Big ideas in affordable housing will compete for $300K in nonprofit’s annual contest

Year 5 of Ivory Innovations’ competition spotlights solutions in home construction, finance and public policy.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) The nonprofit Ivory Innovations has released its list of 25 best concepts for housing affordability. Three of those concepts will ultimately share a top prize of $300,000. One of the competition categories is for new home construction. Here, construction is underway at a Daybreak project in South Jordan on Thursday, May 19, 2022, is one of the contest categories.

This story is part of The Salt Lake Tribune’s ongoing commitment to identify solutions to Utah’s biggest challenges through the work of the Innovation Lab.

For the fifth year Ivory Innovations, a nonprofit housed out of the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business, is holding a sustainable housing competition and awarding $300,000 to companies with “ambitious, feasible, and scalable solutions to housing affordability.”

There are three main categories: construction and design, finance and public policy/regulatory reform.

On Monday Ivory announced 25 finalists for this year’s Ivory Prize, which will ultimately be winnowed down to three winners in the coming months.

Ivory Innovation also launched a “Housing Innovation Database,” where more than 500 housing solutions from “nonprofits, for-profits, and public sector efforts” are organized by state. Utah, for example, has 12 different efforts including an organization offering automated legal help for tenants threatened with an eviction notice.

“As we work to address the nation’s housing shortage and affordability crisis, one bright spot is innovation,” said Kent Colton, chairperson of the Ivory Innovations advisory board. “The Ivory Prize Top 25 Finalists in 2023 highlight the important work which is underway to achieve creative change and solutions throughout the country. Most importantly, they will make a difference in the lives of the many people who seek and need affordable housing.”

This year’s top 25 finalists include Dearfield Fund for Black Wealth, which provides down-payment assistance for African American and Black first-time homebuyers in Denver, the North Carolina Plantd, which makes building materials using perennial grasses rather than trees and Ithaca, New York-based National Zoning Atlas which aims to “reveal how zoning impacts housing availability and affordability, transportation systems, the environment, economic opportunity, educational opportunity, and our food supply.”

Last year, winning examples included BuildUp, in the housing policy reform category. The program teaches youth in Birmingham, Ala., the basics of real estate and preps them to manage properties or to take on homeownership without taking on too much debt.

BuildUp isn’t just tackling the affordable housing battle. It’s a trade school that teaches youth in Birmingham, Ala., the real estate ropes. By the time they graduate, most kids are managing properties or entering homeownership without taking on too much debt. “You shouldn’t have to wait until you’re 60 to own a home,” BuildUp CEO Mark Martin told The Tribune last year.

Here is a full list of the 25 Ivory Innovations finalists for 2023.

Editor’s note • The Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation is a donor to The Salt Lake Tribune’s Innovation Lab.