Developing a 21st century building technology to reshape the antiquated housing economy.
As you know, Vessel is developing a 21st century building technology that will reshape the antiquated housing economy. I doubt that I need to spend much time explaining why we need a new housing economy, but will offer the following:
“A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.”
US Department of Housing and Urban Development
So what do I mean by a new housing economy?
In short, this new housing economy will offer us a future that looks more like the past; one where we wanted less, wasted less, and were more carefree. When we had time to dream and to pursue those dreams. When we consumed what we needed and so lived more sustainably. When we worked together as communities to build better lives for ourselves and our families.
To recap, our playbook includes the following simple steps:
Dallastown new site for Vessel Technologies production facility
By Ed Gruver
Located at 400 East Locust Street, the York County facility has created 10 new jobs. Vessel Technologies stated in a company release that plans are to increase the number of employees in the months ahead.
“Our factory in Dallastown is a big part of our plan,” said Vessel Founder and CEO Neil Rubler, “allowing us to pioneer the creation of 21st century components that come together precisely and efficiently to create an outstanding and desirable product on almost any size site. Innovation drives us and is at the heart of this facility.”
Prefabricating key elements in Dallastown, Vessel can perform onsite work to craft components to deal with the national housing crisis. The York facility is producing custom components that Vessel will assemble at each new building location. Components crafted in Vessel Dallastown will next be used in the assembly of Vessel New London, CT.
Based in New York City, Vessel is on track to deliver hundreds of apartments across the Northeast this year. Rubler said in a statement that the success of his company will come from “pioneering new technologies, methodologies, materials, designs, and structures” to help repair the housing economy and provide quality homes at affordable prices.
Vessel Technologies has over 10 projects under development throughout the Northeast. The housing product company plans to start additional projects in the next year as it continues to partner with local communities like Dallastown.
Vessel Technologies was founded in 2017 and according to a company release is “focused on reimagining the apartment building as a consumer product by creating exciting, sustainable, and user-centric housing at attainable prices.”
Construction of prefabricated homes is ramping up and providing an alternative to traditional multifamily, where the construction process has slowed because of rising costs and supply-chain delays.
Prefabricated construction, which includes modular, manufactured and mobile homes, has for years been used in lower-budget housing development. But with rising interest rates and higher prices for materials such as lumber, the process is starting to get more of a toehold in the mainstream apartment market.
While industrialized construction currently accounts for only a fraction of overall housing, the market is seeing steady growth. More than 50,000 manufactured homes, which are built completely off-site, were shipped as of May. That is a 31% increase from the same period in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As demand climbs, manufactured housing has also become more expensive. Census data reported that the average sales price of a manufactured home in the U.S. in May 2022 was $124,900, up from $85,900 in May 2020.
Modular housing, another type of prefab, might be likened to life-size Lego building, said Andrew Staniforth, chief executive officer of the modular construction startup Assembly OSM.
Rather than the construction of a home completely on site, modular projects are built in parts in off-site factories and are later pieced together, allowing a home or apartment building to go up on site in a matter of weeks or months rather than the typical yearslong timeline. The speed with which modular building takes place is the primary cost-cutter.
“When you’re comparing to a conventional delivery, we’re much faster and therefore much cheaper,” said Mr. Staniforth.
Now, city officials are looking at more of these projects as a way to mitigate the U.S.’s housing shortage as financing traditional housing development has become increasingly difficult.
Vessel Technologies Inc., a prefabricated-housing startup that launched its beta site in July in Trenton, N.J., is working on its next build in New London, Conn.
A rendering of a prefabricated apartment building from startup Vessel Technologies. PHOTO: VESSEL TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
The Trenton prototype includes six two-bedroom units of 750 square feet with monthly rents of $1,350 on average. Future Vessel buildings will have between 30 to 80 units that are between 550 and 1,000 square feet with a maximum of five stories, according to founder and CEO Neil Rubler.
The New London site is expected to go up in the spring, and Mr. Rubler estimates the construction will take eight months, compared with the two years that might be required for a conventional building strategy. The units are estimated to go for $1,600 a month.
Vessel’s launch in Trenton responded to the community’s widespread housing shortage, according to Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. The city has an array of small vacant lots scattered throughout. Those often fail to appeal to large-scale conventional developers, which need larger plots of land.
“Vessel doesn’t need that for their modular units, which are still comfortable and impressive” said Mr. Gusciora.
