HUD’s Innovative Housing Showcase offers ’highly interactive’ look at the industry

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that it would be bringing back its Innovative Housing Showcase event to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on June 7-9.

The event is designed to highlight housing solutions and “advancements in housing design, technology and sustainability,” according to HUD.

To learn more about the showcase itself, HousingWire sat down with Solomon Greene, the principal deputy assistant secretary for policy and research at HUD, to get a better idea of what the department hopes to accomplish with this year’s event and how it aims to attract exhibitors to participate.

Novel solutions

Greene describes the event as one that aims to highlight new and novel solutions for the U.S. housing sector in a public-facing manner, in areas that are both currently exclusive to the private sector and those are already collaborating with HUD itself.

“One of the things we’re very excited about is the ability [for attendees] to touch, feel and experience innovation firsthand in a very interactive way,” Greene said. “We want to — in addition to bringing innovation to the public — drive home how important innovation is to HUD in advancing our mission.”

A key part of the overall housing discussion revolves around affordability and supply challenges. The showcase is designed to demonstrate how innovation and technology are “key components” that can address both issues, Greene said.

“In the past, a lot of the work we’ve done has been through investments in research and development and seeing new technologies,” he explained. “What’s really different and exciting about the showcase is that we’re actually bringing innovations from the field, not necessarily that HUD has funded, but that are being led by the private and nonprofit sector in helping demonstrate how they can be a key part of the solution set.”

The event also emphasizes the housing supply action plan put forward by the Biden administration, which is in alignment with recent plans and proposals the president has been speaking to since his State of the Union address earlier this month.

Call for exhibitors

Last year, the showcase attracted approximately 50 exhibitors from across the country that are active in the public and private sectors, but the ambition is to bring even more to the National Mall for this year’s event, Greene explained. The call is currently published in the Federal Register and is open until March 29, but the showcase has certain themes it wants exhibitors to be able to speak to.

“We usually do not have room for every exhibition, and we want to ensure that exhibitions really fit with the themes of the showcase, particularly those that are innovations capable of playing an important role in increasing the supply and driving down the cost of quality affordable housing,” Greene explained.

Other innovations that HUD wants to showcase include those that advance physical accessibility, climate resilience and energy efficiency, he said.

“We have a lot of added bonuses, if you will, that we’re looking for, but at its core, these must be deployable, practical innovations that we believe can play an important role in addressing affordable housing challenges,” he said.

“We’re always on the lookout for exhibits that are highly interactive and enjoyable, ones that you can actually walk inside or, if not a fully constructed home, that there are materials or demonstrations that the public can interact with.”

Greene said that, ideally, the number of exhibitors for this year’s event will exceed last year’s, but it’s largely an interest-driven affair.

Lawmaker, international attendance

Given the proximity of the National Mall to the U.S. Capitol, Greene said that HUD always reaches out and encourages federal lawmakers and their staff members to attend the event.

“We go out of our way to invite our colleagues on the Hill and conduct tours with Congress members as well as their staff, usually just before the showcase officially opens, to give them sort of a preview tour,” he said. “We have found it to be very popular among our friends on the Hill because this is such an important national issue.”

Exhibitors come from all corners of the country, so this allows lawmakers to see firsthand the various innovations for key housing issues at the local level, but there could also be international participation, Greene said.

“It’s a great opportunity for them to connect with some of the innovators and entrepreneurs from their home districts and surrounding areas,” Greene explained. “So, we always go out of our way, and we’ve had really great turnout from legislators and their staff. We’re also going to extend the invitation to some of our international counterparts to join us as well, and we hope to showcase some international innovations too. That’ll be a new addition this year.”

Additional details — including the participation of other federal agencies, co-sponsors and event programming — will be made available as the event draws closer.

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