Offsite Home: ZenniHomes
Utah is facing a major challenge when it comes to the cost of housing. Homeownership is becoming increasingly unattainable for average workers, and rising rents are making it difficult to find affordable apartments. This issue has been a point of contention in recent mayoral debates in Salt Lake City, and it has caught the attention of Governor Spencer Cox, who is urging cities to find solutions to increase the housing supply.
To address this pressing problem, state and local leaders, academics, and developers recently gathered at the Innovations in Housing Affordability Summit at the University of Utah. One potential solution that was highlighted at the summit is factory-built housing. According to researcher Dejan Eskic, 77.2% of Utah households cannot afford a median-priced home. Additionally, a report from Ivory Innovations, a nonprofit arm of Ivory Homes, revealed that the United States had a deficit of 3.8 million housing units in 2020.
Factory-built housing involves constructing homes in factories with the use of steel, automation, and 3D printing technology. This approach offers several advantages. It allows for high-quality, quickly-built homes that generate minimal waste and pollution. Factory-built housing is also less constrained by the limitations of a tight labor market, short building seasons, and the need for variety.
Companies across the Mountain West are setting up factories to expedite the delivery of much-needed housing units. ZenniHome, for example, is developing modular homes that utilize steel and advanced technology. These homes are designed to be stackable and transportable. Other examples of affordable housing projects using factory-built modular homes and apartments have been successful in cities like Seattle and Mesa, Arizona.
Despite the many benefits of factory-built housing, navigating the complex web of state and local laws remains a major hurdle. However, Salt Lake City has taken the lead in adopting off-site construction standards, making it easier to bring factory-built units into the city. Efforts are also being made by the Utah League of Cities and Towns to support this innovation by addressing regulatory challenges.
While progress is being made, there are still concerns about ensuring that cost-savings from factory-built houses are passed on to homebuyers. It is hoped that new rules and regulations will be introduced during the upcoming legislative session in Utah to support and expand the use of factory-built homes as a solution to the state’s affordable housing crisis.