If you live in Austin, chances are you’ve had a conversation about affordability in the city sometime in the past week. Austin has been booming for more than a decade; it’s a destination city in a destination state. It’s the second most expensive housing market in the state, and the average house price has skyrocketed to over $379,000, according to data from Zillow.
That’s why Impact Hub Austin has joined forces with Google, Chase, BuildFax, Noble Capital, Portfolio Resident Services and the Austin Board of REALTORS to create the Affordable Housing Accelerator. It’s purpose is to leverage Austin's vast entrepreneurial and creative talent in the service of one of our most pressing social issues.
The Impact Hub Accelerator is an issue-specific, social impact accelerator program. We take the biggest challenges facing Austin and rally a cohort of teams to make those challenges history. The program gives a platform and a community to many of the affordable housing ideas that are springing up all over Austin. People and organizations that have been tackling initiatives on their own now have the community, resources, and gathering space that comes from the accelerator program.
Kelsey Willard, a member of the accelerator team, spoke to the mission, heart, and drive of the 2017 cohort members.
“The idea behind the accelerator was to get an idea based, a mission based accelerator in place.” She continued “...the idea is to bring people and initiatives from a variety of different backgrounds all in one room together and you get them to collaborate with each other. To have all this variety of people, ideas and ways to progress toward the larger solution of finding affordable housing in Austin.”
Impact Hub is a coworking and business incubator focused on social impact, making it the perfect place to create and launch this initiative. We’ve given small businesses, non-profits and start-ups focused on housing an opportunity to to go further faster. Participants in the cohort were also connected with mentors to give coaching, feedback, and offer invaluable connections. Mentors are involved in strategic business issues like sales and marketing but also issue experts in housing, city politics and other affordability issues. Their support and impact is an invaluable boon to the accelerator.
Each Tuesday throughout the fall, the nine cohort companies met to hear from experts, host workshops, check-in on progress, derive support from each other around challenges, and get feedback. They had access to Impact Hub as a workspace from October-December as well, so they could gather outside of the official meeting days to get work done.
That space is giving birth to some incredible ideas.
“The cohorts are a community of designers and changemakers.” said Kelsey.
As they seek to change the city scape for lower income households, they’re using the community and resources to come at the problem from many different angles.
When asked what defined affordable housing she replied “Affordability for this accelerator has been defined in a variety of ways. There are tiny home initiatives, there are housing construction cost considerations (if they can reduce the cost of building, people will build more), the anti-displacement fund is looking to do things like help people monetize their land, like having an alley-flat on their lot. For the accelerator, affordability is being tackled from many different views that can’t be tackled with just a single dollar point.”
You can take a look at the nine companies in the 2017 cohort and see what their projects are in more detail. Hopefully, we’ll see some of their changes coming to the housing landscape sooner rather than later. When our community loses people simply because of dollars and cents, we lose innovation, culture, and the spark that makes Austin so attractive.
To learn more about different community programs we have at Impact Hub, or to talk to someone in the affordable housing accelerator, email Ashley at Ashley@impacthubaustin.com
Article Written by Kara Perez. Kara Perez is a freelance writer and the founder of Bravely, a financial literacy event company in Austin TX.