In his recent book, Unlocking the Customer Value Chain: How Decoupling Drives Consumer Disruption, Harvard Business School Associate Professor Thales S Teixeira examines patterns of disruption across various corporate sectors—cars, beauty and retail, to name a few—concluding that customers, not technology, drive disruption. When customers are unhappy with a service, their dissatisfaction creates an opening (this sounds pretty basic as a thesis, but he quantifies it in a compelling way).
We are all—I would guess—becoming quasi-inured to these disruptions and react to them with varying degrees of sanguinity. I like being able to book my own travel, for example, but am less psyched about the collapse of print media.
Proptech is reportedly a growing arena for disruption. Proptech refers to property or real-estate related technology, because venture capitalists love mashing the word tech with other words (last week I found myself inconsolably writing about "warmtech," aka technology designed to decrease loneliness and isolation.)
At any rate, billions have been flowing into various proptech start-ups—nearly $5 billion in the last year. This year, such startups have been raising on average $475 million per month, according to Crunchbase. Some of that will flow toward affordable housing initiatives. In February, MetaProp, a New York-based early-stage VC firm, announced a partnership with the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners to fund startups focused on affordable housing—$5 million to affordable housing startups by 2020. They plan to focus on a variety of areas, including technology focused on co-living, new platforms to make paying rent easier, and ones to help make land trusts and zoning laws easier to access and understand.
Both affordable housing and homeless crises are rising in this country in easily quantifiable ways. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, the nation's shortfall of affordable units has hit 7.2 million. The rising homeless population nationwide is equally dire. In February, I traveled to Portland, Oregon, for the first time in at least a decade, and my first view was tents lining the sidewalks, block after block. "Homeless people," the Uber driver told me when I asked what was going on. "It's gotten really bad."
Last year, The US Department of Housing and Urban Development reported Oregon had the second-highest rate of people who were both homeless and living without shelter; California is at the top of the list.
I bring up homelessness in advance of Wednesday's March for Housing at City Hall, tied to a modest proposal on that evening's Santa Fe City Council agenda to amend the city's regulations as they relate to accessory dwelling units—casitas—to try to open up more housing here. No one is arguing this change will solve Santa Fe's housing crisis; rather, it's one small measure on a list of recommended actions from The Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition (santafehousingaction.org), including funding the City of Santa Fe's Affordable Housing Trust Fund; various zoning updates; streamlining development review; and creating a city land donation program, among others. These recommendations grew out of the The Santa Fe Advancing Affordable Housing and Livable Neighborhoods Advisory Group.
New Mexico Inter-Faith Housing Chief Operating Officer Daniel Werwath, who served on that task force and is a steering committee member for the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition, tells me he doesn't see technology solving a basic supply-and-demand problem. "That's the part we can't outrun," he says. The casita amendment is a small measure that "should be the most palatable for a place like Santa Fe." If it can't move forward, he asks, how can the city make real headway with its housing crisis?
That crisis also is easily quantified. The city is short at least 3,000 affordable rental units. Seventy-three percent of renter households are paying more than they can afford. Rental rates have risen 46% in the last five years. "It's absurd to me that we're weighing the idea of whether or not parking impacts people's neighborhoods as more important than people actually having shelter," Werwath says. He's hoping a strong turnout for the march and hearing, along with cogent testimony to sway the Council into this "first step."
Werwath says he does see opportunity for regulatory disruption. For example, "[allowing] higher densities on land so you're spreading your cost of land, your fixed cost of infrastructure across more units: That creates affordability." But as far as proptech goes, he says, "If someone creates an app to overcome NIMBYs and helps local government officials make data-based decisions in the interest of long-term economic health and wealth of their community, maybe that would change something."
March for Housing
6:30 pm Wednesday June 26. Free.
Santa Fe City Hall,
200 Lincoln Ave.