Trending: Affordable Prefab Homes for the Homeless

Elijah Whaley
Add to MyArchiExpo favorites

3 New Social Housing Projects that use Modular Construction

Many cities have turned to affordable prefab homes for the homeless because modular structures can be built quickly and at low costs.

The most recent major project in San Francisco, though, has run into roadblocks. Local firm Panoramic Interests proposed stacking 100 modules above a parking lot. Made in a factory in China, they would cost about $200,000 per unit. That’s half the average build price of regular low-cost housing.

The project is in bureaucratic limbo.

As a result, Forbes magazine called it a good example of how over-regulation and special interests can block solutions in the city. This is especially notable in light of recent housing projects that show how prefab can help homelessness.


Under construction in Orange County, Potter’s Lane will house homeless veterans.

It will also be California’s first shipping container apartment complex.

American Family Housing, a non-profit, laid the project’s first modules in September. They predict construction will finish in December. The whole process, including in-factory, took nine months. To compare, supportive housing like this usually takes a few years to build.

“We are not putting people in shipping containers,” American Family Housing CEO Donna Gallup told the LA Times. “We are putting them in housing — very energy-efficient, very structurally strong, very beautiful multifamily housing.”

Developers designed the project with 54 cargo containers from China. They were remade into modular homes in-factory.


Vancouver has scheduled its first temporary, movable modular building to open early 2017.

Builders will assemble the modules on unused land. Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson called this a sort of test run. Many more temporary, affordable prefab homes may be in the works for the city. Developers will also get benefits for making use of their vacant properties.

A very expensive housing market and homelessness are some of the city’s biggest challenges. For this reason, the city hopes to have 30 to 40 prefab modules ready by the end of 2016.

Mukhtar Latif is Vancouver’s chief housing officer. He told the CBC more vacant lots could see similar projects in the future. “Temporary modular housing allows us to leverage city-owned land and creates innovative partnerships to provide a greater diversity of homes with greater affordability,” he said.


A world-renowned architecture firm designed affordable prefab homes for homeless youth in London.

RSH+P have designed the Millennium Dome, Wales’ National Assembly building, and the Lloyd’s building. Last year, they built the Y:Cube, a YMCA project made of 36 factory-built units. They arrived with all services included and can pass the Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6.

London is also looking into temporary apartments that builders can move to different locations. Especially relevant is the fact builders can assemble Y:Cube’s units in two weeks, and the whole cost was £ 1,600,000.

“They’re not cheap properties – these are solid things – I could argue that they’re more robust than mass-market housing of equivalent scale,” RSH + P partner Ivan Harbour told Dezeen.

“All the costs of management disappears when all you’re doing is bring in some blocks and putting them one on top of the other.”

Y:Cube, London
Y:Cube, London

Designed with factory-made modules by award-winning firm RSH+P, the Y:Cube was developed by the YMCA to homeless youth low-cost housing.

Associated Trend items

Related Searches