“This is historic,” said San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco, per the Mercury News.
Councilman Johnny Khamis expressed what they described as sticker shock, saying, “This seems exorbitant for recycled metal boxes, quite frankly.”
The price per unit? The ‘all in’ cost is said to be some $600,000 for a 250 square foot container house, which Rachel VanderVeen, a deputy director in the city’s Housing Department, said was $2,500 per square foot.
There are several things that may be described as “historic” in this case, which on the surface seems to be an disgraceful example of wasted taxpayer resources, more insult to manufactured homes, and what could be some levels of corruption.
This plan in San Jose originally was supposed to involve the use of manufactured homes, per KTVU, a Fox Newsaffiliate. That media report said, “The project was to initially put temporary manufactured home[s] on Evans Lane. After pushback from neighbors, it’s now evolved into permanent shipping container-sized apartments for the homeless.”
To set the context, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 report of July 2018 data said that the average price of a single section manufactured home in the Western U.S. was “$59,300.” That’s compared to the national average of a single sectional HUD Code manufactured home of some “$52,000,” per the same Census report.
Rephrased, even allowing for estimated site and higher California costs, this project could have had some 7 to 8 larger – and federally certified – manufactured homes for the same cost as one tiny container housing unit. That sounds outrageous on its face, if not outright shady.
The proposal is said to have a few more “hurdles, including securing city funding from the council in February. But the project, the Planning Commission said in a recent memo to the council, furthers the city’s long-term goals to get more of its 4,000 or so homeless people off the streets,” according to the Mercury News.
So, there still may be time to change this #nettlesome outcome.
And are residents of San Jose really going to accept recycled container units over new manufactured homes? If so, manufactured home professional readers, there is more work to be done in that area about our industry’s image than you may realize.
The Mercury News noted that “In Oakland, for instance, people have purchased shipping container homes for well under $100,000.”
In what may be a different and unrelated project, Bloomberg reported over 2 years ago that “a billionaire” real estate developer named John Sobrato was behind an effort to bring container housing for “200 micro-apartments for homeless and low-income renters in Santa Clara…” That should raise concerns over what may be occurring behind-the-scenes in this case in nearby San Jose, CA.
Given that a HUD PD&R had issued a favorable report on manufactured homes being used as infill in nearby Oakland, this would look to be another ideal case for a city to embrace enhanced preemption for HUD Code manufactured homes.
Using manufactured homes in a case like this one could:
- house more people,
- provide more space per household,
- for a lower cost per unit and per square foot, and
- could accomplish that more rapidly, in part, due to federally mandated “enhanced preemption” provided by law, as a result of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000. See the related reports, further below the byline and notices.
- And per third-party, university level research, those manufactured homes could appreciate side-by-side with any conventional housing nearby.
Affordable housing, taxpayer, industry, policy, and other advocates – this is another brisk wake up call. If they are using the terminology in these reports correctly, this is possibly severe ignorance, prejudice, corruption or some combination of those factors afoot in this matter.
The proverbial ‘something stinks’ isn’t somewhere overseas, it may dwell in the back yard of a city in supposedly broad-minded Silicon Valley. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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