New Houses for $150,000

by James A. Bacon

It remains an eternal mystery why it costs in the realm of $250,000 or more per unit to build apartment buildings for the poor in the Richmond region. The Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is delivering five new houses on their own lots near downtown Danville, for a sales price as little as $130,000.

According to a feature article published by Virginia Community Capital (VCC), which helped finance the project, the homes sit on large lots and have brick foundations, covered front porches, driveways and carports. The houses have low operating, maintenance and utility costs. Buyers can choose finishing touches such as granite countertops and hardwood floors, which could push the sales price up to $150,000.

The cost of housing in this project is still far cheaper than anything that public housing authorities can deliver in Virginia’s major metropolitan areas. The secret: Danville is using manufactured housing.

The homes are built through a partnership that includes the Danville housing authority, Virginia Housing, and Next Step, a Kentucky nonprofit that connects builders, developers, lenders and housing advocates to expand manufactured housing options. Clayton Homes is constructing the units to the CHOICEHome standard set at the federal level to ensure that manufactured homes meet similar standards to site-build homes.

“Officials at Danville Redevelopment seek to prove that when manufactured homes are built to the same standards as their stick-built counterparts, they will not only retain their value but increase over time,” says the VCC profile. “Banks are also more willing to lend to quality manufactured home buyers.”

Bacon’s bottom line: There is no excuse for unaffordable housing in Virginia. the private sector can deliver quality housing at low cost. The main obstacles are government regulation, institutional barriers for long-term financing, and the availability of lots. Hey, Danville, how about this as a next step? Work with Clayton to build manufactured multifamily housing that can put more housing units while economizing on acreage. Show the Big Boys how it’s done!

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25 responses to “New Houses for $150,000

  1. “It remains an eternal mystery why it costs in the realm of $250,000 or more per unit to build apartment buildings for the poor in the Richmond region.”

    No, the mystery is solved with the article, here.

    “Officials at Danville Redevelopment seek to prove that when MANUFACTURED HOMES are built to the same standards as their stick-built counterparts, they will not only retain their value but increase over time,” says the VCC profile. “Banks are also more willing to lend to quality manufactured home buyers.”

    Plus, the The Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority obviously has removed the CRONY FAT AND REGULATION FACTOR, that surely infects all Richmond politics, artificially driving up so called ‘low cost housing’ in the Richmond region.

  2. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Why pay 150 grand for something new built with today’s lousy building materials? Better off looking at places like 195 Ficklin Avenue in downtown Danville. For 59 grand you can move into a 2 bedroom 1 bath house that is refurbished. Nice little kitchen too. Sits on a tidy 4,000 sq ft lot. 2 blocks from the hospital and the police station. Monthly payment is 250 bucks. The Danville Redevelopment Authority could learn a great deal from how Habitat for Humanity operates.

    • I don’t argue with Jame’s alternative.

      And I admit that I do not know for sure the building materials quality installed in the five manufactured houses at issue.

      But I do know from experience that today’s manufactured houses are typically of very high quality, as the construction process done right inherently assures this quality.


    Their house cost less.

    You’re comparing Danville to Richond? Well, what’s the skilled labor cost difference? All those contractors, lawyers, hookup fees, etc., etc.,

    Now, if you could find that kind of difference between Richmond, and oh say, Norfolk or VaBeach, you’d be on to something.

    Is that a pre-fab? Tough to do a 3-story multi-unit pre-fab.

    • “Is that a pre-fab? Tough to do a 3-story multi-unit pre-fab.”

      Not hard at all if you’re retrofitting cargo containers, as I’ve blogged about previously.

      • Manufactured multifamily is just as good and cost effective as single family housing. We need to update ourselves on this technology already in place since turn into 21st century. I will pull up my earlier comments on this technology made here years ago. And of course labor disparities solved as well.


        Yep, and if’n they were done so well, somebody’d complain about the luxury.

      • Back in the late 60s, the father of a friend built a log cabin west of Emporia. He called his insurance company to pick up a policy and received a bill for twice what he was paying for his 4 bedroom house in Norfolk.

        The reason cited by the insurance company… “non traditional building methods”.

        Think about it.

        • Modular today done right looks, acts and functions like traditional site built construction, but in many ways it can be far better than traditional construction. The old fashioned trailer stereotype no longer holds.

          • Nancy_Naive

            Reed, it’s that the insurance company had the nerve to call a log cabin non traditional. I mean, really, a couple of thousands years, not to mention the entire westward movement…

          • Nancy_Naive

            Speaking of non traditional … no nails. I saw a really nice looking house built in England using this method.

