Amazon has entered the prefabricated housing market in their offer of a house for 50,000 Canadian dollars or 37,000 U.S. dollars. Made in Beijing by Hebei Weizhengheng Modular House Technology company this house comes resplendent with solar panels, a kitchen and bathroom, and all wiring and plumbing in place for hook up to local systems.
Delivery to your site does cost an additional $1000 U.S. dollars.
The house itself appears to be a shipping container but is already drawing criticism from small home builders. As the founder of Tiny Home Builders observes in the Seattle P-I:
“This container home’s pricing is not unreasonable for a 20-foot home.Yet although it’s touted as a “container home. This does not appear to be a true shipping container conversion, so quality and rigidity may not be as high.”
Other issues include building materials that may not be the same in North America, andt the cost of accessing electrical services and city sewers.
With a 25 day time from order to arrival, the 20 by 40 foot house’s location will need to be approved by local planning authorities, and if is ancillary to the main dwelling you will need to figure out the correct location on the lot. Of course you will need concrete footings to place the dwelling, and potentially a crane to move the house into place.
You can take a look at the modular house on Amazon’s website here.
You can also look at a shaky YouTube video of the fabrication of one of these houses in the plant in China below.
Given the context of current China-US trade negotiations, the appearance of the Beijing manufactured home on Amazon and for sale in the US is, well, a bit hilarious. One can see in the future an invasion of very low cost, efficient living pods, appealing to the eye, forming a rich settlement of the empty spaces found in America, the land of opportunity. So much for trade imbalances.
Seriously though living pods will not be coming from far away on a container ship, they are far more likely to be towed down the road on wheels from a nearby manufacturer. Hopefully when they arrive they will be constructed of renewable materials requiring low processing, they will have an insulated weatherproof envelope, they will be fitted with energy efficient fixtures and appliances, and they will attach with pins to four concrete piers on footings previously prepared on site.
There are only 100,000 or so lots of land in the city of Vancouver, and perhaps 10x that number of households who might like to live in Vancouver.
Tiny homes like this should be legalized everywhere, but they aren’t going to resolve the shortage. A $50K home that, by law, requires $2M in land, is not a solution in Vancouver. (but should still be legalized on every lot/block/neighbourhood in Metro – they will work for some people in some places and we should stop using bylaws to tell people how to live)
Standalone tiny homes make no sense whatsoever in an urban context where land is very expensive – unless perhaps as a garage or extra housing in a yard as a second dwelling as costs are a little lower than built onsite. Of course one still needs a permit, a concrete pad or screw piles to anchor it, sewer/water/gas connections, etc and that is why overall, prefab is not a lot cheaper than constructed onsite and that is why it is still fairly rare.
Several firms offer that prefab context in various sizes, from “tiny” to “not so tiny”, for example Honomobo ( https://www.honomobo.com/ ) , MMM ( https://www.triplemhousing.com/ ) and/or Moduline ( http://moduline.ca/ ) in Canada.
If course, stacked, ie modular housing, pre-fabricated make sense as we see near the Olympic Village station off 2nd Ave in an urban context, not so much because it is far cheaper, but because it is faster.