A former Days Inn hotel chain in Branson, United States, sat vacant for eight years. Now, it has been transformed into affordable housing. The Los Angeles-based development company that completed the conversion thinks that this type of adaptive reuse could help quickly begin to address the housing shortage.
The project (now called Plato’s Cave) combined hotel rooms to create studio and one-bedroom apartments with rent starting at around R8000, designed to target renters who might be struggling to afford an apartment in the area but aren’t necessarily in the lowest-income tier—typically those making between 60% to 120% of the area median income. “We’re talking about folks that might not be poor enough to get subsidised housing,” says Richard Rubin, founder of Repvblik, the company that converted the property. Branson, like many American cities, has a severe shortage of affordable housing. Because the city’s economy revolves around tourism, many residents also lost work because of the pandemic.
Unlike typical affordable housing developments, the project in Branson didn’t rely on federal funding. “We were told with this market that it couldn’t be done,” says Rubin. “Everyone said, ‘You can’t do it without low-income housing tax credits,’ which is completely incorrect. You absolutely can.” For several years, he says, the company struggled to find investors for its unique model, but that’s beginning to change. The company is now working on around 10 adaptive reuse projects.
The scale of the need for affordable housing is so large that there’s room for dozens of other developers to take the same approach, Rubin says. Repvblik plans to work as quickly as possible. “We’re in the process of creating about 2,000 apartments,” he says. “We hope to create about 20,000 apartments within the next five years.”