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How to solve the Affordable Housing Crisis

 
steward
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I like the idea of somewhat modular/standard designs that are vernacular and optimized for local climates and natural disasters.  Meeting code and being somewhat minimalistic.  Maybe 1000 sq feet so they aren't tiny but are more like a 1950s house.

Well-built while avoiding the real (or imagined) issues with mobile homes or modular homes that don't have great resale.  
 
pollinator
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Jay Angler wrote:Hubby agrees with your figures, John.

More seriously, I can remember reading "A Pattern Language" and the author stating that we need more "working housing" - small production products for the neighborhood produced in ground floor workshops with housing behind and above. I'd change that to food production behind and housing above. People will eat better if they have some fruit trees and veggie gardens on their own land. Some people figured that out with the Covid crisis last year, but I really wish more had figured it out 3 decades ago before our communities were filled up with big houses on tiny lots. Unfortunately, most communities actually consider having a "business" in your home to be a breach of planning rules.

Alternatively, I can remember seeing plans for solid small homes built in China which were sturdy enough to have serious roof gardens. Having the garden on top ensured better sunlight.



You may be interested to know that in Chicago the city government actually just relaxed the rather restrictive home business ordinance in response to how people's lives changed during pandemic. It will be much easier to (legally) run a "cottage business" out of your home now. Roof gardens and green roofs are also a big thing here.

Alderman approve massive re-write of Chicago's home business ordinance-Chicago Sun Times
 
Mk Neal
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Jay Angler wrote:Forest Viridiana wrote:

I want high ceilings in the summer and low ceilings in the winter.  I have thought about constructing some type of temporary loft over my living room with panels that could be easily removed or swung upwards and secured during the summer.

Interesting that you just wrote this. Yesterday my family and I were discussing the whole "high ceiling" thing and I mentioned that I recalled that at Wheaton Labs, one winter they used fabric as a "lowered ceiling" in their tepee. I had had a similar idea at one time that I hadn't acted upon as it hadn't been critical path, so we discussed how something like a fabric "roller blind" that went horizontally across a room in the winter, but rolled up against a wall in the summer might be a cost effective way to improve an existing situation. Your idea of panels that actually made for temporary living space has merit - so many homes are larger than really needed just to accommodate occasional guests!
Hopefully someone at Wheaton Labs will see this and know whether I'm remembering correctly or not, and how it worked out.



A similar idea to the old-fashioned canopy beds; creating a small, cozy chamber which traps body heat so you are comfy without using so much energy to heat a whole room.  Maybe we should make a "canopy couch" for winter family TV-watching?
 
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I live in a hot humid climate that can also be wet and frigid.  I have a little to offer on design.  An attic fan and windows positioned for cross breezes, well insulated transom windows if possible, up high.  Insulation, insulation, insulation.  Shading, especially on the west side and protection from winter wind from the north.  The high ceilings with sliding japanese panels to cosy and warm it up in the winter.  I would still want AC because 110 F with 95% humidity is just not tolerable to me unless I have ac or am swimming.  I love the refrigerator having an outdoor part for winter idea.  I also like the courtyard house.  I would want a way to use my kitchen wood stove to heat the house in the winter or vent the heat in the summer.  Might just be easier to cook outside in the summer.  Part of why natural building is either slow or expensive is that it is labor intensive.  We have bamboo available but to turn it into a lasting building product takes time.  Lots of wood on our land also, but takes time or money or both to harvest, mill, plane, and build.  If you have a construction crew willing to do this it is still going to take more clock time so not sure if money saved in the construction materials will offset the increased labor costs.  If the homeowner could contribute some sweat equity to the build more could be saved.  Would one way to pay the construction crew be to let them build their own house on an acre or 2?  How much barter can you work into that situation to make it more affordable?  And on the mortgage end, has anyone explored a non conforming conventional loan for alternative construction?  Also, if you have a relationship with a local banker and can meet codes, or in an area with no codes, they can be a little more lenient if they can do an in-house loan and if you have a bit of collateral.  
 
Cl Robinson
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Oooh and a simple metal roof with wide overhangs to keep it dry and shaded and catch water.
 
