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Paul Allen-funded Blokable may offer new solution to affordable housing

Blockable home is being placed at a church in Edmonds, WA. (Blockable)

Seattle-based startup Blokable is hoping to change the way affordable housing is developed, using a new approach to design and technology.

The company recently delivered its first unit to land donated by the Edmonds Lutheran Church, reports Geekwire. It’s part of a co-project with the Seattle-based Compass Housing Alliance that will see the creation of a three-story complex with 70 units.

“We talk a lot about homelessness on this show, but we don’t spend a lot of time on success stories,” said KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw. “This is a success story from the private sector, not the public sector.”

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Instead of wood frames, the units are composed of steel, which make them easier to transport and arrange as part of larger units.

“This is better than a tent,” Ron said. “These things are beautiful. You can configure them in any way; they’re like Lego blocks.”

“And you can stack these,” added KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neil. “You can’t stack tiny homes.”

Blokable is the brainchild of Co-CEO Aaron Holm, a former Amazon product manager, and Co-CEO Nelson Del Rio, who’s worked extensively on partnerships between developers, nonprofits, and governments. Paul Allen recently invested $5 million, and the company is in the process of developing additional sites in Seattle, as well as in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, among other cities.

Blokable may be the model for getting people off the street

For Ron, this type of project displays a resourcefulness and ingenuity that needs to be applied by the city on a bigger scale.

“These are the type of ideas that we need to incorporate. We need to keep pressure on city government,” Ron said. “Right now this pilot program is using the Edmonds Lutheran Church, and that’s great. However, the assessor for King County has identified 300 pieces of real estate owned by the government that are 20,000 square feet or more. Those are the lots you need to use.”

Timeline: Homelessness in Seattle

“This is a local guy teaming up with a local billionaire. We have people to do this, just scale this thing. It should be scaled up immediately.”

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