dot.LA Summit: Could New Tech Help Solve LA’s Housing Crisis?

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
dot.LA Summit:  Could New Tech Help Solve LA’s Housing Crisis?

It’s no secret that Los Angeles desperately needs more affordable housing — and fast. Los Angeles is aiming to build 500,000 new homes by 2029, roughly 40% of which will be income- restricted housing. In order to achieve that, the city is exploring building more ADUs (also known as accessory dwelling units) and innovations in construction tech to build cheaper and more sustainable housing.


At a dot.LA Summit panel, founders Ross Maguire of Azure Printed Homes and CRATE MODULAR’s Jaren Grady joined the city’s deputy mayor of budget & innovation, Jeanne Holm. The panelists dove into how tech — and particularly ADUs — can solve the city’s dire housing shortage in a way that is both affordable and sustainable.

“Right now, traditional construction contributes to nearly 40% of global CO2 emissions,” said Maguire.

Traditional construction as an industry has been resistant to change. Maguire believes the modular process of building houses off-site has allowed the ADU industry to build using more affordable and sustainable techniques.

For example, Azure Printed Houses 3D-prints its modular units using recycled waste materials. The company focuses on repurposing the materials and making them as cost-efficient as possible. It’s currently capable of printing out 5 housing units a week and is in the middle of fundraising to boost that amount to 15 units per week.

Grady, of CRATE MODULAR — which builds ADUs out of recycled shipping containers — says companies can produce more using modular building techniques.

“The modular process is just a smart way of building,” he said.

The company is currently in the middle of constructing two affordable housing buildings in Los Angeles; McDaniel House, a 47-unit modular building in Koreatown that will be used as permanent affordable housing, and a 4-story modular complex named Dolores Huerta Apartments.

One major obstacle in the ADU industry is shifting consumer perceptions that a modular house is an inferior product.

“In fact, it’s the opposite,” said Grady. Modular housing is also more adaptive to different environments.

But will the public embrace new types of housing? Deputy Mayor Jeanne Holm believes the pandemic and the shift to remote work may have altered how people view their homes. “This idea of where you work and where you live,” she says, “and how that space is used has changed for people.”

Holm noted that roughly 14% of L.A.’s land is devoted to automobiles, leading to minimum parking space requirements and other city regulations. But cultural changes like remote working and younger people less drawn to car ownership could lead to L.A. issuing new regulations.

“Maybe we don’t need to regulate the same way.”

Ross Maguire believes there’s a cultural shift that will lead to more people embracing smaller spaces.

“I feel like as a society, we’re more overwhelmed by choice and by space, and you kind of see with the tiny home market that people are ready to declutter, move into smaller spaces and keep life kind of simple,” said Maguire.

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