Prefabricated housing wasn’t always so widely accepted. Mobile and manufactured homes have been marginalized since the 1980s via zoning regulations that pushed these developments to the outskirts of many neighborhoods, according to Zachary Lamb, an assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley.
Off-site housing construction has its share of challenges. Building sites have varying conditions, including in their geometry and zoning regulations, making it difficult to standardize an off-site factory-based construction approach. Fully converting to prefabricated building partially depends on a cultural shift in the way real-estate development gets done, especially to align historically unpredictable construction schedules with always-on-time factory production.
“Essentially, we’re still in the learning curve, and the housing or built environment industry is perhaps one of the least innovation-amenable industries that exists,” said Tyler Pullen, a researcher at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation. “It may also be the most friendly to—and desperate for—off-site approaches.”
Because of the speed and cost-efficiency associated with prefabricated housing, more off-site construction startups have begun to launch and local officials are buying in.
“The core demand that we’re tapping into is our major urban cities that need to build more housing and are all in deep housing crises,” said Mr. Staniforth.
New York developer wants to put up 30 partly pre-built apartments in Rocky Hill
By Don Stacom
A developer who has built multifamily housing in New London is proposing 30 one-bedroom apartments across from the Ames property in Rocky Hill, with a mix of affordable and market-rate units all targeted mostly at 18- to 34-year-olds.
In a preliminary presentation this summer, Hartford attorney Ryan Hoyler told the Planning and Zoning Commission that Vessel RE Holdings LLC plans to build on the half-acre vacant property at 2369 Main St.
Vessel is an arm of New York-based Vessel Technologies Inc., a national developer that puts up partially prefabricated housing projects based on a single design.
The five-story building it proposes for Rocky Hill would be largely identical to ones it erects elsewhere.
“Typical development has custom designs that are new for every site for every community,” Josh Levy, executive vice president at Vessel Technologies, told town planners this summer.
“We spent the better part of three years on a design that’s code complaint in all 50 states,” Levy said. “We can produce higher quality product at a lower price point.”
Levy called the philosophy “productization,” and said it helps get modern housing into the hands of people who can’t afford costlier custom-designed apartments.
Vessel’s proposal goes to a hearing Oct. 19 by the planning and zoning commission, and will be presented Oct. 12 for a wetland review.
The site is an empty lot between a liquor store and barber shop across Route 99 from the Ames property, where Hamden-based Belfonti Companies LLC plans to demolish a 250,000-square-foot office building and replace it with 213 apartments.
The Vessel property will be one-bedroom units, designed to appeal to young tenants who cannot afford high-cost, amenity-rich modern apartments.
“We are somewhat different than most development companies or most housing companies,” said Levy, who joined Holder in giving an overview to the planning and zoning commission in the summer.
“We’re trying to provide housing to address the need for attainability,” Levy said. “There are tons of people like teachers, firefighters and municipal employees who don’t make enough to live in the new construction, high-end luxury buildings, but who don’t fit into the traditional ideal of affordable housing either.”
Levy described Vessel’s target as “the missing middle,” and emphasized that the chief market is people seeking one-bedroom units.
“Young people are usually our target demographic — 18 to 34,” he said. “We build mostly one-bedroom apartments.”
The five-story building on Main Street would have 30 parking spaces, Vessel said. It would have identical 550-square-foot apartments.
Hoyler said the proposal must undergo a wetlands review, but noted that construction would not touch the nearby wetlands.
The property at 2369 Main St. near Main and Elm streets has never been developed, he said.
“The total building height will be 55 feet. The closest building to the north is 60 feet away,” he said.
Commuter buses to Hartford stop nearby, he noted.
“This is an ideal location. It’s right in the middle of the town center area, it’s very walkable, there’s a sidewalk already along Main Street there. There are crosswalks at the Elm Street and Main Street intersection that will allow people living here to walk pretty much anywhere in the town center area,” Hoyler said.
Vessel, a new housing development for community workers, is now open for occupancy at 121 Perry Street in Trenton, New Jersey. The inaugural project of its kind from Vessel Technologies, the property is envisioned as an “attainably priced” housing solution for first responders, teachers, entrepreneurs, and other workers to live in the communities they serve.
“The addition of this captivating residential space was a wonderful way to jumpstart the redevelopment of Perry Street and maximize the potential of this formerly vacant lot,” said Trenton mayor W. Reed Gusciora. “Turning around the city lot by lot, block by block is our number-one priority, and we were happy to collaborate with Vessel Technologies to bring this community solution to fruition.”
