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Four Ways Technology Can Make Housing More Affordable

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How can we use technology to address affordability of housing in cities? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Sidewalk Labs, Former Bloomberg CEO, on Quora.

Affordability is a fundamental challenge facing our most successful cities. Where supply cannot keep up with demand there are often four forces at work, and technology has the potential to help mitigate all of them.

The first big constraint is not actually the housing itself but transportation. When transportation options are limited, people cluster where transportation options are the best; and this, in turn, drives up the price of land in those areas. So, technology that expands transportation options and improves congestion can actually contribute to expanding affordable housing options that are close enough to where people work and where they want to go.

Second is the cost of construction. We are still building buildings the same way we did in the 1920s. Building techniques could be a significant area where tech has the potential to radically reduce costs,whether it is in new designs, new materials, and new construction techniques.

Third is zoning rules. It used to be that rigid zoning rules were the only way to protect neighbors from noise, fumes, and crowding. Today, with sensors and monitoring tools, we can measure and manage many of the original impacts that planning codes are meant to mitigate, opening up opportunities for mixed use buildings that are more flexible -- and therefore more affordable.

Finally, it's about making density more attractive. People tend to restrict new housing because they are scared about overcrowding. But if technology can make cities a better experience - reduce congestion, make parking more available, improve the way we use open space - neighbors will be less concerned about newcomers.

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