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3D printed homes will help solve the housing shortage crisis in John Day

The city of John Day, Oregon in Eastern Oregon is dealing with a housing shortage. The city manager said they are down about 150 homes.

JOHN DAY, Ore. — Housing shortages are not just affecting large cities. In fact, the town of John Day, Oregon, about five hours from Portland, is short about 150 homes for its current population size, according to city manager Nick Green. 

"Prior to 2018, we were doing one home every three years, city-wide, which is a scary low number," Green said.

A solution is on the way spring 2022. It's called 3D home printing technology. The city is working with a company called Alquist, which owns the machines. The first homes using this technology were printed in Virginia last year. 

"You preprogram the print based on your architectural design and then essentially a robot comes in on a crane structure, it runs in a grid and prints one layer after the next until you've assembled the exterior and interior walls of the home," Green said.

Green said the city has started the land development for the site where the printed homes will be built, on the south side of the John Day River. Veterans will have first priority for the two-bedroom homes with a target rent rate of $700 a month. 

"With the new printer technology that's coming out, you're not constrained to squares and rectangles, you can add curvature and print in multiple directions, you can potentially even print the roofs, in which case you have a complete shell," Green said.

The technology prints the walls of the house using a concrete mix. The CEO of Alquist, Zachary Mannheimer, said it's an affordable way to build.

"A 3D concrete printed home vs a stick-built home, you're going to have savings somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15%," Mannheimer said. "Over the next 24 months, that will increase to 30%."

Russell Comer is with Mahogany Ridge Development. They'll be developing the 3D homes. The printers will cut down on work, which is expected to help with the labor shortage.

"As far as your wall framing and insulating, all of that is covered by the 3D printer itself," Comer said. "It does it in a very efficient time frame and you have fewer bodies working on it as well at the same time."

Alquist owns two printers and they are expensive, they cost anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million.

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