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Modular homeless housing rising in Westlake

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“Our mantra is to build quality units in the quickest time possible,” the developer says

A huge crane hovers over a construction site, where gray containers are starting to form a building.
Steel boxes are lifted into place at 166 South Alvarado Street.
KTGY Architecture + Planning

Housing for the homeless in Los Angeles can’t be built quickly enough. But when rain delayed construction on an affordable housing project in Westlake earlier this year, the developers weren’t discouraged.

Set to open early next year, the five-story building on Alvarado Street, south of Beverly Boulevard, will be made up almost entirely of steel boxes. The boxes look a lot like shipping containers, but they were built brand-new in a factory about an hour outside of Shanghai.

“We’re producing 60 to 75 percent of this building in a controlled environment, so that process kept going,” says builder Danny Moizel, with HBG Construction Corp.

Now, as those steel boxes—which each weigh 15,000 to 30,000 pounds, depending on the size—are being hoisted and secured into place, the developer says they’re making up for any time lost prepping the site in the winter.

“We’re going to put this building up in 12 months,” says Aedis Real Estate Group president Scott Baldridge.

Had the complex, named Hope on Alvarado, been constructed with traditional wood frame construction, Moizel estimates it would have taken about double that time.

A rendering showing what Hope On Alvarado will look like once complete.

When complete, Hope on Alvarado will hold 84 affordable apartments (a mix of studios and one-bedrooms) for formerly homeless residents, along with officers for on-site case workers. Aedis will contract with the county’s health services department to provide rental subsidies and social services.

It secured financing from tax-exempt bonds, and under those agreements, the units will remain affordable for 55 years.

More and more affordable housing developers are turning to modular. Aedis alone is planning two other complexes—Hope on Broadway and Hope on Hyde Park—using the same methods as Hope on Alvarado, and both will be partially funded by Measure HHH, the voter-approved bond initiative that’s funding more than 8,600 units of affordable housing across the city of Los Angeles. Hope on Broadway and Hope on Hyde Park have been awarded more than $20 million total.

“Our mantra is to build quality units in the quickest time possible,” Baldridge says. “We just need to get units built and bodies in them.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Hope On Alvarado had received financing through Measure HHH. Aedis’s two forthcoming projects have, but Hope on Alvarado has not.