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I like a lot of the ideas here...

Modular homes that are easy to add a module to at some point later is very cool and can grow with the owner/family.

Home functionality is very important, many designs are bad and should not have been used. Apple proved that a good design which, even if people don’t know they will like or want, is far better than giving people what they are used to at the current time. Plumbing, electrical, etc being on the inside walls seems like a no brainer that people don’t know they want or need. The outer walls should have insulation in them, not water pipes that can freeze or lines for the HVAC or anything else screwing up the R value in the perimeter.

Wood houses are prone to wood problems (fire, termites, rot, etc)

Rock wool insulation doesn’t burn and is awesome stuff.

Whole house fans are really really nice and can save a lot of money cooling and venting a house.

I’ve always had outdoor kitchens for my warm weather cooking (and I use them for winter holiday cooking as well).

Dome houses are impervious to hurricanes and tornadoes. (They can be totally customized on the interior layout, but not so easy to add onto). Quonset huts are pretty wind resistant too (if they don’t have an overhang on the ends).

Solar roofs should just be a requirement for all new construction and should be designed in vs an afterthought. If every roof in the country was solar, we wouldn’t need any power plants.

Sears used to sell houses and you could buy a kit and it would be delivered with all the parts and assembly instructions. And some models had optional add on kits you could buy at the same time or later. There are still a lot of those Sears homes standing and in use today. That was affordable housing in action. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

It seems to me that an architect could design (or may have already designed) some homes that could be very affordable, mass produced, final assembly on site. That might help deliver a really good home at an affordable price. If you build it, they will come. And there is no reason not to choose a bulletproof design with materials that don’t  burn (like metal studs and rock wool). And let’s go with paperless sheet rock that won’t burn nor grow mold. Internal wall pipes that won’t freeze, build on high ground that won’t flood, make them wind proof, etc).

I still don’t know how affordable any of this could be. Mass production can only do so much. But it’s an interesting thought exercise.
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote: Here in Oregon, one lender is more open to give mortgages for off-grid or alternative housing. Talking to lenders, particularly local credit unions might be a good idea.



I'm curious who the one lender is. I'm currently in Monmouth Oregon if that makes a difference. Hoping to buy land and start with something really simple and cheap like a yurt and then gradually develop skills to build something better.

Is there any simple way to see what places allow or disallow certain kinds of homes or alternative homes? Or is it really as tedious as having to contact each neighborhood/city/county/state housing and development department to ask what the zoning and regulations are?
 
pollinator
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There are also the factors of local codes requiring expensive systems in houses, even though they may not be necessary.  As one example, I've been accumulating small (camping) solar panels and recharging devices, and also have a 'standard' panel specifically to run a well pump.  The latter would run one of the small refrigerators used by truckers -- here is one example, which I'm planning to purchase soon:  https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0831KRWRT/ref=ox_sc_act_title_11?smid=A3AY0BDOBK8IYP&psc=1.  I've also got the well pump meant to be used with the solar panel, and a couple of camping water pumps meant to pump up a shower out of a bucket (these are rechargeable).  I've got rechargeable lights of several types (camping lanterns, headlamps, and flashlights); a rechargeable fan (and plan to get more of those, because we don't have AC); a couple of rechargeable fire starters; and of course a laptop, tablet, and phone.  With solar water heating, and propane for indoor cooking (cooking outdoors in warm weather) and either propane or wood for heating in cold weather....I'm trying to think what I would need standard electrical wiring for?  Doing laundry, possibly, but laundry can be hung out to dry, and I have a hand washer that is a little bit of work, but not too bad.  

For water, in a humid climate which normally gets some rain year round, it's possible to collect all of your water from runoff, or use one of those solar-powered well pumps (I'd add a couple of batteries for that, and to keep the little frig running when there wasn't enough sun for it).  I'm playing with a little house design now that is cement block (for a warm climate) and has a big holding tank built in on one side of the house to collect rain water.  That's also the side of the house where all the plumbing is; water could be moved by solar powered pumps, or if the tank was elevated, by gravity.  

Disposal of human waste is pretty easy in jurisdictions that allow composting toilets (I've lived with outhouses, and with the sawdust bucket toilets, and properly handled both are fine).  

