Mid City developers bring modular homes to Baton Rouge

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    A first-of-its kind modular home is on the market in Mid City, an area where you might not typically expect to find prefabricated housing.

    But developers Jak Kunstler and Susannah Bing hope it will be the first of many modular homes in Baton Rouge that could prove to be a solution to a housing shortage in older neighborhoods.

    “We’re in a housing crisis,” says Bing, a former executive with the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, who teamed up with Kunstler two years ago to launch Louisiana Purchase Real Estate and Development. “There are people moving to Baton Rouge who want the nightlife, restaurants and activity that are closer to downtown, yet there are very few houses that are available or in good condition and they are priced out of that market. We see this as a tool to provide new housing in older neighborhoods, whether that is market rate or affordable.”

    The 1,256-square-foot home Bing and Kunstler recently completed is located at 111 West Dr., between North Boulevard and Government Street. It looks akin to other nearby Mid City cottages that were built 70 or 80 years ago. It sits on a pier-and-beam foundation, has three bedrooms and two baths, and a front porch with white-trimmed wood work. The partners have two similar houses planned for adjacent lots on West Drive.

    “I think there is a stigma about modular housing to a certain extent,” Bing says. “Nobody really understands what a modular house is. Everybody thinks it’s some house trailer. It couldn’t be more different. … We tweak the houses to make them more south Louisiana.”

    Bing and Kunstler say they aren’t hanging out a retail shingle and selling modular homes. Rather, their business plan calls for infill development projects in neighborhoods where additional housing is needed. They’re looking to acquire vacant lots or adjudicated properties from the city-parish and redevelop the sites with their modular homes.

    “Right now we’re focused on Mid City because that’s the area we know,” she says. “But these could easily go in north Baton Rouge or Old South Baton Rouge. These houses fit on our narrow, long lots and they look like they’ve always belonged in our neighborhoods. They don’t look like trailer houses.”

    The home on West Drive is listed at $217,500, which is market rate. Bing says the trim levels on the homes can be customized so they could be sold at market rate or as affordable housing, depending on where they’re located and the need that exists in that area.

    —Stephanie Riegel

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