Grandmother and granddaughter on a video call with a digital tablet at home

Trend Snapshot

Digitalization and advances in technology are changing the way housing is produced, marketed, sold, financed, managed, and lived in.  Ongoing innovations in resources, materials, and the development process will further improve the efficiency and quality of housing construction, improving affordability and sustainability. Machine learning software and 3D-printing are already reducing construction waste, enhancing safety, improving supply, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  In-home smart technology continues to evolve to better assist residents with daily tasks and remain engaged within their community. 

Advances in technology also introduce new areas of inequality and privacy concerns.  As we look to the future, technology will undoubtedly either progress—or hinder — efforts to address economic, social, and environmental challenges, such as housing affordability, discrimination/equal access, and extreme weather.  


  • Technology leads to improved economics, including:
    • Easier, faster, and cheaper development: For example, modular housing and allowing the development of missing-middle housing such as ADUs lower some of the barriers to urban planning options.
    • Improved financing options: The rise in fintech, if combined with strong consumer protections, can provide new access to financing, enhance competition, and reduce borrowing costs.
    • Reduced home maintenance: Smart home technology can mitigate shortcomings of existing buildings, enabling cost savings.
  • Technology and digitalization facilitate better matching of homeowner needs with options.
    • Information on design, availability, livability, and pricing is readily available online.
  • Smart home technology (e.g., voice-controlled devices, digital thermostats) is becoming more prevalent and user-friendly.
    • Such devices help ease shortcomings in home design by allowing alternate ways to interact with features within the home, enhancing quality of life, and allowing for greater independence and the ability to stay in home longer.
  • Remote work driven by technology allows for greater flexibility in choosing a house.
over the shoulder view mature adult woman talking with her smiling senior parents via mobile phone video telephony during corona quarantine in living room of house in times of social distancing to stay safe and healthy


  • Unequal access to technology restricts some individuals’ ability to age in place and secure housing that meets their needs. This includes:
    • Identifying low-cost, high-speed internet, especially for lower-income and rurally located households.
    • Educational opportunities for improving knowledge on how to use various technologies, especially for non digital natives.
  • Smart home technology evolves quickly and leaves people with few protections against privacy and security threats and fraud.
  • Technology via discriminatory algorithms can enhance the risk of discrimination, exploitation, and opportunism.
  • Second order impacts of technological advancement may hurt less resourced individuals.
    • Tech-enabled remote work could lead to cities reducing public transportation options, impacting those who cannot find housing options near work, those who cannot telework and limiting everyone’s ability to get around.
    • New business models, spurred by technology, such as private equity firms, and short-term rental companies, have exacerbated the tight housing market by limiting supply.
    • The real estate industry has used social media networks to market homes for sale using race and income as key characteristics.

What Can Be Done?

The public and private sector can incentivize meaningful housing innovation in the technology space, focused on increasing accessibility and affordability of housing.

Businesses can provide affordable options for new technology.

Governments can provide subsidies so all can benefit from technological advances.  

Nonprofits can educate consumers on how to identify scams and protect privacy.

Explore Related Resources