In today’s housing crisis, “affordable” and “market-rate housing” may seem like an oxymoron. And for most apartment developers, it is increasingly unattainable as land and construction costs skyrocketed over the last several years. So, how can “affordable” and “market-rate” co-exist in the same project? One answer to that question is by building small efficiency dwelling units (SEDU’s) primarily in up-and-coming areas of Seattle. These units range from 230 to 280 square feet, about the size of a typical hotel room (containing its own bathroom and small kitchen), about 20-30% less than a typical, market-rate studio. This means an Amazon custodian, for example, making $45,000 a year can still live within a 15-minute light rail or bus ride from work, rather than drive an hour each way from the suburbs, adding to the region’s already clogged freeways.
Another answer to the housing crisis is controlling construction costs. When a construction project costs less and takes less time, desperately needed apartments come to market faster and cheaper. As any econ 101 student will tell you, rising construction costs (and longer time needed to build) ultimately leads to higher rents. So, in this climate of skyrocketing costs, how do we find innovative ways of controlling those costs to maintain affordability? By utilizing modular construction in the building process, we manage costs and shorten the construction process, bringing units to market faster and more affordably.
So, what is modular construction? Imagine if we built cars the same way we built apartments. Imagine how inefficient that would be, to bring in each trade to the car dealership, one at a time, to put the wheels on, put the engine in, to install electronics, and so on. Now imagine building an apartment the same way we build cars: where box after box roll through a factory line with each station specialized in one task. The first station might be where pre-framed walls are installed. Next station plumbing; next station electrical; drywall; paint. Until eventually it comes out the end of the line, a completed apartment. That’s how modular construction works.
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Original post author, Daniel Stoner, NextGen Housing Parters