Venture capital investment in proptech can generate profits and change lives – TechCrunch


In 2020, nearly $ 24 billion in venture capital was invested in companies creating new technology products or innovative business models for the real estate market.

While things like smart home apps and digital mortgage finance services make life easier for high-end tenants and homeowners, none of these technologies help improve the day-to-day hardships of the vast majority of low-income families. .

Many of these emerging technologies could be adapted to become ‘housing technology’ solutions – focused on financial resilience, access to fresh food, access to health care and workforce development. – which have the potential to transform the lives of our populations most at risk.

You can earn money while serving the public good.

Consider this: Nearly eight million Americans have fallen into poverty since May, according to a study released by Columbia University. Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, about half of all American households were struggling to pay their rent; a problem that is getting worse by the day as the job losses linked to the pandemic continue to increase.

About 23.5 million people, half of them on low incomes, live in food deserts where access to healthy and affordable food is limited or non-existent. And it is almost impossible to access good health care, let alone pay for it, if you are poor.

As the global crisis continues to expose the deep inequalities in our society, it is clear that we need new ways of thinking to address these systemic issues. Investing in technological innovation in affordable housing could help solve these problems.

Local governments and nonprofits are doing what they can. In 2015, New York launched Urbantech NYC to discover new technological solutions to urbanization challenges facing government, businesses and urban residents, addressing issues related to food, water, medicine, waste management and other issues.

In 2019, Enterprise Community Partners, a national nonprofit, partnered with MetaProp, a leading proptech venture capital firm, to invest in housing technology companies that develop technological innovations to help families find their way home. find affordable housing.

These efforts are commendable, but they are not enough. The housing technology movement needs more champions.

First, we need a more patient source of venture capital, with a better understanding of underserved communities. Most venture capitalists fund what they know, and sadly few understand the affordable housing community, which is largely in the minority with female heads of households. But beware: there are lucrative opportunities here.

Affordable housing managers tend to invest a lot more in social services for their tenant population than market rate housing managers, given the coolest new technology. You can earn money while serving the public good.

Second, housing technology is in desperate need of an accelerator. The technology is there, but most entrepreneurs don’t know how to “sell” to this specific customer base, which they must do if they are to create viable businesses that will attract venture capital. There are many existing technologies ready for an accelerator to take it to the next level. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Financial resilience. Low-income people who live in affordable housing are often burdened with forfeit payday loans and check cashing services. Many do not have banking relationships and pay their rent in cash. The Lifesaver app helps households, especially those without banking relationships, navigate financial services and become more financially resilient. Earnin allows people to access their payroll, at no cost, as soon as they work the hours without waiting for payday to arrive. Research shows that people who take out these short-term loans from non-predatory lenders actually find themselves more financially stable over the following months.
  • Access to fresh food. Cheetah, a wholesale grocery delivery app, has placed community refrigerators as a pantry of fresh produce. Via, an on-demand transit provider, has partnered with LA Metro and First 5 LA to subsidize food delivery during the pandemic, particularly to female-headed households with young children.
  • Access to health care. Roundtrip allows you to book affordable non-emergency trips, wheelchair vans and other specialist medical transportation. Healthify offers a database of verified and curated community resources, as well as information on the social determinants of health. Emerging software applications that facilitate telemedicine could also expand access to needed healthcare.
  • Workforce Development. Skilling America is a new workforce platform from Goodwill that improves placement, retention, and promotion rates, and most users of the platform do this on their smartphones.

An accelerator could also connect housing technology to affordable homeowners and property managers looking for ways to amplify the impact of locally available social services. The top 50 owners of affordable housing developments have the opportunity to connect technology developers to nearly one million households.

These property owners and managers could act as leadership ambassadors for collaborative efforts among technology developers, venture capitalists and potential users of housing technologies.

We work every day with inspiring actors in the affordable housing community, as well as with local governments and tech entrepreneurs looking to bridge this digital divide. It is not a vision as far as the eye can see. The future is here and the call to action is now.

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