We are probably going to be moving in another year or so (the daughter we moved here to be closer to is in the process of moving to Texas for a new job); I'm debating either following her to Texas (although not to the Dallas area, which is where her job is), or going to Florida.  My middle daughter has to be in Pensacola a couple of times a year for work, so she'd be able to add a visit to us to her trips there.  But I've heard several stories about Florida not allowing people to live off-grid.  

I own the place where we are now, in Kentucky, free and clear, but I didn't pay a lot for it (under $50,000) and probably won't get a lot more than I paid when I sell it.  We are low-income; I'm 64 and somewhat disabled, and my youngest daughter, who lives with me, is totally disabled and always has been.  So we aren't able to tackle heavy construction projects, like I would have when I was younger.  I'd love to build with cob or adobe, but with a bad back, that's totally out of the question.  No way are we even going to consider apartment living -- for one thing, my daughter is autistic, and when she's upset or not feeling good, she screams like a banshee!  Not very good close neighbor material!  

What I'd like to do, if we could find a location where the authorities allow such things, is find an acre or so with a small cement block building in good condition that we can convert to living quarters using the rechargeable solar, and the rainwater collection, and the composting toilet.  That would be affordable housing that I could still manage, I think, without having to handle too much in the way of heavy materials.  Then we could plant a food forest around it....

I've been watching the tiny house movement closely, and like the idea, but most of them are too small if you do much food production at home (or have other hobbies or occupations requiring space/materials/tools and equipment).  But there are a lot of good ideas in the tiny houses -- storage, and utilities, space utilization, outdoor living where the climate allows it.  Those ideas make a house of 400-800 s.f. quite functional for a small family.
 
pollinator
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In the past a a lot of the affordable housing problem was solved in a very permie way by beguinages. These were semi-monastic communities where poor women could live for free. The homes were small and built in the vernacular, such that members of the community could build them themselves. They had gardens for food, churches for community and growth, and breweries for beer. Too this day people visit them to experience the peace.

This link has pictures of one in Bruges. https://www.visitbruges.be/highlights/beguinage

I learned about beguinages from the Twitter user Wrath of Gnon, who talks about vernacular architecture and traditional, sane ways to do city planning. Beguinage thread.

Wrath of Gnon on Twitter
 
pollinator
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Adam Logan - I want to say it was Umpqua Bank. We didn't end up getting a loan, by choice, but they had assessors skilled in off-grid properties.
 
pollinator
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This may not be 100% in the spirit of this thread, but I want to point out another practice I think should be done away with: Scraping all the good topsoil off a new property to build (and selling it, I presume), and then replacing it with a few inches of topsoil brought back in. Really messes with the ability to have decent gardens without a whole bunch more inputs.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Heidi Schmidt wrote:This may not be 100% in the spirit of this thread, but I want to point out another practice I think should be done away with: Scraping all the good topsoil off a new property to build (and selling it, I presume), and then replacing it with a few inches of topsoil brought back in. Really messes with the ability to have decent gardens without a whole bunch more inputs.



I absolutely agree with you, and I would never buy land that had had this done to it!  I was browsing through listings yesterday (trying to decide between Florida and Texas for our next destination), and came across a parcel that had had that done to it, and they hadn't even bothered to put any topsoil back on it, just scraped it down to subsoil and left it like that.  Shudder.

 
pollinator
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In the city an empty 50ft by 100ft lot cost a quarter of a million dollar. When that is the starting point, how do we reach affordable?

