Hope on Alvarado – Modular homeless housing rising in Westlake


October 1, 2019

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.

Shipping Container Homes for the Homeless in Los AngelesA 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 through Measure HHH—the voter-approved bond initiative that’s funding more than 8,600 units of affordable housing across the city of Los Angeles—and other tax-exempt bonds. Under those financing 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 using the same methods as Hope On Alvarado. All three developments are partially funded by Measure HHH, and have been awarded more than $20 million.

“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.”