Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Disaster Housing Construction Challenges In America

Exploring the Role of Factory-Built Housing

Factory-built houses are constructed using modular, panelized, and pre-assembled methods. They can be built outside of areas damaged by hurricanes or tornados and can be brought into the disaster area if homes have been destroyed. This innovative option could also be used to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing stock that afflicts many communities across the nation. Yet a mere three percent of American single-family houses are factory-built, says the report.

Regulations and policies ill-suited to meeting the demand for disaster and affordable housing options are partially to blame for the low take up of factory- built structures.

When financial assistance is not a viable option, the most commonly used federal tool for direct housing is manufactured housing. These homes are designed to be permanent but are utilized temporarily to provide disaster survivors with direct housing. A manufactured house can provide housing for a family for more than 50 years, but the US Congress requires that temporary housing assistance provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) last no longer than 18 months. FEMA’s temporary deployment of a manufactured home costs roughly $110,000 to $129,000 per unit, the report finds.

States that receive federal recovery dollars have leveraged factory-built homes to address combined disaster and affordable housing challenges. However, these instances are rare because disaster recovery block grant funds usually arrive long after a disaster occurs – after temporary housing assistance is likely to be discontinued. For example, Congress appropriated $1.3 billion for flexible housing construction and repair after Hurricane Ike struck in 2008, yet virtually none of these funds were expended until after the 18-month timeline for temporary housing.

“These overlapping roles and competing perspectives between states, tribes, and territories and the federal government highlight a piecemeal approach to disaster housing that effectively excludes factory-built homes as a viable option for post- disaster housing,” the report states.

Yet these issues can be resolved, and the report offers recommendations for helping emergency managers, housing agencies, policymakers, community leaders, and construction companies to address the challenges.

“Despite the problems America faces with affordable housing and disaster housing, we lack a strategy that brings temporary-to-permanent housing into our collective toolkit. Improved construction technology alone cannot solve these issues, but factory-built housing should be part of the solution,” says Michael Windle, Researcher at the Humanitarian Supply Chain Lab and author of the report. Factory-built housing is not a panacea, but it should be a key component of the nation’s housing stock at a time when both the severity and frequency of natural disasters are increasing, and states continue to struggle to meet the demand for affordable housing.

For more information, contact the report author Michael Windle at

Download the full report here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. In fact - starting in 2005 we worked up a solution. We got to the point of full scale demonstration. There was a program called HAT. We built - six people from Washington came to inspect. FEMA- HUD - Health and Human Services - and two consultants.

What was the result? They told me I was not a manufacturer and that they were only interested in people who could pump out 1,000 a year. Really? Did they not understand I worked for the University before they bought their plane tickets? Even though I tried I could never get a trip report. Then a retired admiral came to see me. That had a ton of value. I did exactly what the Admiral told me to. It took me a while to figure out a commercialization strategy and to get the technology free and clear from the U to commercialize, but I since 2017 I have been inching forward.

Take a look at my YouTube link ~

Please send an email or text to me if you would like more details.


Have a great weekend to all! The hunt is on in MN!