2019 looking like a big year for housing

Hey there, it’s been a long time. Good to see you. Lots of interesting developments in the world of housing innovation, policy, and affordability. Here are some:

Microsoft pledges $500M towards affordable housing in the Seattle Area. Seattle, like SF and other cities with scores of new, high paying tech jobs and no corresponding uptick in housing production, has a major affordable housing crisis. The pledge is ostensible penance for Microsoft’s part in creating the crisis.

While many laud Microsoft for its largesse, others wonder why they are doing this as a corporate entity? Instead, why aren’t they backing initiatives like last year’s proposal that would have levied large companies with a per-employee tax dedicated to homeless services and affordable housing construction (the same one Amazon put the kibosh on)?

Construction tech firm Katerra might be getting another cash infusion from the Softbank Vision Fund to the tune of $700M; this is on top of last year’s Softbank-led $865M D-round. The chatty cathies I know don’t have the greatest faith in Katerra—they say the scope of their ambitions is too great, they’re not staffed up, their initial projects have been fiascos, and they have an absentee CEO. For the sake of seeing further growth in this segment, I’m hoping these are mere growing pains and that Katerra’s promise corresponds with the gobs of cash it’s getting. 

Speaking of Softbank, Masayoshi Son & Co. decided to throw another $2B at the WeWork (significantly down from the $16B We expected). To say Softbank invested in WeWork is not entirely correct. Softbank is investing in the We Companies, the new umbrella company that includes WeWork, WeGrow (education and childcare), and of course WeLive. The shared mission of the We Companies is “to Elevate the World’s Consciousness” (no doubt something that’s needed).

In terms of housing, WeLive—while having a less than stellar rollout—still, so far as I know, factors heavily into the We Companies business expansion (or is it consciousness expanding) plans. Look out for new buildings that tweak and improve upon their first two buildings in Virginia and NYC.

Newly knighted California Governor Gavin Newsom vows to withhold transportation funds from local governments that fail to meet new housing production targets. He’s also hitting up tech companies for cash in creating more affordable housing—all signals that the new governor is serious about tackling the state’s epic housing crisis.  

NYC Mayor de Blasio announced some numbers the other day that may or may not mean something in terms of the city’s affordable housing situation.

Another coliving player is charging fast in the U.S. Quarters, the product of Germany’s Medici Group already has a couple stateside outposts in NYC and Chicago. But with $300M earmarked for U.S. expansion and an easily-scaled building operator model (i.e they’re not acquiring buildings), their presence is likely to increase greatly in the next couple of years.

Issi Romen, a friend and one of the best analysts of where American housing stands and is going, becomes Trulia’s Chief Economist. Congrats! Check out his first post with a great big picture survey of American housing. ​

I’m sure there’s more but these were the tabs that stayed open the longest on my browser.

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