New homes being delivered to East Side

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 8, a construction crew installed the first in a series of modular homes on the East Side.

As the crane lowered the second half of the home toward the foundation, construction workers placed at each corner of the house maneuvered it into place.

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 8, a block of Reaney Avenue, just west of McKnight Road, was closed to install a modular home at 2220 Reaney Ave.

Modular homes filling vacant lots

In just six weeks two empty lots near Beaver Lake will have attractive, 1,800-square-foot new homes.

In an effort to fill holes on the East Side in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services is working with Sm+rt Homes to install affordable homes, priced at about $229,000, on vacant parcels. 

Sm+rt Homes, which is based in Minneapolis, constructs energy-efficient modular homes in its Detroit Lakes factory. Now some of the company’s homes are being delivered to lots on the East Side. 

The homes are being placed on empty lots that went into tax forfeiture after the houses that once stood on them were foreclosed and condemned. After the houses were demolished, the next step was to sell the vacant lots.

Jim Urchul, executive director at Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, explained that before the lots were put up for auction, nonprofit housing agencies such as Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services were given a chance by St. Paul or Ramsey County to purchase the vacant lots at a discounted price. The intention was that these nonprofits would be able to construct new homes or attract developers.

Urchul said at this point his agency has purchased about 10 tax-forfeiture residential lots, but that there “are always more coming.”

Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services and Sm+rt Homes have four houses lined up to be installed within the next few months.

What sets these particular homes apart from other new housing projects being constructed on the East Side is these homes are some of the first dwellings since before the recession to be built without any public subsidy.

“The funding is drying up,” Urchul said, explaining that federal funding is declining for St. Paul community development block grants and programs offered by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. 

Although the real-estate market has improved the past couple years, Urchul said communities that were hit hard by mortgage foreclosures, like the East Side and rural towns, “still need help.”

With public funding becoming increasingly scarce, Urchul is looking for other ways to create affordable housing, both for the buyer and the seller.


Quick turn around

On Wednesday, Feb. 8, a quiet Reaney Avenue block with mature trees near McKnight Road and just west of Beaver Lake was buzzing with semi-trailers, cranes and construction crews. 

Sm+rt homes installed one of its modular homes at 2220 Reaney Ave. and another was installed next door, 2216 Reaney Ave. on Feb. 10. 

Workers in Detroit Lakes built the two halves of the homes  indoors, which eliminated the issue of weather delays, cut back on construction waste by storing materials inside, and better managed the quality of the construction. 

Once the two halves were completed, they were loaded onto trucks and transported overnight to their destination.

Gary Findell, managing partner at Sm+rt Homes, said when the homes are transported, roads often have to be closed off, which is why they haul them at night. He said the biggest challenge for these homes is still weather, with the concern mostly being wind while transporting the two halves of a home.

Last week the sections of the first house were driven from Detroit Lakes to Monticello and stored there overnight. A crane was brought in early in the morning on installation day and the two halves were installed and sealed. 

Before the house was delivered, a basement with 9-foot ceilings was built. Both of the new Reaney Avenue houses will come with two-stall garages, one bedroom upstairs, two bedrooms downstairs, a full and a half bath upstairs, a full bathroom downstairs and a finished basement. The homes also come with a “technology hub” that will allow homeowners to control locks and security cameras with their smart phones.

Once the homes are secured to their foundation, crews will connect the plumbing, electrical and finish the interior work. 

Findell said the homes will be ready for occupancy in about six weeks.

Urchul said, “On markets such as East Side, there is a strong demand for houses, but there are not many in the starting home [price] range,” which is why these homes are being marketed towards first-time buyers. 

Sm+rt Homes has installed the same modular homes in North Minneapolis as well.

Urchul said that while this type of project often is not as noticeable as large, multi-home developments, it will be noticeable to neighbors. 

 “[Each lot] will be back on the tax roll; there will be new neighbors and a family that benefits from the house.”

For those interested in more information on the new homes, contact Sm+rt Homes at 763-571-5319.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.


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