Located in the Canal Banks Redevelopment Zone, the city-owned site at 121-125 Perry Street sat vacant for years. A Vessel Technologies affiliate won authorization from the city council to purchase and redevelop the site in 2021.
Now complete, the building comprises six two-bedroom units. Each features smart home integrated technology for temperature and lighting control with voice commands for mobile devices, large window openings to facilitate the flow of natural light, 9-foot ceiling spans, washers and dryers, and name-brand appliances.
“Our mission is to offer each person an equal opportunity for an extraordinary life by providing access to the exciting homes they previously could only dream about,” said Vessel Technologies founder Neil Rubler. “Under mayor Gusciora’s leadership, the City of Trenton has been a tremendous partner in what we hope will be just the first of many opportunities to help the city achieve its vision for growth and redevelopment.”
Representatives of the development company that wants to put up a 44-unit apartment building in a commercial area of town under Connecticut’s affordable housing law have met with town staff members, who expressed no health, safety, or welfare concerns, the developers’ lawyer said Thursday.
The lawyer, Peter J. Alter, made the comment at a morning meeting of the Plans Review Subcommittee of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, held via Zoom teleconference.
Jonathan Mullen, a planner in the town’s community development office, also participated in the meeting. He didn’t dispute Alter’s comment about the staff reaction to the proposed apartment building, which the developer wants to build on a vacant lot of less than an acre at 51 Kreiger Lane.
Alter’s point was important because Connecticut’s affordable housing law permits the courts to uphold a denial of an affordable housing proposal only if the local zoning commission proves the denial “is necessary to protect substantial public interests in health, safety or other matters which the commission may legally consider.”
The law exempts affordable housing proposals from most other zoning restrictions. The Kreiger Lane lot is in a “planned commerce” zone, where multifamily housing isn’t ordinarily permitted. But under the affordable housing law that isn’t a basis for a denial.
The proposal is at a very early stage. The developer, Vessel Technologies Inc. of New York, hasn’t even submitted a formal proposal to the town yet.
But the lack of health, safety, and welfare objections from town staff members at the initial meeting suggests that there are no obvious issues standing in the way of approval at this point.
Alter said the developer had brought the proposal to the Plans Review Subcommittee to get feedback on the plan before filing a formal application. But he didn’t get any. Neither of the subcommittee members participating in the meeting, Chairman Robert Zanlungo and member Sharon H. Purtill, had any questions or comments on the apartment plan.
The building is to contain 44 one-bedroom apartments, with 14 set aside as “affordable” for 40 years – seven meeting affordability criteria for people making up to 80% of the area’s median income and seven meeting those criteria for people making up to 60% of the median.
As to the 30 apartments not subject to those restrictions, Josh Levy, the executive vice president of Vessel Technologies, says they are expected to start “hundreds of dollars below” the starting rent of $2,160 per month in the nearby Tannery apartment complex.
Alter told the Plans Review Subcommittee that the building will be “completely sustainable,” with solar panels on the roof – and that tenants won’t receive electric bills.
He said the building is served by public water and sewers “with adequate capacity for both.”
Alter said the building is aimed at the “missing middle” of the housing market, working people like police officers, teachers and town employees who make too much to qualify for government subsidized housing but not enough to afford to buy a house.
He said the colors on the exterior of the building can be changed and that there is “some flexibility” in landscaping but that the building design is “not amenable to architectural changes.”
That’s because Vessel uses a standardized design with prefabrication and modular construction.
“While the time periods vary based on individual municipalities and their inspection processes and timelines, a typical building can be constructed in as little as 6-months,” Levy said in an email. “A typical building can be delivered on as few as 5 trucks.”
The City Council has approved a 20-year tax abatement for developers of an apartment complex that would make use of a long vacant plot of land at 174 Bank St.
The payment in lieu of taxes agreement, approved unanimously on Monday, is being provided to New York-based Vessel Technologies, a company that has pitched the idea of a state-of-the-art, energy efficient and partially prefabricated five-story building with up to 30 units in the heart of downtown.
The agreement provides an estimated 25.1% discount in tax payments to the city over 20 years.
Under the current tax rate, the estimated taxes over the 20 years on the $4.5 million project would be $2.09 million because it located within an Enterprise Zone.
With the tax agreement, however, Vessel will save about $525,000, paying a total of $1.56 million over 20 years.
Attorney William Sweeney, who represents Vessel, noted under questioning from Councilor John Satti that the empty lot where the building would be situated now generates just $5,500 a year in taxes, or $110,000 over 20 years.