This is what affordable means to me:
Land:$20,000 for 1-2acres, enough for a house, food forest, fish pond, poultry, bee-hive, small animals
Sewer:$5,000
Water Supply:$5,000
Electric Supply: $2,500
Gas Supply: $2,500
Permit & Fee: $5,000
(40k)

House Shell: $30,000 for 3bedroom, 1bath

Backup Electric:$5,000
Instant Hot Water: $1,000
Heat Pump: $4,000
Ventilation: $2,500
Wiring + Plumbing: $2,500
(15k)

Kitchen: $5,000
Bathroom: $5,000
Laundry room: $5,000
Living Room: $5,000
Dining Room: $5,000
Bedroom: $1,667 each x3
(30k)

Outside Kitchen: $5,000
Outside Living Room: $5,000
Pond: $5,000
Garden: $5,000
Food Forest: $5,000
Animal Husbandry:$5,000
(30k)

Total = $145,000


Operating Cost
Gas+Electric = $2,000/yr
Internet/Cable/etc = $1,600/yr
Insurance = $1,200/yr
Repair Fund = $1,200/yr
Water = $600/yr
Trash = $300/yr

 
S Bengi
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It would also be nice, if we could pay for our houses with a 7year loan like back in the old days.
Principal = $150,000
Years = 7yrs
Interest = $22,000
Monthly Payment = $2,000/month for 7yrs
But this assume that the per-tax income per month is around $6,000 per month, Or $3,000/m per adult if there are 2 adult making this purchase.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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If you are getting down to dollars, affordable is going to vary greatly.  I've got a paid-for house -- a saleable asset -- which I paid $46,000 for, in need of a lot of work.  Some of the work has been done; when it's all complete I imagine this place will be worth in the neighborhood of $60-$80,000, depending on the market at the time if I was to sell it.  So I could take that and put it into another property, but my income is so low that I really can't afford a mortgage payment (I'm on SS; my daughter gets disability).  

Someone else with more assets and/or more income would consider a more expensive property affordable.  Someone with no assets and a very low income can maybe only afford a tent.  So 'affordable' is very relative and 'squishy,' depending on the person's assets and income.  When we start talking about 'affordable' housing, we really need to define, affordable for whom?  What income level are we talking about?  Sometimes it's a matter of lowering our expectations, being content with less than we have been led to believe we 'deserve.'  (I HATE that term, 'You deserve such-and-such.'  BS.  Not unless you've worked for it, you don't.)  Sometimes, being able to afford housing is going to mean moving.  A person who can't afford an apartment or a house in an expensive city may be just fine in a smaller community where housing is much less expensive.  In other countries, they solve the 'affordable' housing problem with slums full of cardboard shacks with no plumbing or running water (probably not the way we want to go, but it is cheap).  

Personally, I would like to see some building regulations relaxed, allowing more people to live in Tiny Homes on their own land; allowing more people to build with things like cob and straw bales; allowing some of the alternatives for waste disposal and energy production -- yes, some of those things are allowed but not on most urban or suburban lots.  I think there are too many restrictions on the size of homes allowed -- I've been browsing, as we may be moving in a year or two and I'm trying to get an idea of where we want to move to, and I came across a lot where houses built have to be at least 1,600 s.f.  That's outrageous!  I can understand the ones that require 400 s.f., though it's possible to live in a smaller house, as the Tiny House movement has proved.  But 1,600 s.f., while not necessarily too big a house for some families, is far bigger than most of us need.  It's a sorting tool, I think, to make sure all the neighbors are in similar economic strata.  Building codes have certain minimum sizes of rooms allowed in new construction, and that makes it difficult to reduce house size to a level affordable for people who have really small incomes (I did have an architect inform me once that you can't build a house to code in less than 400 s.f.; he was wrong.  But it is difficult).  And then there are all the permit fees -- some places hardly have any, but others, like California, add an enormous amount to the cost of a house with all of their fees.  

Another thing that should be addressed when talking about affordable housing is property taxes.  If a person is low-income, on a fixed income, and their property taxes are huge (and constantly rising), how are they supposed to manage that?  Property taxes are one of the biggest things I take into account when looking at an area.  You have to take some other things into account, too.  Before we moved here to Kentucky, we lived in an area of Eastern Oregon where it was about 45 miles to town (nearly an hour's drive).  Land was cheap there because there weren't very many jobs, and in a lot of the area wells had to be really deep.  Many people haul water in tanks in the back of their trucks.  A lot of people on fixed incomes have bought land there -- you can still get a couple of acres for under $10,000, sometimes quite a bit under.  But then they are an hour away from the grocery stores, gas stations, and everything else.  With care, they manage, but sometimes they end up becoming a burden on the community because their car breaks down, or their health deteriorates and they can't drive anymore.  There are a lot of good folks in that area, and they take care of each other, but it's probably not the ideal 'affordable housing' example, even though people are living in small cabins and RV's (and sometimes in their car).  Affordable access to necessary services has to be taken into account, too.

