Sunday, June 1, 2014

Massachusetts Sends Mixed Signals about Modular Housing

A recent editorial in the Boston Globe has identified the Boston housing market as a great place for modular housing to help the need for up to 30,000 new housing units over the next decade.
The need for new mid-priced units is vast throughout eastern Massachusetts; in the city of Boston itself, some 30,000 of them need to be produced over the next decade just to meet existing demands.
There are two problems with this statement. First, MA is one of the most over regulated, anti-modular construction states in the US. Secondly, a local volunteer fire chief and a Fox TV reporter have made a fire started by the owner himself of a modular home into a witch hunt against all modular housing in the state.


The editorial goes on to say that someone should build a factory somewhere in MA to supply these housing units, both single family and multi-family. There is a ton of modular factory capacity just waiting to ship into MA but no, they suggest only buying from a state sponsored factory. I've always known that MA was its own little fiefdom and this proves it.
Traditionally, the building trades — which were formerly headed by Walsh himself — have pushed hard for so-called stick-built construction over less-expensive manufacturing techniques. Construction workers may well resent the sight of entire walls with doors and windows intact arriving in Allston, Hyde Park, Dorchester, or other Boston neighborhoods on flatbed trucks from out-of-state factories. But there is room for a workable compromise, and Walsh is in a good position to negotiate it: Manufactured homes could be built in Massachusetts factories with unionized labor. Then, as more area communities take advantage of the economies of scale, construction prices would drop even further.
Even if a factory could get started within the borders of MA, it would likely take a year to build it and get into production and burdened with mind numbing bureaucracy along the way. The solution would be to ease up on regulations for modular housing that is not imposed on site built homes and also to allow established factories easier access to the home buying public. 

CLICK HERE to read the Boston Globe editorial.

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