Kick-Starting Housing Innovation

Housing Innovation Project Seeks to Build a

New Home at Prices That Compete With Today’s Resale Homes

If we could modify codes and incorporate new building materials and techniques could we construct a home today that would be safe, durable and at a price that competes with existing homes?

That’s a question that a group of Twin Cities housing experts is now tackling. The Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee and Local Government Issues Working Group of Housing First Minnesota have taken on this challenge. These groups began work on the initiative last year.

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A New Look at Construction

Using a home design that one builder has been building for three decades, the group is examining all the changes in construction techniques, materials and codes over the past 30 years to see what efficiencies can be achieved. By examining changes in state regulatory policies and in technology, the group hopes to develop a safe, durable, attractive, saleable home at a more affordable price.

Starting from foundation excavation and working all the way through the construction process, this group has worked through each phase of the construction process and developed a proposed work plan. Builders and subcontractors are now being asked to “bid” on the project, giving the group its first look at how affordable this home could be.

Rethinking the Development Process

Physically building the home is only part of the equation. Delivering an affordable, attractive, entry-level home also requires rethinking every step in the development process to get to a lower lot price.

Members of the Local Government Issues Working Group are tackling the land development and permitting process for local government units. They are looking at items such as lot sizes, setbacks, in-development infrastructure, off-site improvements, water management, land rationing policies, and park and permit fees. To aid the group in its work, they have been reviewing best practices from cities across Minnesota.

For example, Waconia city officials worked with developers and builders to reduce the cost of homes as it sought to attract more townhome projects. “Waconia is a great example of a city taking a forward-thinking approach to affordability,” said David Siegel, executive director of Housing First Minnesota. In similar fashion, the city of North St. Paul and a developer collaborated on bringing a new affordable townhome project to the community.

Kick-Starting Innovation

Housing First Minnesota believes this is just the beginning of a wave of innovation that will sweep across housing construction in Minnesota. Both project teams hope to demonstrate to state and local governments what is possible – more affordable construction through partnerships. This may prove to be a template for workforce housing as well as providing an affordable product more broadly.

Support from government partners to make this first cost-busting home a reality is essential and can help establish Minnesota as a leader in home construction innovation.