Are Modular Apartments the Solution for San Francisco's Housing Problem?

July 30, 2020
Street view from hill of San Francisco
By Oleg Podzorov

According to Fast Company, building one affordable studio apartment in San Francisco can take up to six years and cost $800,000. But the city has a housing and homelessness problem, with upwards of 28,000 people who are homeless. A non-profit called Tipping Point Community is hoping their new take on apartment construction will help. Tipping Point has teamed up with Factory OS, a modular building company, to build units inside a factory, which will then be trucked to their site and stacked. In September, their first modular units will be placed together to create a 145-unit apartment building for people who are struggling with homelessness. 

The project is expected to cost less than $400,000 per unit and should be completed in less than three years—stats that Lurie says most people working in the field don’t believe are possible.

The new approach to construction helps bring the cost down. “If you build a house or an apartment more like a car, in an industrialized fashion, you can do it much faster, higher quality, and less expensive,” says Rick Holliday, cofounder and CEO of Factory OS. Compared to traditional construction, he says, the costs of modular construction are around a third less. In another affordable apartment complex the company is working on near Lake Tahoe, the project wouldn’t have been viable at all if it had been built traditionally. When the company redesigned the building to use modular construction, the cost dropped by $6 million.

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