Liv-Connected Team Lobbies DC Lawmakers
October 15, 2023
Modular housing offers a solution to the current housing crisis in the United States. Typically, 15-20% less expensive per square foot than traditional site-built homes of similar quality, modular housing costs are lower because they are built in a controlled factory setting, created with less waste and lower labor costs. Modular homes can also be built up to 50% faster than traditional homes. The problem: There are inherent obstacles to purchasing and building modular homes, which stem from archaic building regulations, written more than 50 years ago.
Liv-Connected, a company specializing in modular home design, identified impediments to making modular homes affordable and accessible. The company’s architectural team recently traveled to Washington, D.C. in hopes of addressing this problem and offering a potential solution to U.S. lawmakers.
The Quest to Simplify Homebuilding
Home building is a difficult proposition. It is unaffordable for most, and for those with the resources to build, it is a time-consuming and complicated endeavor. This is due to an approval process that differs in every municipality and is dependent on the often-strained resources of building departments and inspectors. The typical home building process requires a bevy of professionals to assist in navigating and facilitating that process.
Modular houses are no different than site-built homes in that the parcel of land they will be installed upon, and the same applicable local codes must be identified before construction can begin on either building model. This is because inspection requirements and code enforcement is inconsistent from town to town. An exception to this in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Minimum Property Standard (MPS), which supersedes local code regulations in 36 states and many other municipalities and could allow manufactured homes to be built in bulk just like automobiles. A single code for all modular building projects, similar to the model set by HUD, could have an enormous impact on the availability of manufactured homes to a country experiencing an unprecedented housing shortage. It would translate to tremendous efficiencies in material cost and construction times, reducing the time and labor it takes to erect a house from years to a matter of weeks, further lowering the cost to buyers.
However, this exception includes a major drawback. HUD mandates that manufactured homes must include a chassis, or trailer – a reflection of the double-wide trailer industry’s approach to building in the 1970s when this exception was codified. This requirement disqualifies modular homes from overarching federal approval, dampening the potential for further innovation and newer technologies since.
Making the Case for Change
Last week, Liv-Connected co-founder and COO Jordan Rogove and director of operations Allysa Taylor (top) traveled to Washington, D.C. with the intent to meet with senators and house representatives to explain the role this requirement had in preventing ingenuity in lower cost housing models, and to appeal for a revision to the HUD language.
Incredibly, Liv-Connected was not alone in identifying the chassis requirement as an impediment to less expensive housing. The team learned that Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina is including the very text change Liv-Connected was proposing in the Renewing Opportunity in the American Dream (ROAD) to Housing Act. This bill, which is specifically intended to tackle the housing crisis, will be introduced to the Senate floor later this year.
Upon discovering this legislation already in process, the Liv team began building a bi-partisan coalition to push the bill forward. “The housing crisis is one of the few remaining issues that can and should see broad support from both sides of the aisle,” said Rogove. “We focused our meetings on finding allies who are as determined to find solutions to the housing crisis as we are. The excitement about us possibly finding a way to solve an issue as vexing as housing was palpable and clearly appreciated.”
Representative Chuck Edwards of North Carolina was the first on the House side to offer co-sponsorship. Representative Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania, home to the factory where Liv-Connected homes are manufactured by Atomic Homes, also offered his support for the bill.
Liv-Connected then met with the staff of Congressman Dan Goldman of New York, home to the company’s Manhattan headquarters. Affordable housing has been a long-time focus of their efforts as custodians of the most populated city in the country. Goldman’s staff was highly attuned to the challenges of making housing affordable and offered their assistance. They also saw the potential for modular as a solution for larger-scale, multi-family housing in higher density locations like New York City.
Rogove and Taylor also met with staff from Florida Congressman Carlos Gimenez, New York Congressman Mike Lawler, and Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie.
“We were so grateful that these lawmakers and their staff took such an interest in this issue,” said Taylor. “Many of them saw quickly how this small legislative change would alter the landscape and unlock the benefits of modular as a solid solution to housing.”
The construction industry, and the building of homes in particular, has been an outlier when it comes to leveraging technology to achieve greater efficiency. Most buildings currently built employ methods and materials largely unchanged since the 1960s, while the manufacture of most other products have been modernized to allow for the investment of less cost and time to produce goods.
“There are a series of factors out of our control that are pushing home prices up, inflation and rising interest rates chief among them,” said Rogove. “One tool that we do have at our disposal is to find a more efficient, environmentally friendly, and inexpensive way to build that will offset those other factors and bring ownership back into reach for as many people as possible. Opening HUD to innovation and competition is certainly a giant step in that direction.”
Photo credit: Liv-Connected
December 3, 2023 | Business
Re-Bath Growth Reflected in Agreements with Existing Franchisees