Many tech startups have promising ideas for solving the housing crisis, but the fundamental problem of affordability seems beyond their reach


"I really think that innovation in the way we build has an important role to play in affordability," said Carol Galante, faculty director of the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley. . "I can see him coming, I see him coming."

The construction of low-cost housing in the most expensive markets now costs up to $ 500,000 per unit. Savings on construction costs could help developers of these dwellings extend subsidies further. A cheaper construction could also change the calculations in markets where developers believe that the construction of middle class housing is not profitable either.

But Hoffman is skeptical that building technologies can fundamentally change affordability; Promoters at market rates have no reason to pass on these savings to tenants or buyers, he said. And he shrugs his shoulders in front of the houses printed in 3D. "Where will I put these houses?" He says, nodding at the general policy issues. "How long will it take me to find the land, to go through the local zoning, the neighborhood planning process?"

Instead, Enterprise is looking for companies that can affect our consumption, financing, and housing regulation. Perhaps they could allow models between rental and ownership, or extract new housing from existing housing. This month, Enterprise partnered with a New York-based venture capital firm, MetaProp, to select and co-invest in companies (MetaProp's slogan: Leasing, Leasing, Innovation.).

Together, they are not looking for good stories, but viable businesses that could grow at the speed of Silicon Valley. These companies may not even have the goal of creating affordability. But if that succeeds, Enterprise will be happy.

"We believe that fast-growing, for-profit businesses – and we could be wrong about this – will have the fastest impact on this huge problem as quickly as possible," said Leila Collins, Senior Partner at MetaProp. . "I do not really believe that there will be a huge policy change over the next three years that will make housing affordable in cities."

Point Digital Finance, a company in which Enterprise has already invested, helps homeowners to capitalize on their home equity in exchange for a share of future property appreciation. This service could help homeowners pay for the construction of an accessory dwelling, such as a recreational cottage in the backyard. Housing experts believe that such small units could add to the rent at lower cost, but that traditional lenders often do not finance them.