On the 3rd of January 2019 I sent my first New Year message as Reall’s CEO. I talked about the opportunity we have to build an affordable housing movement for the bottom 40% of the income pyramid. And about Prema, who I’d recently met in Dharavi, an informal settlement in Mumbai, and the transformation we had helped create for her and her daughters by providing a decent and affordable home.
In January 2020, I sent my second Reall New Year message. I talked about progress we were making as a pioneer in the affordable housing space. And about James, a street hawker from Nairobi I’d just met and the wide-eyed wonder of his seven-year-old son on seeing his new home for the first time.
A catalytic purpose
Of course, 2020 has not provided the opportunity to meet and learn from homeowners and tenants, reinforcing the value of Reall’s work. Nonetheless, today I write knowing Reall provides a compelling purpose – to build an affordable housing movement that will improve the life chances of 100 million people in urban Africa and Asia by 2030.
Incredibly, despite almost zero travel in 2020, we have worked with our in-country partners to build over 1,600 new affordable homes. We know the key is to ensure those, and the 20,000 we will build by 2025, are catalytic. Our focus is demonstrating the commercial and environmental viability of these homes in order to fundamentally transform markets and enable people on low incomes to access an affordable home of their own.
A clear runway
2021 provides us the clear runway we need for our purpose. Covid19 has strengthened the political resonance of homes. The climate crisis is rightly disrupting investment priorities. There is increased international recognition of the role of housing as pandemic PPE, and to kick-start economies, create jobs and deliver services.
This year the UK is hosting the G7 and the crucial COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. Social justice expectations are challenging structural inequities through Black Lives Matter, LGBTQI+, gender and disability awareness. In our collective hands we hold a practical, tangible solution. Affordable homes can deliver a triple bottom line for people, profit and planet.
There is quite the combination of factors to take advantage of in 2021 and for many years to come. As the CEO of Reall I feel unbelievably privileged to work for Reall’s mission and lead an uber-talented team focused on changing the world for millions of people like Prema and James.
As Margaret Mead said: “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”