The Next Big Ideas in Housing panel, part of ULI New York’s Real Estate Outlook 2020, was moderated by Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen, Paulette Goddard Professor and Director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. The panel was comprised of Yonatan Binman, Head of Real Estate NYC of venn city; Lisa Davis, Executive Director of Impact Investing of PGIM Real Estate; and Gregg Pasquarelli, Founding Principal of SHoP Architects.
The panel focused on innovations and proposed solutions in the housing sector, with each panelist highlighting examples from their own work. Yonatan discussed venn city’s approach, which tries to create the attractive and welcoming environment of a personalized, amenitized neighborhood that can keep young families in the city. Lisa explored the opportunity to bring institutional capital to help local and regional multifamily housing developers expand and access new capital, bringing a lens of screening for resilience, attention to public health, and expertise in operations. For Gregg, dispelling myths about modular manufacturing techniques in construction and continuing a 20-year track record of innovating on those techniques is how his firm is adding value to the space.
Particularly interesting points brought up by the panelists ranged from resident participation to the need for infrastructure investment to support development. Yonatan mentioned his firm has a vision of giving residents fractional ownership as a way to alleviate or counter gentrification. When Professor Ellen asked whether ownership was in the properties, Yonatan replied “Either in the properties or in the cash flow. At the end of the day…it’s more about giving people the opportunity to be invested in the community and to care about it more.” Gregg drew parallels between modular construction and taking best practices from the automotive and aerospace industry. He outlined the fact that his firm’s approach to modular construction is not building factories or moving construction indoors, but is procuring and optimizing across thousands of fabricators around the country that have extra capacity in their companies to make all the parts for the subject property. Benefits include less impact on neighborhoods, less pollution, and less time on the site. While it may or may not lower face cost of construction, the major benefit is a much more predictable product at much higher quality in much less time, and transparency can be another added benefit with lenders or government agencies that want to understand whatever is going on at the project at any particular time.
The panel ended on an optimistic note with the recognition of the fact that renewed vigor on the local level is being mobilized to make cities desirable and high-quality places to live with longevity and appreciation for the competitive advantages of infrastructure.