The agreement, Sweeney said, provides the city “$1.5 million more than if we did nothing.”
Vessel purchased the site for $225,000 in February, and plans to start construction before the end of the year. The property is located next to the Salvation Army Family Store.
Under terms of the agreement, Vessel would pay a “fixed assessment agreement” spanning 20 years with tax payments starting at $5,440 in years one and two, $30,000 in year three, $55,000 in year four and $76,000 in year five. The $76,000 payment in year seven would increase by 2.5% per year every year after.
“It’s much more than the $1.5 million we’re going to pay the city over the next 20 years. It’s really about repopulating the downtown with people with disposable income (and) hopefully a lot of those empty storefronts get filled with those basic essential businesses that everybody is looking for downtown,” Sweeney said. “We need housing at all different socio-economic levels.”
While Vessel expects the Bank Street project to be its first in Connecticut, it has proposed similar developments in communities such as New Haven, Stratford, Rocky Hill and Glastonbury. It has completed a project in Trenton, N.J.
In New London, the building would be constructed on a slice of of land considered blighted and financially unfeasible to develop because of its small footprint and location in a flood plain. As a result, the building will be elevated and provide parking below.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission in January approved modifications to zoning regulations that allow a fully residential building in downtown, something that was not previously allowed. The original approval was for a 20-unit building but a later modification now allows for up to 30 bedrooms.
Vessel Technologies Executive Vice President Josh Levy said that because of the flexibility of its construction process, the mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments can be modified based on need without changing the footprint of the building.
Vessel’s construction system facilitates the development of “leftover” or “hard to develop” sites and speeds the construction process, Levy said.
Rents are expected to start at $1,400, which developers say is below market rate for new units and aimed at 18 to 34-year-olds with income levels at 80% of the area median income.
Levy said the project is in the permitting process and he hopes to see ground broken next month.
Relying on Connecticut’s affordable housing law, a New York-based development company is preparing to propose construction of a four-story building containing 44 one-bedroom apartments on a lot of less than an acre in a commercial section of town.
Although the company, Vessel Technologies Inc., hasn’t yet formally applied for construction of the building, it has submitted a “conceptual site plan” to town officials, which the Plans Review Subcommittee of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission is to consider Thursday morning.
In a two-sentence “statement of intent” in its one-page proposal to the subcommittee, the developer says the building would consist of “44, 1-bedroom apartment units within a single four-story building in the Planned Commerce Zone.” It adds that there would be 53 parking spaces, considerably more than the 44 required spaces, according to the separate site plan.
The proposed site is at 51 Kreiger Lane, in a mostly developed commercial area. It is across the street from the building that houses Cofeill’s Sport and Power Equipment and New England Kitchen & Bath.
Immediately to the rear of the proposed apartment property is land used for storage of several old trailers, including a full-size shipping container, and at least two junk trucks. There are, however, two houses that appear to be within sight of the property.
The application materials submitted by Vessel Technologies don’t address how many of the apartments would be reserved for affordable housing. But the provision of Connecticut law the developer is relying on requires “not less than 30%” of the units to have deed restrictions requiring them to meet affordable housing criteria for at least 40 years.
That works out to at least 14 of the 44 apartments.
For half those units, affordability is defined as a rent at which a family making up to 80% of the area’s median income could pay no more than 30% of its income for the apartment. The other half of the affordable units would go to families making up to 60% of the area’s median income.
The site plan contains a table comparing the proposed development to zoning requirements for the area. It indicates that the proposal exceeds most of the requirements.
But it falls short of the open-space requirement, at 27.5% of the lot area, compared to the required 30%. One side-yard setback is also a little less than required.
But affordable housing developments that meet the requirements of state law are exempt from most local zoning requirements.
The TPZ last month approved another apartment building proposed under the affordable housing law. That plan, which has generated much public controversy, calls for construction of a five-story, 74-unit apartment building on 2.4 acres at Hebron Avenue and Manchester Road.
An innovative, user-centric new housing solution from Vessel Technologies, Inc. has landed at 121 Perry Street, opening up opportunities to lease exciting, sustainable, and universally accessible apartments at attainable prices.
Leveraging strategies borrowed from consumer product development companies, Vessel’s unique design incorporates the latest software-enabled technologies, sustainable building materials, and elegant aesthetics in apartments accessible to hard-working community members.
