Impactfully No. 81: Social Housing

Cities around the U.S. are adopting the role of real estate investor to stimulate a new form of affordable housing, and the Department of Justice faces scrutiny for funding predictive policing systems.

Impactfully No. 81: Social Housing
Photo by Isaac Quesada / Unsplash

I'm pretty excited about the affordable housing topic this week – cities have been trying for years to combat housing prices and encourage more construction, but a new approach is gaining ground after a successful leasing program last year. We also dig into a concerning trend in predictive policing and its lack of oversight.

The environment gets a spotlight in this week's job opportunities and our resource of the week – the latter is a particularly good way to find local for-profit and nonprofit companies to expand your job search. Off we go!

~ Greg

What we're reading

Cities are experimenting with a new public housing model that turns local governments into real estate investors instead of offering welfare subsidies. (Vox)

  • Affordable housing is a problem in major cities around the U.S., but few solutions have emerged. I really like this one out of Montgomery County, Maryland though.
  • Essentially, the city has taken on the role of real estate investor. It is competing with other investors by offering more attractive financing terms. The city can hold onto the real estate as long as it wants, and it can reinvest the profits.
  • I'll admit that I'm not sure I want my city to be my landlord, however, their incentives are far more aligned with the public interest than the traditional real estate investor. If they can create a flywheel that keeps construction up and turns profits into more housing, I'm all for it.

The Department of Justice is awarding grants to state and local police departments for predictive policing systems, but the DOJ is not providing oversight to ensure those tools aren't used in a discriminatory manner. (WIRED)

  • These kinds of models rely on significant amounts of data – not just for predictive policing but for machine learning in general.
    • Take the "Zestimate" on Zillow for example: they're giving you a best guess of what a home is worth based on all sorts of inputs, from location and square footage to number of bedrooms and year built. They're using historical data – mountains of it – to predict an outcome.
  • There are a couple of obvious areas where bias can skew the model: the data itself can be biased, or the people tuning the model can introduce bias.
    • This is where predictive policing systems come under fire from critics. If the underlying data is biased and predictive policing systems encourage police to patrol based on those biases, it creates a feedback loop that reinforces those biases further.
    • It is certainly possible to train a model that avoids these issues. The problem here is that the DOJ is not verifying that the grant money is going to tools that are trained in this way, and the companies that make predictive policing systems are not transparent about how they train their models.

Job of the week

You're probably familiar with the Inflation Reduction Act and the financial incentives it put in place to drive the adoption of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and the like. It's a good example of the power of policy to drive new behaviors across an industry – and those policies are in turn influenced by the companies themselves.

In that spirit, GoodLeap is hiring a Director of Policy who will travel throughout the Central U.S. to influence local and federal energy policy. If you have a background in renewable energy and want to grow your impact, this is a very unique opportunity to influence legislation that could drive wider adoption.

If policy isn't your thing, you can find a variety of other roles on their website.

Community roundup

  • The National Labor Relations Board has said that a group a Dartmouth basketball players can proceed with a unionization vote, which would make them the first union of athletes in the NCAA. (Axios)
  • The hurricanes are getting stronger. Scientists have proposed adding a Category 6 to the Saffir-Simpson scale for storms whose winds exceed 192 mph or more. If that sounds like a lot, five storms over the past decade would have already met the criteria. (The Guardian)
  • Last year's affirmative action ruling in the Supreme Court made it harder for universities to pursue race-conscious admission policies but carved out an exception for military academies. A new case is advancing through the court system to eliminate that exception. (The Hill)
  • Companies including Costco and McDonald's are starting to increase auditing throughout their supply chains to crack down on child labor. (NYT)
  • The Associated Press tracked the supply chain of prison labor to major brands including Frosted Flakes and Coca-Cola, including cases where companies are going against their own policies. The practice is legal, however, and is now facing challenges in Congress. (AP)
  • Apparently there are investors who fund lawsuits hoping to profit from them. But in a twist, impact investors are funding litigation believed to have a social impact. (Bloomberg Law)
  • A group of conservation organizations has notified the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife that they intend to sue after the agency said it would not grant Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the Rocky Mountain region. (The Hill)
  • If you watched the Super Bowl this week, you may have noticed it was the first powered by renewable energy. (USA Today)

Hot job opportunities

Hiring for mission-driven talent? Post a job for free on our job board.

Looking for a job? Submit your resume to our talent pool, and let social impact companies come to you.

Resource of the week

The environment is top of mind for a lot of us, but not every company is positioned to make environmental impact a core part of their business. That's why I love the idea behind 1% for the Planet. Member companies donate 1% of sales to their environmental partners, which are vetted nonprofits working around the world on a variety of issues.

If you're looking for a social impact job, they have a great directory to use as well. You can search for member companies of 1% for the Planet or search for environmental partners. Not all of them will be hiring of course, but it's a great way to uncover companies you never knew existed.

Test your knowledge

Last week's Patagonia origin story started with a single piton – Yvon Chouinard was an avid rock climber. You can find a lot more than rock climbing gear in their catalog these days.

This week, I got curious about the recycling symbol you see almost everywhere. Recycling has not been around that long – at least in its current form.

In what year did the recycling symbol get its start?

Bonus points if you know which day – though you won't be surprised.

Email me your guess, and I'll send one lucky winner a couple of One Work stickers!

I am enjoying Wayne Brady's improvisational flair on the Super Bowl edition of After Midnight. You can find me on LinkedIn and Threads.

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Jamie Larson