Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What Happens in Boise Doesn’t Have to Stay in Boise

Boise, Idaho is not unique in needing low cost housing for singles and families looking for housing they can afford. With the average house selling for $330,000 and new houses selling for even more, they have become proactive in delivering new but much smaller homes to people but also have homes being built for the homeless.

A finished modular apartment unit is moved off the assembly line at
Guerdon Enterprises in East Boise

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This year will see 216 new modular “Tiny Houses” near downtown Boise that cost only $200,000 each. In addition to that, 41 units will be provide for the chronically homeless saving the city that much in services for this group.

Yet this success obscures the greater challenge. These dwellings cost about $200,000 apiece. They’re dependent on federal tax credits, which are getting scarce.

Boise’s good fortune was realizing that five modular factories served their area: Guerdon Modular Buildings and Nashua Builders, which build for the hotel and other industries; and Champion Homes, Fleetwood Homes and Kit HomeBuilders West, which specialize in homes.

An idea was born. These factories have seasonal downtime and even have slots available on their lines most of the year for one or more single tiny type houses built to IRC Code. Each factory could get up to 100 units that could keep production full and at the same time pass along the savings to the city of Boise. Officials are looking at an FOB price of $100,000 each.

Each home would be 12’x40’ feet, or about 500 square feet and cluster these dwellings in pocket neighborhoods. Or they could stacked as apartments.

Building 500 square feet units is the inexpensive part. The bigger costs come government-controlled codes, zoning, impact fees and infrastructure. Boise city government is looking for a break from some of these regulations to put these small homes in tight clusters. There’s a crying need.

If this works for Boise, it could be duplicated in many cities on the East Coast as well which would help the modular industry’s production lines running full all year. If 10 East Coast cities each bought 200 ‘tiny’ modular homes, that becomes 2,000 line moves that we didn’t have before.

The key is the easing of regs and codes for these homes which our new President has said are a priority in his administration. Let’s hope.

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