More than 75,000 kit homes in 400 different styles were ordered from Sears Roebuck and Co. and put together by the people who bought them a century ago. A new White House proposal aims to fill a need for affordable starter homes with a new generation of manufactured homes.
The Sears kit home has many examples still standing in good shape in Kansas City, where Upzoned Host Abby Kinney lives and works. Those homes arrived on railroad cars and were assembled by the homeowners, for the most part. They were somewhat more complex than the modern manufactured home, but the concept is similar.
Kinney and her guest, Strong Towns Senior Editor Daniel Herriges, talk over the possibility that manufactured homes might be a realistic approach to the problems encountered by people seeking affordable housing in 2022 and beyond.
The question is brought to the podcast this week by an article in Bloomberg’s CityLab called, “Factory-Built Homes Could Make a Comeback as Affordable Housing.”
“We just can’t continue to build the houses we grew up in,” says U.S. Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge in the CityLab piece. “These houses are more efficient, more resilient. But the other thing is, we need so much new housing. These can be built quickly, installed quickly. They are at a great cost point. And so it is a big part of the solution.”
A 450-square-foot manufactured home model can be purchased and assembled for $100,000, resulting in a mortgage payment below $1,000 per month, Kinney notes. But stigma surrounding whether they fit into a neighborhood, issues with financing, and zoning hurdles remain unaddressed.
But the potential to provide affordable, safe options in many overheated housing markets—perhaps even as accessory dwelling units—is undeniable, says Herriges. “How does this reshape the American landscape if it catches on big?”
Find out on this week’s episode of Upzoned.