“Our mission is to offer each person an equal opportunity for an extraordinary life by providing access to the exciting homes they previously could only dream about,” said Vessel founder Neil Rubler. “Under Mayor Gusciora’s leadership, the City of Trenton has been a tremendous partner in what we hope will be just the first of many opportunities to help the city achieve its vision for growth and redevelopment.”
Vessel envisions a 21st-century community solution that allows first responders, teachers, entrepreneurs, and others to live in the communities where they work and serve. It partners with ‘hometowns’ to deliver exceptional options for the “missing middle,” those who earn too much to qualify for subsidized housing and too little for current ‘market-rate’ options.
“The addition of this captivating residential space was a wonderful way to jumpstart the redevelopment of Perry Street and maximize the potential of this formerly vacant lot,” said Mayor W. Reed Gusciora, who was instrumental in securing approvals for the sale and development of the city-owned lot. “Turning around the city lot by lot, block by block, is our number one priority, and we were happy to collaborate with Vessel Technologies to bring this community solution to fruition.”
Vessel is a mission-driven housing product company focused on partnering with local communities to create trailblazing, workforce living environments at attainable prices.
“I think our goal is to create universally attainable housing with a price frame that will work for vast swaths of the market that have historically been underserved. And to stay true to our mission, which is how to provide that very high-quality housing at a price point that is attainable,” said Rubler.
Someone from the community operates each Vessel property. They are known as a vested Caretaker. They are trained to forge a career in the service of their communities. Some, however, have already made a career in caring for Trenton Residents. The Perry Street Vessel Caretaker is Captain Joseph Deacon of the Trenton Fire Department, who has long served his hometown. He became curious about the project as he studied what Vessel was putting up.
“I’ve always had a long-lasting interest in container homes. And though this is a fabricated home…I noticed this being built just directly in my district that I serve. It drummed up a lot of interest…just the construction itself, this style of construction. We’re so used to fighting traditional fire fires in your standard homes or what we consider to be ordinary brick and mortar or wood frame constructions is heavy timber to see something this magnificent being built as a modern marvel. I was interested in not only from a safety standpoint but just interested as a nerd,” Captain Deacon said.
The six-unit, three-story Perry Street Vessel occupies a 60′ by 118′ lot that was previously a vacant eyesore producing no tax revenue. The new Vessel building will now provide intelligent, technology-enhanced, and sustainable housing that is among the most energy efficient in the nation. Materials, technology, appliance selections, and various design features enable Vessel to improve the built environment without damaging the natural one.
“As a lifelong resident of Trenton and a proud civil servant for more than a decade, I know first-hand the challenges of finding quality housing at an attainable price,” said Captain Deacon. “I am gratified to have been selected by Vessel as a Community Caretaker and for the opportunity to pursue my entrepreneurial goals while empowering communities through sustainable real estate, education, and community service.”
Mayor W. Reed Gusciora yesterday announced the start of a redevelopment project by Vessel Technologies Inc. (Vessel) on Perry Street that will turn a former city-owned vacant lot into modern, affordable, and energy efficient housing for Trenton residents.The property at 121-125 Perry Street is in the Canal Banks Redevelopment Zone. Pursuant to a redevelopment plan that was approved by City Council in February 2021, a Vessel affiliate purchased the property from the City of Trenton in order to redevelop it into a modern, attainably-priced, luxury housing site.
The plan calls for a modular, productized housing system that features six two-bedroom units with smart-home integrated technology allowing residents to control lighting, temperature and other features with voice commands or mobile devices. The units will also feature high efficiency LED Lighting and energy efficient appliances. Completion is tentatively planned for Labor Day this year.
“This design is an excellent way to maximize the potential of a vacant lot in our city,” said Mayor W. Reed Gusciora. “Turning around the city lot by lot, block by block is our number one priority. Seeing a modern residential space added to the character of this neighborhood over the next few months is big step to that plan.”
“This new development blending the old with the new will jump start the revitalization of Perry Street,” said Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson. “I believe that young people who want to reside in the City will definitely show interest in renting in the vessel that will be equipped with all of the modern technology. The North Ward of Trenton is on the move and this new exciting project I believe will encourage people to reside here. Perry Street is a gateway to the City: what better place to develop this project?”
“The City of Trenton, under the leadership of Mayor Gusciora has been a tremendous partner in bringing us to where we are today – breaking ground on a new, unique apartment building on Perry Street,” said Neil Rubler, Founder and CEO of Vessel. “This particular lot offers us a perfect canvas for what we build and we hope this is the first of many opportunities to work together to achieve the city’s vision of growth and redevelopment.”
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