Google seeks solution to Bay Area's worsening housing crisis

As the housing shortage increasingly plagues Bay Area native and new comers alike, Google will try to disrupt home building in the same way Uber disrupted transportation.

To hear the Bay Area Council's housing guru talk about it, the lack of housing is only getting worse by the day.

"The housing crisis in the Bay Area has reached sort of a stage where everybody has to look at alternative delivery models and ways to try and alleviate the pressure," said Matt Regan, the Bay Area Council's housing expert.

A start-up, called Factory OS, just got a $25 million plus contract to build 300 small, modular, possibly stackable housing units. Google and other rich tech firms are looking at doing the same to deal with a massive and growing shortage.

"We should not be three times the national average in terms of rents and housing purchase cost. So, we're seeing, as a result of that, some employers are stepping into that void," said Regan.

Factory Os will build its Google homes in the same facility on Vallejo's Mare Island occupied by Blu Homes, the leading pre-fabricated home manufacturer in California.

The Bay Area Council's Regan says, modern modular home and apartment construction is heads and shoulders better that in previous generations, and far, far more efficient and less expensive that lot built construction. Factory builders are not hampered by rain and on site assemblers can build in a fraction of the time.

And, young workers love the concept. "Certainly for younger people, I think that high density, close proximity, walkable community product is something that's very attractive," said Regan.

But, he adds that the biggest holdback to all this is the inability to get innovate projects through local government approvals, "The problem is not necessarily a lack of capital; a lack of money. If the political will is not there to build the homes, it doesn't really matter where the capital comes from, if it's Wall Street pension funds or it's Google's treasury."

More modest versions of such homes could be constructed from readily available cargo containers no longer in use, to create homes for the homeless. The containers in just one mega cargo ship could solve the problem for San Francisco, plus Oakland, plus San Jose if it were to be allowed.