Saturday, December 28, 2019

New Modular Container Factory Planned for Florida

Innovar Structures LLC, a Sarasota, Florida startup wants to modernize modular housing construction by repurposing shipping containers to address Florida’s affordable housing shortage.

They've leased a 55,000-square-foot former Winn-Dixie supermarket in Hardee County and is retooling the space into a modular housing factory.

President and CEO Joe Davis, a longtime Sarasota-area pastor, said he sees the need for low-cost housing for the working poor in Southwest Florida during his ministry work.

“The idea was that we could make houses in a couple of months that otherwise would take a longer time,” Davis said in an interview at the NightLife Center, which ministers to at-risk teens. “We could deliver them onsite in a couple of days. Kind of what Ford did for the car, like an assembly line for modular housing.”

The metal containers can be stacked together like Legos to make apartment complexes or they can be freestanding. The units are durable and easy to transport, and exterior designs can be elaborate or simple, depending on the customers’ needs.

“Exterior design is incredibly broad,” Davis said. You can do stucco. You can do wood. You can do drywall. You can do brick. You can keep it metal if you want. Our numbers say that once we get rolling, we’ll be able to build these things for 20 to 50% of the cost per square foot of conventional construction.”

Innovar Structures plans to begin construction in February, with several undisclosed clients on board, including an RV park, Davis said. Tiny homes on wheels and accessory dwelling units are also an option.

Davis is a benevolent capitalist at heart. His day job is as an investment analyst and asset manager for two local investment firms. About three years ago, he started thinking about how the free market should be able to address the affordable and workforce housing problem that governments have been unable to solve.

Innovar already employs several people, including a finance manager, a factory manager and a regional sales manager.

When the factory in Wauchula gets up and running, that operation will provide good-paying jobs, as well, he said.

Davis cited zoning requirements, land costs and impact fees as factors that limit traditional developers’ efforts to build affordable housing.

“In the end, if we can come up with a company that creates jobs, provides a free-market solution to low-cost housing that is quality and not junk, I think it’s a triple win,” he said.

The converted containers also could quickly provide temporary housing after a disaster, when thousands of residents are displaced by hurricanes or tornadoes.

“I wish we had already been in place before the hurricanes hit the Bahamas,” Davis said. “That would have been an incredible opportunity to help people. You could put these things together quickly, put them on a ship and done."


Innovar Structures said...

We are aiming for April 1 for the factory to be operational!

Glen Gibellina said...

As an affordable housing advocate I admire your vision