The future of affordable housing may look a lot like Legos.
The world’s tallest modular high-rise is underway in Brooklyn, N.Y., slated to go up next to the gleaming new Barclay’s Center Arena, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. But first, the apartments are assembled “factory style” at a site two miles away, where they will be loaded, transported, and eventually “snapped” into place in the 32-story tower, according to Forbes.
The first tower, to be finished in December, will be made of 363 rental apartments but is part of a larger $4.9 billion project that will include 6,430 apartments, 2,250 of which are set aside as “affordable housing.”
Each apartment takes about 20 days to manufacture. “And we’ll get faster,” Susan Jenkins, vice president of Skanska, one of the companies behind the modular construction, told Forbes. “This is bringing the best of manufacturing and construction together.”
Developers, who were obligated to build the affordable units as part of the Barclay’s Center deal with the city, are counting on the “assembly line” approach to cut costs by 15 to 20 percent and perhaps more. A typical 1,000-square-foot apartment in New York costs $330,000 to build, and developers estimate that modular construction will shave that price to $275,000.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a platform of equality between New York City’s haves and have-nots, and an ambitious affordable housing plan plays a big role in that. In fact, he plans to add 200,000 affordable housing units in the next 10 years, which would be more units than former Mayors Ed Koch or Michael Bloomberg saved or added during their tenures.
The city is struggling to maintain its 334 housing projects with the cut of federal funds, and few new developments are in the price range of low- or even middle-income New Yorkers, according to the New York Times.
“The shift we need to see to put a dent in our affordability crisis is, we want developers to build what the city needs, rather than just get stuff built," Moses Gates, director of housing development, told the Times.