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Entrepreneur Sees Innovation As Key To Global Housing Crisis

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Photo Courtesy New Story Homes

Homeownership might be the ultimate sign of success in some cultures, but high prices put it out of reach for many people — even in rich countries like the United States. According to Federal Reserve data, about one-third of U.S. households don’t own the home they live in. In some of the world’s poorer countries, 70% or more of the population doesn’t own a home.

There are no simple fixes for this problem. But a good place to start is through innovation and technology, according to Alexandria Lafci, cofounder of housing nonprofit New Story and VC fund Hometeam Ventures.

“Construction innovation is a prerequisite for solving the global housing crisis,” Lacfi told Fast Company in an August 2023 interview. “If you narrow in on the U.S., all affordable housing is only made possible by government subsidies because it’s just so expensive to get housing projects off the ground.”

Photo Courtesy Hometeam Ventures

Lacfi has spent much of her professional life addressing the problem. As co-founder and COO at New Story, she has led efforts to build low-income housing communities in places such as El Salvador and Mexico and had a hand in all facets of the operation.

“I was doing everything on the ground — from negotiating land grants with governments to infrastructure — getting communities ready [for] the actual construction from ground up to managing micro mortgages,” she told Fast Company.

When New Story worked with California-based startup accelerator Y Combinator, Lacfi learned a lot about how innovation can solve many cost issues involving housing construction.

Video Courtesy New Story

“I was flying back and forth between the Bay Area and these construction job sites and seeing so much opportunity in how we can be doing construction in a much more efficient and cost-effective way,” Lacfi continued.

Among the innovations that caught her eye was 3D construction, which uses concrete, foam, and polymers to produce full-scale buildings, The New York Times reported.

After witnessing the potential of 3D construction, New Story joined a partnership to build 500 3D homes in impoverished communities in Mexico.

Other partners included Échale, a Mexico-based social housing production company, and Icon, a Texas-based construction technology firm.

One of New Story’s primary messages is that everyone has the right to adequate housing,” according to a September blog by Victor Mendoza, the organization’s senior manager of Housing Market Interventions. 

Photo Courtesy newstoryhomes

“Many low-income families live in inadequate housing because they lack access to the resources and information to manage the process of building incrementally, repairing, and/or expanding their homes,” Mendoza wrote. “Without access to the resources and information, families turn to their last resort: to build their own shelter without construction expert assistance and using their savings, as they become available.”

The need for more financial resources was a big driver behind Lacfi’s decision to launch the Hometeam Ventures fund along with co-founder Brett Hagler.

The fund’s mission is to invest in for-profit startups that can help build more housing where it is needed the most.

“The startups needed money, and I wanted to invest in them,” Lacfi told Fast Company. “I thought they could have [an] impact. I thought I could influence them. So, I started just talking to some of our advisors, some of our donors, like, ‘Hey, what do you think about the idea of a venture fund?’”

Photo Courtesy New Story Homes 

She initially set out to raise between $5 million to $10 million but ended up raising about $18 million. The fund got a big boost from Alexis Ohanian, an entrepreneur and investor who is famously married to retired tennis superstar Serena Williams.

According to the AfroTech website, the amount raised was one of the biggest ever for a Black female general partner. “I didn’t know at the time because I didn’t know anything about [the history of fundraising in] venture capital, but there’s so few Black women venture capitalists, let alone who have their own fund …” Lacfi said to Fast Company.


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