Innovative Dwellings

Cutting-edge solutions for affordable housing

Volunteers of America is one of the oldest and largest providers of affordable housing in the nation, helping 30,000 people in 38 states. Leveraging this rich history, our Innovative Dwellings initiative is reimagining the traditional multifamily housing model.

Watch how we’re making a sizable difference for dozens of veterans and their families.

The Way Forward: Accessory Dwelling Units

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is an additional living quarters on single-family lots that are independent of the primary dwelling unit. They can be attached or detached from the main residence and are equipped with kitchen and bathroom facilities. They can be developed off-site and installed efficiently on site.

ADUs also cost less than a new, single-family home on a separate lot. They are also able to be developed at a faster rate and built in a third of the time.

Single-Family Home: $500k/unit

  • Hard Costs: $350k+/unit 
  • Development Timeline: 4-7 years
  • Construction Period: 18-36 months  

ADU: $200k/unit

  • Hard Costs: $115,000-$140,000/unit 
  • Development Timeline: 1-3 years
  • Construction Period: 6 to 12 months

Rethinking the Process

In being cost-effective and time-saving, ADUs have the potential to meet the growing need for affordable housing. This would require a shift from the traditional multifamily development model.

Since 2021, VOA has been using modular construction and ADUs in four select markets to create dozens of affordable housing units for unhoused veterans and their families, while ensuring that long-term supportive services are in place to holistically address their needs.


  • Hosted 100+ conservations with community-based organizations, government stakeholders, builders/manufacturers, etc.
  • Established local partnerships with mission-aligned organizations
  • Garnered community and political support for the initiative
  • Attracted mission-oriented capital to fund the work now and in the future
  • Assessed the pros and cons of specific ADUs and typologies
  • Partnered with on-site service providers

Lessons Learned

  • Shifting to a new model requires a reevaluation of the economies of scale
  • New players will need to be involved, including smaller, community-based organization
  • The perception of risk must be thoroughly explained when working with new technology and products
  • Zoning regulations and building code requirements for ADUs and modular housing is different
  • Developing at multiple locations requires a lot of coordination

Thank you to our National Partners!

VOA Displays ADU on National Mall

Before heading to its permanent home in Durham, North Carolina, one of our ADUs was featured on the National Mall as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Innovative Housing Showcase.

ADUs Address Veteran Homelessness

Shipping containers, granny flats, and tiny homes are helping to end veteran homelessness. With 37,000 U.S. Veterans in need of safe, affordable housing, Volunteers of America is actively pursuing creative solutions with surprising success. Watch Lee Goldstein, Director of National Housing Initiatives, explain our Innovative Dwellings work on FOX News.

Want to learn more? Contact our Innovative Dwellings team for additional information.

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