General Housing Corporation jokes that it’s made up of homebuilders who knew enough to come in from the rain.
But that’s selling themselves short.
General Housing Corp. Vice President Kevin Light invites buyers to visit the factory and tour model homes.
Since opening its corporate headquarters in 1982 in Bay City’s Marquette Industrial Park, General Housing
has constructed more than 6,000 structures – all behind closed doors inside its Bay City production facility.
An architect and other experts are on hand to help homeowners make design choices for their new homes.
“We’ve taken the home construction process and moved it indoors into a controlled environment where we build the home in modules,” said John Pollion, President. “So instead of going out and hiring crews of builders, drywallers, electricians, plumbers and shinglers, General Housing does it all under one roof.”
Craftsmen work inside the Fraser Road production facility, creating custom homes.
This year marks the manufacturer’s 40th anniversary.
Along with residential single-family homes, General Housing also offers an array of modular condos, apartments, townhouses, duplexes, and light commercial buildings. Each can be tailored to customer specifications.
Since General Housing is not a retail operation, it partners with homebuilders across the state. General Housing completes about 80% of the home, while the on-site builders handle permits and work such as driveways and basement construction.
“There’s sometimes a preconception that modular are cookie cutters,” Pollion said. “In reality, we have hundreds and hundreds of standard plans, but will customize them, too.”
General Housing Corp. VIce President Kevin Light talks to one of the skilled laborers inside the Bay City factory.
Bay City is no stranger to unique home-building techniques.
According to the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University, Bay City was home to three separate companies that sold kit homes: Aladdin, Lewis, and Sterling.
The indoor building process lends itself to producing energy-efficient homes. The homes are Energy Star efficient and General Housing partners with Green Built Michigan.
The family-owned Aladdin Company began selling the kit homes in 1906 and was one of the earliest and longest-lived manufacturers of these homes. Aladdin sold many homes to Sears and Montgomery Ward that were marketed through the retailers’ catalogs.
General Housing employs 50 people.
“The idea was simple: a person could find the home of their dreams in a catalog and buy everything they needed to build their home from one source,” according to a Clarke Historical Library article
Visitors can tour completed homes at company headquarters, 4650 E. Wilder Road.
“Everything from the floor to the roof, including the paint to use in between, was packaged together in one giant kit. Aladdin would ship all this building material via railroad. The purchaser would pick it all up at the nearest train station, haul it to the construction site, and assemble the house.”
Each home is about 80% complete before leaving the General Housing production facility.
According to some reports, nearly 200,000 ready-cut homes were produced in Bay City from 1906 until 1982, when Aladdin closed.
Late in 2021, General Housing celebrated building its 6,000th home.
And then, just a half-mile away across the Saginaw River, General Housing picked up the mantle.
General Housing opened its corporate headquarters in 1982, the same year Aladdin Company closed. In the early 20th century, three kit home builders called Bay City home and shipped thousands of homes across the nation.
“We went into business in 1982, the year Aladdin homes closed. In fact, the first bunk of 2-by- 10-foot floor joists we purchased came from Aladdin as they were closing their doors,” Pollion said.
Unlike Aladdin’s kits, General Housing homes are about 80% complete before leaving their 40,000-square-foot production facility, 4644 Fraser Road. The company employs about 50 workers.
General Housing employs builders, drywallers, electricians, plumbers, roofers, and other skilled workers. That saves time and money during the building process.
Vice President Kevin Light said the General Housing modular method includes the following steps:
General Housing builds modular homes, not mobile homes. Once a home is on site, it's hard to distinguish from a 'stick-built' structure.
- Floor and wall assembly
- Set walls on floor and stub plumbing in the floor
- Roof assembly; rough wire the walls
- Hang drywall, finish wiring, install insulation
- Mud and sand drywall; roof insulation, roof sheathing
- Install exterior doors and windows, install siding, install roof shingles
- Install plumbing and light fixtures, interior doors, cabinets and trim work
- Inspect and finalize for shipping, load ship-loose items
- Ship house to the builder anywhere in Michigan
All homes and buildings are required to meet the same Michigan building codes as “stick-built” structures. Homebuyers are invited to visit General Housing production facility and tour model homes at their headquarters.
Each home constructed at General Housing must meet the same building standards as traditional, 'stick-built,' homes.
Light said it typically takes less time to construct a General Housing modular home than a site-built home. The modular method avoids such items as weather delays, sub-contractor delays, inspection delays, and scheduling. Materials are protected from the elements, unlike those built on-site, where they’re exposed to sun, rain, snow, wind, and theft.
While General Housing offers hundreds of standard plans, it also encourages homeowners to customize their home as much or as little as they want.
In addition, the main structure can be built as site work and foundation are being completed.
Because General Housing is not a retail operation, it partners with licensed homebuilders across the state to bring together all the pieces of a home’s construction.
General Housing's process allows homeowners to customize fixtures, floor layouts, and more.
Typically, a licensed builder handles the permits and site work (driveways, grade alterations, crawl space or basement construction) and old building tear down, if necessary. The builder also oversees utility hookups, well or septic.
General Housing produces everything from basic ranch style homes to rustic cabins to luxurious waterfront residences.
In addition to its licensed builder partnerships, General Housing relies on many local suppliers for its success, said Brad Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer. Local companies including Wholesale Electric Supply, Sequin Lumber, Medler Electric Co., Ferguson Plumbing Supply, Jim White Lumber Sales, and Eikenhout Building Supplies are all part of the General Housing team.
Modular homes have several advantages over traditional site-built homes. For one, weather rarely delays work. For another, while the home itself is built inside the factory, a licensed homebuilding crew can be laying the foundation at the site.
While the housing construction market has ebbed and flowed through the decades, business is doing very well right now, Pollion said. In late 2021, General Housing celebrated the construction of its 6,000th home.
General Housing only works with Michigan builders, meaning it has expertise in what works best near lakes, streams, and in this climate.
“We pride ourselves in being Michigan-owned, with Michigan-based decisions, and most importantly, with profits staying in Michigan,” Pollion said.