Going PreFab, Habitat for Humanity Announces Plan for Factory Home Building in 2019



Habitat for Humanity has long had ties with former President Jimmy Carter. The former president and peanut farmer’s brother Billy Carter had significant positions in manufactured home operations, as has been previously reported on MHLivingNews and MHProNews.

Those facts were not mentioned by the Sonoma County Habitat for Humanity when they announced plans this week to secure a location for a production center to build prefabricated or prefab housing components.

Every person deserves a safe place to call home,” says the Sonoma County, Habitat for Humanity website.

Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County, CA released a new video “A Place for Humanity,” produced by PH Productions and DangerBrain.

The nonprofit has built some 36 homes since 1984. But they plan to dramatically change those numbers with this new prefab housing production center endeavor.

We’re doing great things in our community and moving forward in BIG ways. Habitat for Humanity is Building Together, Building a Future, Building Innovation, Building Opportunity, Building Momentum. Let’s Build the Future Together!” – per SoCo Habitat’s website.

The video above reveals at the end a home that looks similar in layout to a single sectional manufactured home.

Hannah Beausang for the Sonoma County, California Press Democrat wrote on 12.27.2018 that “Habitat for Humanity Sonoma County, part of the international faith-based group, plans to open a zero-waste factory that could harness paid and volunteer workers to churn out walls and floors for about 70 prefabricated homes each year, CEO Mike Johnson said. The nonprofit is seeking a warehouse in central Santa Rosa [CA] to create such a facility, which would be modeled after a similar Habitat for Humanity factory in Edmonton, Canada, Johnson said,” per Beausang’s narrative.

We are really committed to doing things differently … We have to lead that effort and do projects in ways that yield a lot more units for a lot less cost and a lot less time,” Johnson stated.

Habitat is hunting for a 16,000- to 20,000-square-foot warehouse in January, 2019. Johnson’s goal is for the factory to be operational by the end of March, 2019.

Fundraising will help cover the yet-to-be-determined costs of buying the land, according to Johnson.

In their vision, here are some details:

  • The prefab factory will cost an estimated $500,000 to operate annually,
  • The production center would have the capacity to create walls and floors for a home every two days.
  • Once components are created and delivered to construction sites, houses could be built in about two weeks.
  • Habitat for Humanity plans to partner with Napa-based Healthy Buildings, which already operates a similar production center.
  • Workers will be trained during the first series of walls and floors construction for Duncan Village, a 16-home affordable housing project in Windsor, CA.
  • Using the warehouse/factory, Habitat hopes to significantly scale up its production to produce 600 new homes in Sonoma County in the next eight years.
  • They note that the goal comes on the heels of last October’s wildfires which destroyed more than 5,300 homes there in Sonoma County.
  • The factory could also produce components for other developers, including the Habitat for Humanity in Butte County, CA, where nearly 14,000 homes were destroyed by fall 2018 Camp fire.
  • The nonprofit plans to partner with Santa Rosa Junior College to obtain an $8 million federal grant to build a 12,000- square-foot construction and trades training facility on the Petaluma campus, according to Nancy Miller. Miller is the college’s director of regional adult programs.
  • Presuming the funding is awarded next month, construction on the $10 million facility will be done in a parking lot in the back of the campus, and that too could begin this spring, said Miller.

The Santa Rosa Junior College training center could open as early as spring 2021, said the Press Democrat. They expect between 350 and 500 students to graduate annually from the skilled trade programs.

Habitat for Humanity staff would partner with the college for training students in prefabricated building and construction. Graduates will complete site-work training on Habitat building sites, as noted.

Coffee Time?

Factory-builders, investors, and professionals, this is just one project in a sea of affordable housing needs. There are some 8.3 million housing units needed in the U.S., according to figures from chief economist Lawrence Yun of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) earlier this year

Yet despite such huge needs, HUD Code manufactured housing may only produce some 100,000 (+/-) in 2018? And single family modular builders will produce far less than those numbers.

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