As the government lifts Covid-19 protections, the U.S. will face what many are calling an “avalanche of evictions.” Especially after the pandemic, the eviction crisis will push tenants to fight for more sustainable housing.
The affordable housing movement focuses on combating issues such as economic disparities and environmental risks on human health. In addition to durable, energy sufficient housing, they hope to provide more housing near transportation and medical services. More notably, however, they demand better protections against the environmental health hazards found in poorly-built housing.
Innovations in affordable and sustainable housing
Housing startup Boxabl aims to standardize sustainable, affordable living. Recently, the company has created the Casita: its solution to the affordable housing trend. The Casita is a 20×20, 375 sq ft. “Accessory Dwelling Unit” that costs contractors $50,000, and tenants up to $250 a month. The Casita claims to be “more durable and energy efficient than traditional homes.”
Boxabl first tested its Casita models in Las Vegas in early 2020. Today, Boxabl has announced its partnership with Permits.com called CodeComply, as a part of their expansion to larger, urban areas. CodeComply, according to Compliance Coordinator Stephanie Ostertag, helps buyers quickly place a Boxabl living unit on their property.
Most importantly, this enables “quick research into state codes, municipal codes, and zoning requirements.”
Boxabl’s Galiano Tiramani says that Boxabl aims to mass-produce low-cost housing. By partnering with Permits.com, they can drastically save the time and cost needed to deploy a new home.
“While automating is good in that it provides less room for error and bias, we think of standardization as a more important thing to focus on,” Ostertag said. “Getting this right unlocks the potential for developers, contractors and municipal planners to focus on the environmental and sustainable impacts of each project faster.”
Bringing affordable housing to the inner-city
Unfortunately, cities like New York and San Francisco no longer dominate the conversation around affordable housing. Factors such as gentrification and land use regulations have worsened the gap between income and housing costs. Cost-burdened Americans have doubled since the 1960s according to a 2018 Harvard University report.
Undoubtedly, this makes the gap between living costs and income a widespread urban issue. As the demand for low-cost urban housing has almost doubled, affordable constructions typically cut costs by using environmentally hazardous materials. This leaves tenants and their environment unprotected in close quarters.
According to Ostertag, CodeComply has helped install homes from rural properties in Maine, to trailer parks in Atlanta, to even backyards of homes in Berkeley.
However, in terms of pushing Boxabl to urban spaces, they’ve been looking into putting Boxabls in the backyards of inner-city homes—notably in areas prone to flooding. In terms of the environmental impact of low-cost housing, inner-city homes and displacement is often the first target of climate-caused catastrophes, as evidenced by Katrina.
“Everyone deserves to live in safe, beautiful communities,” Ostertag states. “Boxabl is filling that need and they are doing so in a way that makes it practical for anyone to achieve.
Jessica is a writer based in NYC, with bylines at Vox and EGMNOW. You can pitch her stories at jessica [at] therising.co