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Raleigh Drives Housing Innovation

The City of Raleigh Hosts a Pitchfest for ADU Housing Innovation

The Challenge

The city was seeking out businesses in the community to identify cutting-edge solutions for building and financing more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) as an affordable housing solution.


June 14, 2023

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The Project

collabADU was selected as overall winner in the pitchfest. collabADU creates steel-framed, North Carolina-based modular kit homes through partnerships with local and national non-profits.

Key Takeaways

  • collabADU was selected as the overall winner to receive the $5,000 prize and an opportunity to enter into a pilot partnership with the City.

  • A great example of the city driving innovation: collabADU and several other ideas pitched were formed as a result of the city hosting the pitchfest.

  • This solution may scale to regional, state, and national prominence after piloting within Raleigh.

  • Organizations like CivStart provide key support for cities seeking to try something new, alongside resources, templates, and peer connections to spur ideas and guide innvovation.

  • Funding partners like the Kauffman Foundation remove the financial risk from the city.

The City of Raleigh created its first ADU Pitchfest gathering solutions from around the nation to reduce barriers and increase the supply of ADUs (Auxiliary Dwelling Units). The project allowed Raleigh to create a highly engaging process with the community and entrepreneurs to tackle a critical issue facing local government.

Heather McDougall, PhD, Sr. Manager Strategy & Innovation, City of Raleigh, NC


At collabADU, we are rethinking the way accessory dwelling units are being developed & implemented within the City of Raleigh. Our collaborative team has found solutions for accessibility, design, cost control, long-term management and community benefit.

The Project in Detail

For some time now, Raleigh, North Carolina, has pursued a unique and creative approach to the affordable housing shortage. It saw an urgent need for entrepreneur-driven support on housing initiatives, particularly in the realm of accessory dwelling units. ADUs, sometimes called granny flats, are small attached or detached dwellings erected on the same lot as a primary home. During the half-day ADU Pitchfest, Raleigh officials heard a range of ideas for ADUs, spanning sustainable building practices, new financial frameworks and cutting-edge technologies designed to make affordable housing a reality.

Watch the full event recap video below

A diverse panel of judges and a public audience, numbering in the hundreds and filling the venue to capacity, choose a winner: collabADU. While the specifics of all the pitches deserve consideration (read more about them here), it’s important to pay equal attention to the way Raleigh used to generate the innovative ideas that all local governments need, rather than just relying on the same old vendors selling the same products and services they already do.

ADU Pitchfest was organized as a part of a partnership between Raleigh’s Strategy and Innovation Office and CivStart, a nonprofit innovation hub, with support from the National League of Cities and the Marion-Ewing Kauffman Foundation. During the course of the nine-month City Innovation Program, Raleigh officials received training and resources for tackling city challenges with design thinking, a nonlinear, iterative problem-solving process that helps teams dive deep into city problems to determine exactly where the issue lies. With those insights, cities publish a challenge statement that describes the problem they’re trying to solve. Rather than posting a request for proposals that specifies a particular solution, challenge statements allow others to respond with creative ideas.

An expert panel of judges evaluated each pitch based on its feasibility, creativity, and potential impact on our community. Each presenter shared their proposed solution and answered questions from the audience and judging panel.

Read more about CivStart's approach to innovation here.

This partnership was made possible by generous grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the National League of Cities’ City Innovation Ecosystems program.


Graduated Government Leaders from CivStart's Innovation Programs


Tech for Gov Newsletter subscribers


Venture Capital raised for startups in our Accelerator


Years of Government Innovation Programs


Startups in CivStart's portfolio


Mentor Network Participants


Attendees at CivStart events


BIPOC + Women Founders


Media Mentions

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