Smart people, smart cities, affordable housing

July 18, 2016 admin

Entrepreneurs keep getting more ambitious, especially those in the technology space. They seem to think they can solve any and all of the world’s problems.

Now a pair of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs is aiming to tackle the most essential component of a functional society — the city. One half of that tandem is Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, an organization that funds early-stage startups. His partner in urban planning is Adora Cheung, the co-founder of now-defunct startup Homejoy, a house-cleaning company that fell short of its customer acquisition targets. In their quest to create a prototype smart city, Altman and Cheung have used a blog post to put forth their concept and to issue an open invitation to others with bold ideas to contribute.

Their primary objective is to find ways to create affordable housing. Altman and Cheung write: “How can we make and keep housing affordable? This is critical to us; the cost of housing affects everything else in a city.” Answering those questions is considered the “first phase” of their project. Step two, finding a “blank slate” on which to build.

“We’re seriously interested in building new cities,” their posting says, “and we think we know how to finance,” though they don’t disclose that piece of financial magic.

Vanity Fair magazine, which gave coverage to the Altman/Cheung plan, notes leaders of tech companies have long fantasized about building their own communities centered around technology. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel once proposed a project called Blueseed, based out of his Seasteading Institute, to establish a floating libertarian island off the coast of California. Earlier this year, Alphabet CEO and Google co-founder Larry Page met with Dan Doctoroff to discuss the creation of a futuristic, tech-based city, code-named Project Sidewalk. Doctoroff, a businessman, philanthropist and former member of Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral administration in New York City, now serves as CEO of Sidewalk Labs. The startup aims to develop technology focused on city life.

Altman and Cheung stress their smart city project will be for everyday people, whether technologically savvy or non-technically inclined. They note: “We’re not interested in building ‘crazy libertarian utopias for techies.’ ”

MikeCfinalwebThe views, statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

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Mike Consol is editor of Real Assets Adviser.

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