Air Date

November 1, 2020

Featured Guests

Sam Ruben
co-founder and chief sustainability officer, Mighty Buildings

Bechara Choucair
Chief Health Officer, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals

Jonathan Reckford
CEO, Habitat for Humanity

Eileen Fitzgerald
Head of Housing Affordability Philanthropy, Wells Fargo

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Carolyn Cawley
President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Housing patterns are constantly changing, from the shifting renting/buying economy to a call for more affordable housing opportunities. At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Fast Forward: Housing Forward discussion, Carolyn Cawley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, interviewed experts about the future of the housing market. Here’s what they shared.

Rent-to-Own and Shared Equity Models Are Becoming the New Norm in Home Ownership

Today, many millennials aren’t interested in investing in a house. In fact, 10% of millennials plan to always rent and don’t anticipate ever buying a home.

“The difference between renting and home owning and the choices there is not just a matter of access or opportunity,” said Calvin Cooper, co-founder and CEO of Rhove. “It is also a matter of preference.”

That’s why Rhove coined the term “rentorship,” which aims to turn renters into owners by expanding access and opportunity to everyone in a community.

“We're going from a binary choice that doesn't leave us much of an option at all, to having many options along the paths of home ownership,” said Cooper. “What that looks like is that instead of saving up for a down payment for 15 years, there are emerging models like rent-to-own and shared equity that allow you to move into your dream home now, and a portion of your rent goes towards the down payment when you're ready to buy.”

Companies Are Looking to Automate the Most Dangerous Parts of a Home Production Process

Sam Ruben, co-founder and chief sustainability officer at Mighty Buildings, stated that to address the housing crisis, we need to not only change where we build, but also how and what we build.

“We're seeking to automate up to 80% of the production process, taking the most difficult and dangerous parts of the job … and using 3D printing and robotics to handle that to really optimize the value of the human labor,” said Ruben.

While automating these tasks might seem to take away work from human employees, it actually ends up creating new (less dangerous) jobs for a new generation and type of construction workers.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to actually create more work, but make it less work per unit by increasing overall throughput and using our system to take the most difficult and dangerous parts,” Ruben added.

We Must Focus on the Connection Between Housing and Health by Offering Affordable Housing

People experiencing homelessness live an average 27 years less than those who are housed. When admitted to the hospital, they typically spend two to three days longer and are 50% more likely to be readmitted compared to those who are housed. Additionally, their total cost of care is usually at least two to three times more.

“We know that interconnectedness between housing and health is so critical,” said Bechara Choucair, chief health officer of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals. However, unfortunately, there is a clear disadvantage to many demographics.

“When we think about upstream factors that drive health, we have to be thinking about the root causes of what drives health,” said Choucair. “When we do that, we invariably encounter problems fueled by systemic racism and inequality … Economic inequality, racism, and other forms of discrimination, societal neglect and disinvestment — those are the factors that create the conditions that lead to poor health at the end of the day.”

That’s the solution Habitat for Humanity tries to solve: offering affordable housing and building stable communities for everyone.

“Our model empowers people to be a part of their own housing solutions and helps them understand the many benefits of becoming homeowners,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity.

Reckford noted how important it is to focus on all aspects of a community, from health and education to food security and housing. That’s why Habitat takes a holistic approach that's focused on community development, bringing partners in that can address all the different elements while they focus on housing.

“We need all of [these elements],” he said. “But what we know is if you pull housing out of the equation, we won't succeed on some of those other pieces.”

From the Series

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