Google plans 300 modular units in tight San Francisco market

Dive Brief:

  • Google parent Alphabet Inc. is planning to buy 300 apartment units, worth up to $30 million in total, from modular-home fabricator Factory OS as likely short-term housing for Google workers in the San Francisco Bay Area, according to The Wall Street Journal.

  • Modular housing units made in a factory and assembled on-site could reduce construction costs in the Bay Area by 20% to 50%, according to experts cited by the Journal. So far, however, developers nationwide haven't seen the level of cost savings they were expecting from the emerging construction method.

  • Factory OS says it will begin producing Google’s units this fall, employing 300 people at its 260,000-square-foot facility in Vallejo, CA, to do so.

Dive Insight:

Developers in the San Francisco Bay Area are searching for ways to offset the lack of affordably priced inventory brought on by the region’s tech boom. Four key counties in the Bay Area each have 10,000 fewer rental units than are needed to house locals requiring affordable units. And among residents there, those making less than 50% of the counties’ area median incomes spend more than half of their income on rent.

To help alleviate pressure on the region’s housing stock, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors recently approved the city's Affordable Housing Bonus Program, which aims to create around 5,000 affordable units in the next two decades. Under the new program, developers can earn up to two extra floors of space if 30% of the project's units are deemed affordable, with apartments priced at 55% to 110% of the area median income and condos at 90% to 140% of the AMI.

California, as a whole, is behind when it comes to producing enough homes to meet demand. State senators recently passed a series of bills to combat the inventory shortage across the state by adding more funds for development and streamlining the approvals process.

The state isn’t alone. Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $20 billion, five-year plan to invest in new and existing affordable inventory.

Others in the industry are getting creative when it comes to producing more housing. Designers Beomki Lee and Chang Kyu Lee have floated the idea of using a modular structure built on top of existing, low-rise buildings in New York City to generate more affordable housing, according to Dezeen. The concept scheme calls for filling unused air space with affordable units and public space, re-imagining the typical urban high-rise.

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Filed Under: Residential Building