On Wednesday, June 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in a press release a research grant opportunity to study offsite construction and land use reforms. The “notice of funding opportunity” (NOFO) is to “build the evidence base to accelerate the adoption of innovative and effective practices and policies to increase the production and supply of quality, affordable housing.”
In the specifications, this NOFO will provide up to $4 million to …
Proposals are due August 1.
So, why would the HUD get involved? According to the HUD website, they’re the federal government organization “responsible for national policy and programs that address America’s housing needs, that improve and develop the Nation’s communities, and that enforce fair housing laws.” Their involvement is a direct correlation to cities’ housing shortages that is driving up the cost of houses and rent. In some cases, this shortage of affordable housing is driving families to other cities or causing homelessness. It makes sense for HUD to want more housing.
When it comes to land use, various zoning laws make building difficult. Zoning indicates how areas can be used, such as whether the land can be used for commercial or residential purposes down to whether a residential house can have an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU). Getting permits and working around that system is challenging, if not impossible.
Many major cities are looking at changing local laws to figure out how to change things. Now, the federal government has stepped in to help.
So, what could this NOFO do to help? It addresses some of the issues already defined above, such as removing land use barriers and improving housing affordability. The grant opportunity also provides ideas outside of what the HUD typically helps address.
Since the grant focuses on studying off-site construction and/or land use reforms, it can address the need for affordable and sustainable housing solutions, especially in urban areas where available land is limited or zoned differently. It could also prove it’s cheaper to make offsite construction housing, too.
Off-site construction reduces waste generation, minimizes environmental impact, and improves energy efficiency. By incentivizing research in this field, HUD could promote sustainable practices — reducing carbon emissions and getting green building practices.
This grant could offer numerous construction recommendations that further improve efficiency, reduce construction time, increase cost savings, and enhance quality control. It could even provide standards that make it easier to build while reducing the number of permits needed and the length of time to get permits.
City leaders are clamoring for affordable housing as well as how to increase cheap housing availability. Some cities are already taking the extraordinary step to invest in offsite construction for the homeless. And a few cities are piloting programs with nonprofit and for-profit organizations to make offsite construction available for larger groups of people.
Whatever the results of the research, this will either increase city leaders’ appetite for more offsite building … or less. It can inform if the federal government does anything as well, whether they can help invest in this using infrastructure money or come up with other ways to ensure affordable and available housing.
Research plays a crucial role in shaping evidence-based policies. By funding studies on offsite construction and land use reforms, HUD aims to generate valuable insights and data that can inform future policy decisions at the federal, state, and city levels.
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