City issues first affordable housing RFP requiring modular construction

Idea is to speed up construction, cut costs

Credit: Google
Credit: Google

The city’s requests for proposals often come with affordable housing requirements, but this one has a rare proviso: The vision for an L-shaped lot will need to be a modular one.

The Department of Housing Preservation and Development is issuing an RFP on Thursday for a mixed-use modular building in East New York. The city-owned site — which spans 49,397 square feet — sits on Eldert Lane between Pitkin and Glenmore avenues. The RFP calls for a project that is “100 percent affordable.”

According to HPD, this is the first time in history that the city is issuing an RFP for affordable housing that explicitly requires modular construction.

The RFP follows the city’s pledge late last year to explore modular construction as a means to build affordable housing more swiftly and cost-effectively. In March, HPD issued requests for information and interest in building modular housing for low-income tenants and seniors. At the time, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said the goal was to master mid-rise, modular multifamily development to help meet the city’s increase affordable housing goals (the creation or preservation of 300,000 residential units by 2026). The city received 38 responses to the request for information, according to HPD.

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“Innovations in building and design technology can help us move faster and smarter,” Glen said in a statement. “The Grant Avenue RFP will be key to developing our understanding of how modular housing can work for the New York market.”

This construction method can be especially tricky in New York. The pre-fabricated parts of the building — modules — are made offsite. Storing these materials can prove problematic when dealing with the city’s often-cramped construction sites. There’s also a dearth of modular manufacturers in the city.

Still, modular construction has gained traction in the last few years with a few private developers and construction companies. The method was eventually used in the city’s Build it Back program to build single-family homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy, mostly in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

At the East New York site, the city will give preference to bidders who set aside “a significant proportion of units that serve very low- and low-income households,” according to HPD. The project is expected to include space for commercial or community use. Bids are due by Sept. 10.