Pueblo, Colorado / Boise and Caldwell, Idaho
Affordable prefab housing
When the first homes made from shipping containers roll out of indieDwell's new factory in Pueblo next week, they'll begin to solve what has become a statewide affordable housing crisis.
Founded in 2016 by Scott Flynn and Pete Gombert, indieDwell offers high-quality, sustainable, healthy homes to underserved communities. The company has projected there will be 20,000 indieDwell homes nationwide by 2025.
indieDwell is a public-benefit corporation, or B Corp, which means that benefiting the public is one of its charter purposes in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders. In addition to creating affordable housing, one of the benefits to the Pueblo community will be the creation of a total of 171 jobs. The plant commenced operations in July 2020 with 41 employees; indieDwell has another 50 employees in Idaho.
"There could be decisions we make about affordable housing, creating jobs, and supporting the communities we're in that wouldn't maximize profit for shareholders," indieDwell General Manager Ron Francis says.
The Caldwell, Idaho-based company recently opened a manufacturing facility in Pueblo that is expected to produce 300,000 square feet of affordable living space annually when it reaches full capacity.
Each 320-square-foot shipping container is priced at about $40,000. Buyers can purchase a single container, which is a studio-style home, or they can combine containers. For example, a 640-square-foot, two-bedroom home is priced at $80,000. There's also the option for a three-bedroom with a master suite or a four-bedroom home for between $120,000 and $125,000.
"These are not like mobile homes," indieDwell General Manager Ron Francis says. "They are put on a slab, and they're stuck in place. All we need is the utilities to hook up to."
The manufacturing process has seven stages with a total of 13 steps to indieDwell's manufacturing process. Each step takes about 7.5 hours. "A container goes in and 13 days later comes out as a house or part of a house," Francis says. "To be part of trying to put that into place is just incredible."
The company's model is to establish partnerships with local foundations, investors, nonprofits, governments and economic development groups to bring indieDwell factories to communities in need of economic and workforce development.
Challenges: While it's been relatively easy to fill positions in indieDwell's manufacturing facility, it's been far more difficult to find people to assume leadership roles at the company. "Pueblo has limited resources," Francis says.
The other obstacle indieDwell must overcome is lack of understanding about the product, he adds, noting that it involves educating not only consumers but also municipal governments and economic development officials. "We're using shipping containers, and in some areas, people aren't fully understanding of what that means," Francis says. "It's market education."
Opportunities: Francis says the sad reality is that because people are struggling to find affordable housing, the opportunities for indieDwell's growth are huge. Advocates have indicated that Pueblo needs 1,900 affordable housing units within the next two years, he says, as the statewide deficit has been estimated at more than 100,000 affordable units.
"It's obviously great for our employees, but it will eventually be great for people who move into those houses," Francis says. The biggest opportunity is there's such a need."
Needs: The company could use investors to help fund the company's future growth. The company already has support from the Colorado Health Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and Gary Community investments. "We've got some great partners already," Francis says.
But now, it could use additional investment to fund its future growth. "We're looking for like-minded people to help us fund this growth," Francis says.