Seattle-based Common Ground is studying shipping containers, modular apartments and other alternative structures as part of a plan to create more affordable low-income housing in Washington state, according to a report released Monday.
According to the nonprofit developer, the average development cost of a new rental housing unit in Washington state is approximately $200,000. That’s roughly double the national average, making it more difficult to build affordable housing here. The state also has been “relatively conservative” about what types of housing can be built with public money. That tendency makes it more difficult for developers such as Common Ground to adopt innovative approaches to affordable housing, the report said.
Common Ground has identified types of housing units that could become a cost-effective means to providing more affordable housing. These include: micro apartment complexes, with units between 100 square feet to 350 square feet in size with shared kitchens, dining spaces and communal lounges; prefabricated modular apartment units that can be assembled on-site to create two-story mini-complexes of six to eight units; metal shipping containers that can be turned into stand-alone housing units or stacked into multifamily apartment projects; and apartment complexes consisting entirely of studio units with common areas and on-site services. Other alternatives include: small housing units similar to row houses with adaptable electrical layouts that allow for future expansion or rearrangement; and micro hotels with small rooms or sleeping pods and carrels, semi-private cubicles, as an alternative to mass shelters.
In the next stage of its research, Common Ground will develop specific guidelines for several of these housing models and identify sites where pilot projects could be built.