Smaller, Faster, and Creative: Innovations in Affordable Single-Family Home Construction

Sam LaTronica

Innovations in single-family home construction are badly needed. Studies show that every county in the U.S. is facing an affordable housing shortage. Homeownership is increasingly out of reach for many would-be first-time homebuyers, and if younger couples and families can afford to purchase their own home, they increasingly have to wait longer to buy or lower their expectations.Many homebuilders are emerging from the housing bust by building fewer but larger and more expensive houses for wealthier homebuyers, underscoring the lack of opportunities for low-income buyers. The excess of single-family homes built before the recession also gives pause to younger buyers that are wary of procuring a mortgage. For these reasons, community development corporations (CDCs) must explore a range of techniques to develop single-family housing that is affordable to first-time homebuyers. This paper examines current innovations in affordable single-family home construction and their associated opportunities and challenges. This paper includes lessons learned by CDCs that have experimented with these innovations and recommendations to CDCs that are interested in doing the same.