More Affordable Housing Coming Thanks to New Innovation Program

December 16, 2020

It’s a word we use a lot these days – describing vast improvements to products and services that not only make our lives easier, but better.

When it comes to housing, innovation also means opportunity.

Through Virginia Housing’s new Innovative Demonstrations Program, three affordable housing developments will soon take shape, allowing prospective homebuyers the opportunity to live in safe, attractive workforce housing that otherwise would be unavailable.

The program requires those in the homebuilding industry to think creatively and incorporate cost-saving construction methods into their developments. Whether that means using sustainable materials or innovative building techniques, the goal is to reduce construction costs and increase affordable housing options for Virginians.

This year, three proposals were selected to receive $500,000 in award money each.

“This program is really the first of its kind,” said Virginia Housing’s Director of Strategic Housing Chris Thompson. “We are making an intentional effort to spur innovation in affordable housing, and we’re getting some really great results.”

The Church Street Housing Development: Martinsville, Va.

Martinsville-Cottages-Credit-Nationwide-Homes.jpg  Martinsville-Townhomes-Credit-Nationwide-Homes.jpg
Images provided by Nationwide Custom Homes.

The Harvest Foundation and City of Martinsville are working together to increase housing stock for low- to middle-income homebuyers in the area’s Central Business District.

Modular home specialist Nationwide Homes and construction partner Silverpoint Homes will build and deliver 12 cottage-style modular homes and 15 townhomes priced between $120,000 and $150,000 and place them on land donated by the city.   
“While Martinsville is experiencing economic growth, people recruited to work here end up living outside the area,” said Jeff Sadler, Housing and Development Coordinator for Martinsville-Henry’s Economic Development Corporation. “We are investing in an area that hasn’t had much investment.”

Nationwide Homes is incorporating a number of cost-saving measures into the development, including reduced shipping costs (Nationwide is only a few miles from the building site); ordering materials in bulk; building the modular homes in bulk; and reduced crane rental fees, since three to four modular homes can be set up in a day as opposed to one stick-built home per day.

Virginia Tech: 3D Printed Home
While modular and manufactured homes reduce construction time and offer cost savings, shipping costs can still impact the pricing of these homes.

The Better Housing Coalition, Alchemy 3D LLC and The Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech are studying ways to further reduce housing costs by using 3D concrete-printed construction.

The group plans to construct one 3D-concrete printed home in the Greater Richmond area and develop a broad set of recommendations for 3D concrete house printing across the Commonwealth.

“This work will contribute to other important efforts around the U.S. aimed at understanding and reporting the performance of manufactured housing,” said Dr. Andrew McCoy, director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research. “Our goal is to show how this innovative technology can help reduce production process costs and make housing more affordable to produce.”

Rethinking Manufactured Housing
With help from the innovation grant, nonprofit project:Homes will place six modified modular homes in Richmond’s Bermuda Estates Manufactured Home Community, a park recently acquired by the organization.
“Our team is designing a new type of manufactured housing,” said Madeline Petrie, Director of Marketing and Communications for project:Homes. “They will fit on the same footprint as a traditional mobile home but be designed at a much higher quality and will last much longer.”

These hybrid homes will be HUD-certified, built to building code and have the ability to be placed in a mobile home park or on a private lot. The idea is to transform the traditional mobile home into something that will prevent residents from purchasing a depreciating asset and rather allow them to invest in a home that at the very least holds its wealth, while maintaining the strengths of the community itself.
Petrie said they have also partnered with the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech to analyze the process and create a report comparing the building efficiencies of the new manufactured homes to that of stick-built homes.

Interested in applying for a grant? The Innovation Demonstrations Program offers an open submission process, and inquiries can be made to:
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