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As a century old solution, prefabrication may not seem like the right path for the current housing market. But, right now, several start ups are willing to try it at a scale that will prove results.

California is in the middle of an affordable-housing crisis that cities across the state are struggling to solve. Rick Holliday, a longtime Bay Area real estate developer, thinks one answer lies in an old shipyard in Vallejo, about 40 minutes northeast of San Francisco.

Here, in a football-field-sized warehouse where workers used to make submarines, Mr. Holliday recently opened Factory OS, a factory that manufactures homes. In one end go wood, pipes, tile, sinks and toilets; out another come individual apartments that can be trucked to a construction site and bolted together in months.

“If we don’t build housing differently, then no one can have any housing,” Mr. Holliday said during a recent tour, as he passed assembly-line workstations and stacks of raw materials like windows, pipes and rolls of pink insulation.

Almost a decade after the recession flattened the housing industry, causing waves of contractors to go bankrupt and laid-off construction workers to leave the business for other jobs, builders have yet to regain their previous form. Today the pace of new apartment and housing construction sits at a little over half the 2006 peak.

The United States needs new housing, but its building industry isn’t big enough to provide it. The number of residential construction workers is 23 percent lower than in 2006, while higher-skill trades like plumbers, carpenters and electricians are down close to 17 percent. With demand for housing high and the supply of workers short, builders are bidding up prices for the limited number of contractors.

Construction prices nationwide have risen about 5 percent a year for the past three years, according to the Turner Building Cost Index. Costs have gone up even faster in big cities and across California, according to RSMeans, a unit of Gordian, which compiles construction data. In the Bay Area, builders say construction prices are up 30 percent over the past three years — so much that even luxury projects are being stalled by rising costs.

“It’s reached the point where you cannot get enough rent or you cannot sell enough units to make it a viable deal,” said Lou Vasquez, a founding partner and managing director of Build, a real estate developer in San Francisco.

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