200+ ideas, 44 keen hackers, and 7 hours to build a business.
The Okanagan Valley has seen a dramatic increase in housing challenges. Whether it’s rising costs, supply and demand, community planning, or new housing starts; the impact that a lack of affordable housing has is far-reaching. Left alone, these challenges will not only continue to affect our current Okanagan residents but the future of the Okanagan’s economic sustainability.
To solve lofty challenges like these people often don’t need instruction, what they need is inspiration. That is why, on June 23rd, we invited the community to team up and address Hacking Housing by exploring innovative solutions and business models that mitigate stressors surrounding affordable housing in the Okanagan Valley.
During this whirlwind day of design thinking, concept-building, and idea-generation, our 44 participating hackers developed an inspiring selection of creative solutions that have the potential to improve the Okanagan’s housing challenges sustainably.
If you weren’t able to attend the event, here’s a look at what you missed.
In a hackathon, the more varied perspectives on a team, the stronger their ideas can become. With Hacking Housing, we were so excited to see individuals from a wide range of professions and educational backgrounds sign up to participate. From carpenters and IT specialists to realtors and librarians—having individuals from so many disciplines on a team added an immense amount of value to the solutions that were created.
The community’s participation in Hacking Housing demonstrated an overwhelming passion and a sense of optimism for affordable housing solutions in the Okanagan.
During the hackathon, teams were brought together to create products, services and feasible businesses aimed at solving a single challenge statement. For this hackathon, we were grateful to work with the Urban Systems to develop Hacking Housing’s challenge:
How might we mitigate the stressors surrounding affordable housing?
We used the term “stressors” because it gave the teams the opportunity to interpret solutions related to a variety of components related to the housing market. This allowed the hackers to pursue concepts that resonated with them based on their experiences and the customers they seek to support.
Hackathons are rooted in the concept of Design Thinking, a human-centred approach to problem-solving. When using the design thinking process, there are 5 important steps to consider: empathizing with your user, defining their needs, ideating solutions, prototyping those ideas, and testing the prototypes. When working through these steps, you’re constantly reminded of who your solution is for and what is needed to satisfy their challenges.
The hard part? The teams need to brainstorm ideas, develop concepts and get ready to pitch to a panel of judges and a public audience within 7 hours. Having participants work within this time constraint forces them to focus, delegate and share every idea to make sure the project gets completed. Oh, and did we mention that they just met each other that morning? The individuals that sign up to participate are assigned to a team before they arrive.
Relive Hacking Housing
Not able to attend the event? Want to see if our photographers snapped a great photo of you? Check out our Hacking Housing photo album.SEE THE PHOTOS
Speaking at the event was Paula Quinn, Executive Director at KF Aerospace Centre of Excellence, a not-for-profit society. She took to the stage to discuss the critical impact affordable housing has on the Okanagan’s ability to attract and retain talent. Speaking from the perspective of the largest private employer in the Okanagan, Paula stressed how difficult it can be to hire employees when there are no affordable living options. She talked about KF’s current initiative to address this challenge by building a housing complex near their new Centre of Excellence that will provide stable housing to more than 80 employees.
“Businesses need to care about housing accessibility for employees. Improved wages and housing-related benefits will help us attract and retain talent.”
After developing their ideas into viable businesses, each of the 9 teams delivered a 4-minute pitch to a panel of expert judges and an enthusiastic public audience. Though the judges—tasked with determining a winning idea—come from varied backgrounds, they all share a passion for housing solutions:
- Chris Nielsen, Partner, Capri CMW Insurance
- Karen Hawes, Senior Vice President of Culture & Technology, Interior Savings
- Nancy Henderson, Senior Local Government Advisor, Urban Systems
It’s not a pitch event without prizes! Before the winner was announced, the audience voted for Co-Here as the winner of the People’s Choice Award. Their pitch proposed a solution that would increase the availability of affordable rental units by letting homeowners leverage a portion of their property to house modular Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)—providing steady income to the homeowner and quality accommodations to the tenant.
Once all the pitches were heard, the judges picked Financial Freedom as the grand prize winner. Their community-based, 52-week-challenge app taught users financial literacy as they saved for their rental deposits. They were the recipients of a Visa gift card courtesy of Urban Systems, a swag bag, and a certificate for free mentorship with Accelerate Okanagan’s EiRs. Congratulations!
Our team was inspired by the amount of support and involvement we received for Hacking Housing. Affordable housing is clearly a topic that was top of mind for individuals and businesses in the Okanagan. As a non-profit organization, we wouldn’t have been able to host an event like this without the support of our incredible sponsors. Thank you!