Habitat for Humanity is breaking new ground in the affordable-housing space. The nonprofit organization is in the final stages of construction on a 3D-printed home located in Tempe, Arizona. Based on the project's size and affordability, the 1,700-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is the first of its kind in the U.S.
And if this project is successful, the company should be able to scale it easily to help meet the rapidly growing affordable-housing shortage.
What does the project hope to solve?
Since COVID-19 began making its way around the world, housing affordability has been on the decline. Stagnant wages, increasing costs for building materials, and fierce competition in many markets have led to many single-family homes becoming too costly for blue-collar workers.
A recent Attom Data Solutions survey found that renting a home is more affordable than buying one in 59% of U.S. housing markets, and this was pre-pandemic when housing prices were even lower. The Habitat for Humanity home is energy-efficient, low-waste, and, most importantly, low cost, allowing homeowners to live within their means.
How much does it cost?
Habitat for Humanity has not released the exact numbers on the project yet, so we don't have a concrete answer. However, to get a ballpark figure, we can compare Habitat for Humanity's project to other 3D-printed homes.
Aside from the cost of the printer, which can run anywhere from $180,000 to $1 million, the cost of building a 3D-printed home can be as little as $4,000 for the structure (i.e., the base, walls, roof, and sometimes the wiring). Or for a larger, more complex structure, 3D-printed homes can run anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000.
While this may seem high for an unfinished house, consider that a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 1,700-square-foot home in the same area costs more than $400,000 -- and it was built in the 80s!
Assuming the Habitat for Humanity project is on the upper end of averages, it will still cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less than comparable houses in the area. Once more project details are released, the price per home will still vary. The 3D portion should be consistent, but the cost of building materials and labor will differ by location and the prices at the time the home is built.
Is this the future of affordable housing?
From an affordability perspective, a 3D home really shines when it is produced in large quantities. To buy the printer and research and engineer the first model will obviously come with significantly higher costs, but when that same home is repeatedly produced, a 3D home becomes affordable.
If the right real estate development companies purchase the machines and produce the same model or similar models at scale, 3D printing could absolutely be a viable way to fill housing needs. Creating affordable housing in the coming years can be a much-needed and lucrative investment opportunity.