Newswise — Today, Ivory Innovations announced the winners of the 2021 Hack-A-House, a student-driven entrepreneurial competition resulting in innovations to reduce housing costs. The winning teams included innovations related to building generational wealth through homeownership and community land trusts, multigenerational housing, and retrofitting cruise ships to housing. A total of $13,000 was awarded, with winners in three categories taking home $3,000 each and runner ups taking home $1,000. 

“We were so thrilled to learn that we had won the Construction and Design category!  We started with a wild idea, trusted our gut, and worked to make it into a feasible solution,” said Grace Olechowski, of the Housing Haasies team. “Hack-A-House definitely bolstered my belief in being bold when innovating solutions to the housing crisis.  Using the momentum from this competition, we are looking to build on our idea and hopefully make an impact.”

Participants were given 24 hours to identify solutions that would make housing accessible for a family making the area median income. Each team was asked to define an area, a problem, and a solution to make housing more accessible. Accessible is defined as paying no more than 30% of income towards housing. Solutions were categorized into one of three categories: construction and design, finance, or public policy and regulatory reform. 

The winners, selected by industry experts from more than 60 student teams representing 30 universities from across the United States and the United Kingdom, include: 

  •     Construction and Design: Housing Haasies, from the University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business, developed an innovative approach of repurposing cruise ships into condominiums for affordable housing in high-cost coastal cities. The runner-up, Union Squared from Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) proposed an adaptive modular housing solution. 
  •     Finance: Affordable Achievers, from Cornell University, proposed a community land trust and homeownership model that would fund the divide between construction development costs and affordable home prices. The Village, the runner-up from the University of Utah, advanced a pioneering concept to address housing challenges faced by single-parent households in the wake of COVID-19. 
  •     Public Policy and Regulatory Reform: Legacy Living, a proposal from the Hack GSD team from the Harvard Graduate School of Design looked to retrofit existing apartment housing to allow for multigenerational and diverse housing options. This category included two runner-ups, The Policy Team from the University of Utah and Team Undecided from Harvard GSD and Tufts University. These teams developed an apprenticeship program for marginalized groups to both achieve homeownership and improve the industry’s labor shortage and an innovative approach to deploying federal ARPA funds to combat gentrification in Zoom towns, respectively. 

Additionally, $1,000 was awarded to The Village team from the University of Utah for the “People’s Choice” award. They won with a 10-vote margin over the 2nd place team with 164 votes.

In addition to the Prize monies, Ivory Innovations is inviting the top teams from this year's Hack-A-House competition to participate in an entrepreneurship-focused boot camp in early 2022 to encourage students to pursue their ideas and consider viable business models for addressing the housing affordability crisis. This effort builds on the success of one of last year's winning teams, Kit Switch, who have since raised $80,000 to build a company and prototype their kit-of-parts concept to turn commercial office space into housing. 

“We’re excited to continue to support these innovative ideas in the months and years ahead,” said Dylan Empey, Senior Associate at Ivory Innovations. “We know that it will take thousands of efforts to make an impact on the issues and, by bringing students together, Ivory Innovations furthers its mission of inspiring the next generation of leaders and encouraging continued student engagement on this critical issue.”

This year’s competition was supported by the nationwide network of partner institutions committed to fostering innovative ideas to address the nation’s housing affordability challenges, including the University of Texas at Austin; The Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley; Washington State University; the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University; the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah and Howard University. 

Hack-A-House is a sister program to the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability, which awards more than $200,000 each year to winners that have developed ambitious, feasible, and scalable solutions to housing. Applications for the fourth annual Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability are open until January 14, 2022. 

For more information about the Hack-A-House, the Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability and Ivory Innovations visit


Register for reporter access to contact details