Last week, New Avenue was awarded a Social Entrepreneur scholarship to attend the SOCAP12. SOCAP is a unique event with a mission that can’t help but inspire -“a conference series dedicated to increasing the flow of capital towards social good.”
It’s a forum for impact investors, social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, civic leaders and innovators to exchange best-in-class ideas and make connections to further their work. It is effectively a gathering of very smart people strategizing to make the world a better place.
We are thrilled.
As part of accepting this scholarship, SOCAP asked us to publish a simple statement explaining the problem New Avenue is addressing, why people should care and why good will come from making progress on solving it. It’s an excellent request and welcome opportunity to lay out why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Here’s our take…
50 years ago the average American family could purchase a nice middle class home, in a safe desirable community, close to their job, for 1.5x the national median income. It nowhere near as easy anymore. Now, the average American family has to spend 11x national median income for the same lifestyle. Or, to get a more reasonable deal on a home at 3-4x national median income, you have to start looking farther and farther away from work.
The status quo forces a poor choice – sacrifice time spent with your family for hours commuting, or, sacrifice income you’d prefer to spend on leisure, save in college funds or put into your retirement fund, to attempt to afford a house.
Either choice damages quality of life.
Our answer is to eliminate the choice by re-introducing second units back into the landscape of American housing. Second units are backyard cottages or additions that provide a second independent living space on one property. Five decades of American suburb development following World War II left second units out of the design for the typical single family property. Meanwhile, 100 million people live in 1-2 person households, 90% of seniors prefer to age in place in communities they’ve known all their lives and most median income families face with an undesireable tradeoff.
The answer is sharing our lives with second unit housing and it offers a tremendous opportunity. Second units allow grandparents and families to live comfortably and independently in the same home, and give friends the option to grow old together. New Avenue’s mission is to re-introduce second unit housing at scale to remake the American suburb. In so doing, we can decrease the financial barrier to entry to a high quality family lifestyle and increase the number of people who get to enjoy our best neighborhoods.
The benefits to quality of life of sharing space in this way are numerous. The cost of living goes down, family time goes up, more families can have access to good schools, more people can live in transit oriented neighborhoods and everyone benefits by living in a more connected community.
We believe that multiplying these benefits across millions of American families produces and excellent social return on capital deployed, and lays the foundation for a financially sound, socially connected, resilient society.
Click here to read the stories of a couple families who are already improving their lives with second units.