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3D-Printed Homes: A Rapid Solution to Homelessness?

July 24, 2020 | by Anna Orendain

Categories: Affordable Housing, Homelessness

The need for affordable housing has often warranted creative solutions, with several organizations harnessing the cost-effectiveness of tiny homes by using them to house those in need. Fortunately, technological innovations have allowed another housing solution to rise: 3D-printed homes. 

Icon, a robotics start-up in Austin introduced their first prototype at the 2018 South By Southwest Festival, showcasing a product that could be built in just under 24 hours. The 3D-printed homes are made with Icon’s Vulcan robotic printer, which uses a concrete-based mix to form the home’s main structure. And while Icon’s special 3D printer doesn’t build out every aspect of the home, it gets most of the work done quickly, allowing less money to be spent on materials and labor. 

There’s certainly something to be said about having the technology to construct the majority of a home in less than a day. In our February blog post on tiny homes and homelessness, we discussed how tiny homes’ quick construction time was ideal for the city of Seattle, which needed to rapidly rehouse some of its population. Icon’s technological home building seems to promise speed without a sacrifice in quality.  

3D-Printed Homes in Texas 

In March 2020, Icon announced the completion of a community of 3D-printed micro homes in Mobile Loaves & Fishes’ (MLF) Community First! Village. The Community First! Village is well-known for its provision of affordable, supportive housing to Texans who have experienced chronic homelessness.  

While the village has implemented both tiny and RV homes in the past, MLF’s partnership with Icon provided an opportunity to rapidly expand the development with unique, high-quality homes while also showcasing a promising new solution to homelessness.  

To see the Vulcan printer in action at the Community First! Village, click here.

TSAHC’S SUPPORTIVE HOUSING INSTITUTE

Tiny homes, including 3D-Printed ones, are part of the growing tapestry of quick, cost-effective, and permanent housing options for individuals experiencing homelessness. And if these homes are linked to services designed to improve and enrich the resident, they are commonly referred to as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) developments.

PSH – whether it’s stand-alone, scattered site, or clustered like a tiny home village – remains one of the most effective housing interventions for individuals experiencing homelessness according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. But many communities are still learning how to successfully finance PSH units and implement the services that complement them.

That’s why we launched the Texas Supportive Housing Institute earlier this summer. That institute will provide technical assistance to developers, service providers, and property managers interested in creating and operating supportive housing in their communities.


On the House blog posts are meant to provide general information on various housing-related issues, research and programs. We are not liable for any errors or inaccuracies in the information provided by blog sources. Furthermore, this blog is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional attorney.

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