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Is Modular Affordable Housing the Key to the Housing Crisis?

modular affordable housing

The global lack of safe, affordable housing has reached a boiling point. Urgent and innovative solutions are needed to address the housing crisis and ensure safe, accessible, affordable, and sustainable housing for all. But is modular affordable housing that solution?

The Housing Crisis: How Did We Get Here?

To understand where we need to go next, we first need to understand how we got to where we are now. One of the primary contributors is the significant rise in housing costs, making homeownership and even rental options unaffordable for a large portion of the population. 

Regardless of location, housing is in high demand, limited supply, and the cost of land, construction, labor, and material have drastically increased. As of 2022, Associated Builders and Contractors estimates that the U.S. construction industry is over 650,000 workers short. Surveys by the National Association of Home Builders reported unprecedented shortages of lumber

As a result, even average-income people face increased competition for limited affordable options. In 2020, an estimated 30% of Americans paid more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. The social and economic implications of the housing crisis are profound. Families struggle to meet basic needs and face instability due to frequent moves or poor housing conditions. Entire communities are feeling the effects of affordable housing shortages, as it hinders economic growth, perpetuates income inequality, and strains social services. 

What is Modular Affordable Housing?

Modular affordable housing uses pre-fabricated modules that are manufactured off-site and assembled on-site, aiming to provide cost-effective and adaptable solutions to our ever-growing housing needs.

How modular buildings work

Modular buildings require the hand-built construction of individual building components, known as modules, in a factory-like setting. These half-built wooden modules are then transported to the construction site and stitched together to create a complete structure. 

Modular builds offer some benefits, but it has plenty of drawbacks, too: 

The benefits of modular construction

  • Affordability: Modular construction offers cost advantages through streamlined manufacturing processes, bulk material purchasing, and reduced labor costs.
  • Speed: With modules being prefabricated off-site, modular construction significantly reduces construction time by allowing simultaneous on-site and off-site work, resulting in faster project completion.
  • Scalability: Modular construction allows for easy scalability, as additional modules can be added or removed to adapt to changing needs, making it an adaptable solution for various housing demands.

The problems with modular construction

  • Quality: Ensuring consistent quality across all modules and addressing potential issues related to transportation and on-site assembly remains a challenge, primarily due to the use of inferior materials like drywall and wood.
  • Long-term durability: Residents struggle with the structural integrity of their modular buildings, requiring careful monitoring and maintenance, again, largely due to the easily damaged materials used in production.
  • Maintenance of modular homes: Maintaining modular homes may require specialized knowledge and resources, as unique aspects of modular construction, such as connections between modules, are often clumsily stitched together on-site.

The United States needs about 3.8 million more homes to keep up with population growth and to ensure accessible housing prices for middle-income and lower-income communities. Is modular the answer?

Is Modular Housing a Solution to the Affordable Housing Crisis?

No. Not yet. But it could be. 

If we could retain (and improve upon) the benefits of modular construction and solve the issues associated with modular, then yes, modular affordable housing could be a scalable solution to our pressing housing needs. But current modular construction methods are inefficient and low quality, built by hand from fragile wood and drywall. 

How Modular Construction Needs to Change Before It’d Be a Viable Housing Solution

As things currently stand, modular construction is not the answer. So, how could it get there?

Change the materials and methods of affordable modular housing.

First and most importantly, modular construction (and all forms of construction) need to ditch fragile, outdated, and unsustainable materials like wood, drywall, and paint. Most modular homes are still built by hand from these materials.

Not only is this wasteful, inconsistent, slow, and expensive, but it doesn’t hold up to the shipping and on-site assembly methods required by modular construction. One of the primary problems with modularly constructed homes is cracking, leaking, and severe issues with the building’s integrity. 

Quantum Assembly fabricates modules without wood, drywall, or paint — blocks are built from steel and near-indestructible paneling so that they can withstand transportation and on-site assembly.

Expand financing and funding options.

Due to the fragility and poor quality of wooden, hand-built modular buildings, obtaining financing has been understandably difficult for developers. If the materials and methods for modular development can be improved the way Quantum Assembly has done, it may become easier for those improved modular projects to secure financing.

Because of Quantum’s unique approach to prefabricated modular buildings, financing affordable housing projects built by Quantum Assembly has become easier and faster than traditionally constructed projects.

Improve product scalability, consistency, sustainability, and quality.

Because developers have had such negative experiences with wooden, hand-built modular construction, developers and cities have been understandably hesitant to consider modular affordable housing projects. Many communities have instead turned to one-off ADUs and poorly constructed “tiny homes” to try to combat their local affordable housing crisis. But this solution is just as ineffective and unscalable as modular projects.

Currently, the only scalable, high-quality, long-lasting solution to the affordable housing crisis is Quantum Assembly’s approach to prefabricated, modularly assembled buildings. Here’s why.

Quantum Assembly Has Reinvented Modular Build Methods

Quantum Assembly has approached affordable housing as a product — lower cost, lower rate of error and inconsistency, and easy to replicate and scale. We’ve taken the best elements of modular (off-site fabrication, the ability to ship blocks to rural areas, and rapid on-site assembly) and eliminated its shortcomings (expensive, inconsistent products built by hand, fragile materials that don’t withstand shipping and assembly). 

We’ve achieved this through the highest-grade materials, advanced automation techniques that fabricate modular blocks like an automotive factory, and prefabricated units that arrive on-site already 95% complete. So although most modular affordable housing companies are not a realistic, long-term solution to the housing crisis, Quantum Assembly is.

That’s because Quantum Assembly isn’t modular housing. We share the best characteristics but are ultimately nothing like any modular construction you’ve ever seen.

In the struggle to provide safe, high-quality housing to the people and communities who need it most, the stakes are too high to trust modular homes built from wood and plaster. Contact a Quantum Assembly representative now to learn how our approach to modular affordable housing has been completely redesigned to prioritize people and the planet.

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