise Partnerships, Google

Innovations to Stem the High Cost and Time of New Housing Construction

in a conversation moderated by Cory Weinberg from The Information, leaders in modular and 3D construction Rick Holliday, Sam Ruben, and Steve Glenn discussed how their companies are shaving time and money off of the cost of new construction, and what policy and financial barriers there are to getting their products to scale.

Moderator: Cory Weinberg, Reporter, The Information

Panelists: Rick Holliday, CEO, Factory_OS, Sam Ruben, Vice President of Compliance & Sustainability, Mighty Buildings, and Steve Glenn, CEO, Plant Prefab

Innovations to Increase Density in Cities

“We have to do things differently on housing… Unlike other critically important policy areas like education or healthcare, we have taken this approach in California that the state should have little or no role,” said State Senator Scott Wiener in his opening remarks to the panel.

In a conversation moderated by Liam Dillon of The Los Angeles Times, Adhi Nagraj, Amanda Daflos, Dan Parolek, and California State Senator Scott Wiener discussed building the political will and tools to increase density near jobs and transit.

Moderator: Liam Dillon, Reporter, The Los Angeles Times

Panelists: Scott Wiener, California State Senator, Dan Parolek, Founding Principal, Opticos Design, Adhi Nagraj, San Francisco Director, SPUR, and Amanda Daflos, Innovation Director, Los Angeles Mayor’s Office

Engaging the Tech Community to Address Housing Challenges

“Ultimately, I think that the impact that people in tech can have on housing and on every other economic issue that we’re facing is not just to build an app, though that is great. The most powerful thing they can do doesn’t have anything to do with technology at all. It’s actually just about showing up and learning how to use their power to advance positive change,” said Catherine Bracy in her presentation on how her organization, TechEquity Collaborative, is drawing out the civic power of tech workers.

Presentation: Catherine Bracy, Executive Director, TechEquity Collaborative

Can Technology Revolutionize Real Estate Finance?

“Getting a mortgage can change people’s lives…” said Nima Ghamsari. “Using data is a fundamentally different paradigm. It enables people to have a better experience getting a mortgage…and it allows [lenders and secondary market backers like Fannie Mae] to have a better understanding of the risk in the loan.”

In a conversation moderated by Laura Kusisto of The Wall Street Journal, Melissa Koide, Nima Ghamsari, and Adam Jiwan discussed the potential and the potential pitfalls of using data-driven and blockchain-based technologies to increase transparency, efficiency, and access in the mortgage market.

“Another issue area that we all have to think about when it comes to lending is discrimination, whether it is overt or… disparate impact,” said Melissa Koide. “How does the data have an impact on who gets access to credit and who doesn’t… We need to make sure that there is fairness in terms of how credit is allocated.”

Moderator: Laura Kusisto, Reporter, The Wall Street Journal

Panelists: Nima Ghamsari, CEO, Blend, Adam Jiwan, CEO, Spring Labs, and Melissa Koide, CEO, FinRegLab

Harnessing Opportunity in a Changing Housing Market: A Venture Perspective

Moderated by Alesia Haas of Coinbase, Vik Chawla, Shawn Hill, and Stonly Baptiste discussed the role venture capital can play in financing new housing technologies, particularly modular construction, co-owning, and sustainable design.

Moderator: Alesia Haas, Chief Financial Officer, Coinbase

Panelists: Stonly Baptiste, Urban Us, Shawn Hill, Venture Partner, Moderne Ventures, and Vik Chawla, Principal, Fifth Wall Ventures


InnovateHousing was an effort to launch an important conversation around the role of the tech sector in contributing solutions to our shared affordability challenges. We need strong leadership that can advance thoughtful, necessary reimagination of all parts of the housing market, while ensuring that equity and affordability remain at the center of these changes. This conference has given us some good ideas about where to start, and we look forward to continuing this conversation in the coming months.

As David Benson, President of Fannie Mae, said in his closing remarks: “There’s a future out there that sounds very bright, though we know we’ve got a long way to get there.”

Closing Remarks: Carol Galante, Faculty Director, Terner Center for Housing Innovation and David Benson, President, Fannie Mae

Modular Construction in the Bay Area: The Future is Now

This post originally appeared on the ULI San Francisco Blog on August 2, 2017. After years of abstract discussions and false starts, modular building may finally be gaining the momentum it needs to make an impact in the Bay Area. Why now? And why here? On Tuesday, July 18, the San Francisco District Council of the Urban Land Institute hosted “Modular Construction in the Bay Area: The Future is Now”, an event moderated by Terner Center for Housing Innovation Faculty Director Carol Galante. The panel discussion featured four leaders committed to bringing this innovative housing method to scale in the Bay Area: Developers Rick Holliday of Holliday…

Highlights from the Terner Center Promoting Affordability Conference

Though U.S. cities like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are important engines of the American economy, their rapid growth in jobs and populations has not been met with a comparable pace of growth in housing. The result? Increasing pressure on both the rental and for-sale housing markets, and skyrocketing costs of living for a larger and larger proportion of the people who live in these cities.  On Thursday June 1, the Terner Center hosted a special convening intended to delve into this issue, exploring solutions to that could help expand the supply of housing, lower the cost…

Balancing the tax code to relieve housing cost burdens

Posted on by Terner Center Team

Of the more than 21 millions renters in the United States who are burdened by the cost of housing today, more than 15 million can not access assistance they are eligible for, because there aren’t enough federal resources to meet their needs. In part, this is a result of skewed tax code that directs significant expenditures to homeowners and other policy priorities, and leaves the housing security and economic mobility of renter families behind.  Amidst emerging conversations about reforming the federal tax code, it is important that we are reminded of this imbalance and seize the opportunity, should there be…

Small Houses, Big Impact: Accessory Dwelling Units in Underutilized Neighborhoods

Posted on by Rocio Sanchez-Moyano and Carol Galante

As NIMBY’s (Not in My Backyard) continue to oppose new housing development, a new group of homeowners are saying yes, by literally building new homes in their own backyards.  Accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also referred to as in-law suites or granny flats, are smaller, independent units on the same lot as a single family home (sometimes even an extension or a reworking of the home itself). ADUs were common in the early twentieth century, but went out of favor post-World War II as single-family, suburban style development characterized by large lots and an emphasis on the nuclear family became the…