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National News Roundup – November 6, 2023

Monday, November 6, 2023

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CA County Tests 3D-Printed Housing Solution

Joins other localities aiming to address homelessness this way.

Like many local governments nationwide, Santa Barbara County in California is grappling with the affordable housing issue as it also combats homeless encampments on public streets.

County officials recently decided to try the construction of a prototype 3D-printed home that will allow the county to better understand how new technology could help address the affordable housing crisis.

Santa Barbara County is not the first to turn to 3D printing for housing solutions. Chattanooga, Tennessee, is using the technology to build temporary shelters for people experiencing homelessness. In Greeley, Colorado, the city and state are working with Habitat for Humanity and the robotics company Alquist to build 300 affordable homes and develop a 3D-printing workforce.

But Santa Barbara County is using part of a $5.3 million state grant to test 3D-printed houses as an avenue to working with community-based organizations to quickly develop long-term affordable housing.

“We liked the 3D printing because it seems very flexible,” said Jennifer McGovern, president and CEO of the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County, a co-sponsor for the project.

“It could do a variety of types of housing, everything from tiny homes to accessory dwelling units and potentially multifamily.”

The prototype 3D-printed concrete single-family affordable home will be built with $375,000 of state funds as a “demonstration of concept” of a low-cost housing construction method that may provide more options in the future.

The World Economic Forum reports that 3D-printed houses can cost up to 45 percent less than those built with traditional methods due to their reduced reliance on expensive materials and labor.

(Sources: Route Fifty, Santa Barbara Independent)

Downtown Districts Pose Challenges Across US

Many cities are seeking to reimagine these once bustling areas.

For decades, downtown office districts across the U.S. were driving forces behind their local economies. Downtowns generated commerce, tax revenue, and an aggregation of ambition, talent, and disposable income. But today, due to a variety of reasons, including remote-work trends and other effects of the pandemic and other societal shifts, many of those same areas are practically ghost towns.

The median drop in foot traffic across 52 major U.S. city centers since 2019 was 26 percent, according to an analysis of cellphone data in June by the University of Toronto’s School of Cities.

A sense of desolation discourages many downtown workers from showing up at the office, accelerating the closure of shops and restaurants. Failure to arrest the decline risks the loss of remaining residents and businesses, as well as tax revenue, in a downward spiral that could take U.S. cities decades to escape, said Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, a real-estate professor at Columbia Business School.

Some urban planners envision a new—and costly—concept of “downtown.” Even optimists estimate it will take years and cost billions to complete the large-scale changes to usher central-city office districts into a new role—busy neighborhoods where people live, work, raise families, frequent restaurants, and find entertainment.

“The bottom line is we need to reinvent downtowns around the country,” said Jacob Frey, the 42-year-old mayor of Minneapolis. “It’s about having more people in the core of downtown doing something other than just working. It’s about having fun.”

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

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