          • Even traditional construction is using panelized framing, where much of the framing is done at a factory (84 Lumber seems to be the leader in this area).

      • In the 1990’s I looked into manufactured housing in a big way, first on the Md. Eastern Shore then out in the American Southwest, and down into Baja. Of course manufactured housing has been at the heart of modular construction from the beginning, and it will continue to play an key role in what hopefully is an oncoming revolution. I am a big believer in the need for that revolution today. Thus, my earlier comment here on BR to Steve Moret set out below.

        Steve –

        I find the new high tech aspect that you suggest now might be to brought to this economic development arena quite fascinating. In addition, I have long thought that modular construction – factory built and then site assembled – if properly appreciated, funded, organized, and deployed for the benefit of the site acquisition clients could bring great value to the marketability of a site or collection of sites within a market, given the great time, cost, and simplicity benefits that modular if properly done, can bring to most any site transaction, soup to nuts delivered.

        We just need a new up-to-date way of thinking about how to lever up modular construction. Such as:

        Might today’s advantages of modular be leveraged by the other high tech advantage that you mention? Do these co-joined advantages of this new approach multiply given the crying need for affordable housing today? And many other applications, too. Modular technologies now with today’s higher tech can apply to single family, residential mid-rise and high rise, and commercial buildings, ranging from manufacturing to high rise office, and most everything in between.

        Why should not Amazon consider all these possibilities? And consider not only what it can bring to industry, but also for itself, as well as for others clients in a rapidly expanding market given advantages of scale?

        For more of my comment see:

  4. Better buy them quick. If a certain Party wins the Presidency and at least one house, we are promised to see the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rules reinstated, which would over time end local zoning for single-family homes. If you are not familiar with this program which was begun in 2015 but just recently ended, you need to do a bit of research. If reinstated as envisioned, it would leverage not only HUD dollars flowing to states and localities, but also federal transportation money. Every land use decision including siting parks, schools, hospitals, and roads would be subject to review and approval/disapproval by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. Please let us know if this is overstating the danger to our tradition of local control of such matters. I would love to see AFFH as an entirely separate discussion.

  5. “According to a feature article … the homes sit on large lots and have brick foundations, …

    Zoom in. Examine the picture. When that lot settles in three years, those houses will have more cracks than a Richmond sidewalk.

    • You can’t see anything regarding the foundation in that photo. At best you can see the cement block walls that make up the basement or crawl space under the house.

      It was written by someone who didn’t know what they were writing, it would be against building code to make a foundation out of brick.

  6. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority is wasting valuable resources. Danville is absolutely loaded with quality older homes for under 100K. Many are under 50K. Some do need work. Many are turn key. Old school homes are built to last. Many homes in this market place are built of brick, hart pine flooring, and old growth wood makes up the framing. This is the kind of lumber you have to drill holes first to drive in a nail, it is so dense and hard. DRHA would better serve the public by making it easy to afford the glut of existing homes. Provide owners incentives to rehabilitate homes that need help. Enlist cost effective restorations through groups like the Habitat for Humanity. 153 Clarendon Circle. 89K. Brick. New roof. Heck new everything. 380 bucks a month for a payment. Danville is an architectural wonderland. One of my favorite cities in Virginia.

    • I agree with you. There are many older homes that could be refurbished for much less than it costs to build these new homes. And you are also right about the higher quality of their construction. Utilizing those homes would have the added advantage of strengthening established neighborhoods.

      • There is a long running TV (This Old House) show about this very thing, however their budgets are going to be far above what the intention of these homes.

      • Baconator with extra cheese

        This is not meant to be snark…
        But at what point does revitilization of older housing in a city like Danville become gentrification?
        In some way I see why they avoided the genteification and built new house.
        I agree with revitilization but see why groups would want to avoid being labled.

  7. Land prices are the difference. Land is much cheaper in Danville.

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      Many retirees from up north have relocated to Danville due to the low cost of living. A yankee pension can go all the way to Marathon and back in the city known as the Last Capitol of the Confederacy.

  8. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    In Warrenton, VA we have a number of Sears and Roebuck catalog homes. In 1906, for $2000, they would ship the building materials by rail and assemble your home. Homeowner had to supply the land. This would be a great way to clean up urban blight. So many of our cities, such as Lynchburg are filled with bulldozed old homes that are now empty lots. $2000 in 1906 computes to $57,000 today. Those old Sears homes are still standing and look great!

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