Solutions for Affordable Housing & Racial Justice

Join us in celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by calling upon the UVA community to find innovative and creative solutions to one of the most vexing social problems of our city: affordable housing.

2018 marks the 50 year anniversary of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Our event will bring together the community in memory of Dr. King and his advocacy on behalf of civil rights and social justice, and issue a challenge to create new real-world market solutions to the broken housing system we experience in our city. The winning team will be awarded $5,000 to move from idea to action.

The Problem:

The wider community in the greater Charlottesville area suffers from an acute affordable housing crunch. Median incomes in the area remain significantly low and poverty hovers around 25% in the City of Charlottesville. The availability of safe, decent and affordable housing remains a perennial problem. Local governments have made significant financial investments and policy changes to increase the supply of affordable housing, and the nonprofit community continues to work to prevent gentrification and assist residents in their efforts to  keep their homes as they age in place, and yet we are short thousands of affordable housing units in our metro area.

More than 60% of households pay more than 45% of their income on housing and transport combined - make it incredibly difficult to meet other basic needs like food, school supplies and medical costs.

As UVA students are well aware, the rental market for student housing is crazy. Rents are high, students are pushed to sign year-long leases in September for the following August, and unscrupulous landlords will rent out housing that fails to meet safety code. Because most second, third, and fourth year students seek housing off grounds (and the university only guarantees housing for the first year), the current student rental environment places significant pressure on the surrounding community.

The Challenge:

Improving the market for student housing, through social entrepreneurial solutions, can improve the quality of housing for more Charlottesvillians, lower rents, and bring some sanity to the student experience of renting housing off grounds.

How can we balance the need for fairer practices among leasing agencies and housing developments, and advocate for our students, in such a way that housing opportunity improves for all members of the community rather than creating a negative ripple effect of gentrification? Where is the disruptive solution to the broken system we are experiencing?

The Prize:

Together, we will offer $5,000 in prize money for the innovative solutions which, in the opinion of the judges, appear to be most promising in addressing the issue of housing opportunity in the Charlottesville area.

How to Compete:

Teams and individuals wishing to compete in the MLK Social Innovation Challenge must upload a PDF of their Executive Summary describing the social business concept here:

Summary guidelines and requirements can also be accessed through that link.

Make sure your summary covers these three questions:

  • WHAT IS YOUR BIG IDEA? Does the submission present a novel, original and compelling solution, whether product or service, for addressing the affordable housing crisis in Charlottesville? This solution might be based upon a new technology, design, production or process through which the product/service is delivered?

  • WHAT MAKES YOUR BIG IDEA SO BIG? Does the submission not only describe the alternative solutions, but also outline how the Big Idea is an improvement over these alternatives? Does the submission somehow value this innovation from the perspective of a customer, beneficiary, or society? This valuation might be in terms of what price people/entities might pay for the solution, or what benefits might accrue to these people/entities or society were the solution available (i.e., social impact).

  • OH YEAH? PROVE IT! Does the submission make sufficient use throughout of evidence and analysis to justify the claims being made about why the solution will work, who the competition is, and if it is financially sustainable?

The top teams will be selected to pitch their idea to a panel of judges on Monday, March 19th, 2018 from 5-7pm in the Great Hall of Garrett Hall.

Deadline for submissions: March 16, 2018 by 5pm.