 
                          
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I want high ceilings in the summer and low ceilings in the winter.  

I agree, high ceilings with cross-ventilation are the best for hot summers. I like high ceilings, but I understand why some people prefer to go for standard, especially in tightly insulated homes.
 
master gardener
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I realize I had not taken a good sample, but I overheard a couple of people talking about house hunting.  Both had jobs that paid near minimum wage. Both has spouses that were not in well paid jobs.   The punchline is that they were looking for granite counter tops, whirlpool tubs, etc.   Of course, their complaint was that housing was too expensive.    

So now I have to wonder, what % of the housing crisis is an expectation crises?
 
master gardener
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John F Dean wrote:I realize I had not taken a good sample, but I overheard a couple of people talking about house hunting.  Both had jobs that paid near minimum wage. Both has spouses that were not in well paid jobs.   The punchline is that they were looking for granite counter tops, whirlpool tubs, etc.   Of course, their complaint was that housing was too expensive.    

So now I have to wonder, what % of the housing crisis is an expectation crises?

I read what you just wrote and thought for a moment I'd clicked on the "jokes" forum by mistake! Yeah - total "expectation crisis". But where does that come from? There are many magazines I just won't read and TV I won't watch, choosing instead to monitor "small house" sites for good ideas of how to make do with less and not feel like I'm somehow suffering rather than being proud of my reduced footprint. Even garden sites can be dangerous because they're often all about fancy plants that need a lot of care, rather than helpful plants that give for what they receive.
 
pollinator
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i am wanting to reply to this thread and not just to this post.  thank you all for some great things to consider.  i am right now working in the city of eugene on a property where we will build both temporary and permament housing.  a great idea you might be interested in where homeless folk help build their own temporary sturcture, participate in other ways to earn money which will be created on site, as well as be involved in building a permanent structure.   i am interested in very inexpensive specific ways of permanent construction.  are there other treads on permies that have ways of building, meaning the actual building materials that would work for nonskilled labor.

many thanks.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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Charlotte, the first thing I would do is conduct a soil test to see if your soil can be used for rammed earth. The advantages of rammed earth is that the material is free, you can build multi-story, stable buildings and you mostly just need labor. There is a guide to building with rammed earth, that includes what it cost them to build a number of infill walls. The USDA also wrote a detailed document about rammed earth construction.

If you manage to create a number of buildings or apartments, you could send your most skilled worker with the forms and tools to start the same process at another homeless recovery site.
 
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I have not read all the posts in this thread. If this is covered, I apologize.

The USDA in 1951 published plans for an approx 600 square foot farm house, which could be added to, deliberately, as a family grew or needs changed. Look for "expansible farm house, USDA" and you should be able to find it. "Excpansible" is the key there, it's part of the title for that and other plans like it...

The USDA also published plans for dorms, cabins, horse barns, shelters, etc.

 
Jay Angler
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Jennie Little wrote:The USDA in 1951 published plans for an approx 600 square foot farm house, which could be added to...

I think a key point here is that a 600 square foot house was considered totally adequate for two people to live in. My province expects Municipalities to complete what's called an "Official Community Plan" that lasts about 20 years before updating and we're in that process now. They want to increase development of "affordable housing" which with our land prices is unrealistic out of the box, but even more so when you consider areas which expect a minimum living area of a house to be 4000 sq feet. Most of those houses also only have two people living in them. They also restrict "non-living area" to a percentage of the living area, so I can't plan an 800 sq ft house with a 3000 sq foot garage workshop - which would please my husband and so long as I got an add-on 600 sq foot studio for fabric/upholstery/design work that needs to stay cleaner than what might happen in that garage and we'd still be in that same 4000 sq feet + a garage - but it would be far more useful than 4 bathrooms!

I'm seeing gradual changes in attitude with the Tiny/Small House Movement happening at least in the next generation, but they're still bombarded daily with images/ads pushing huge, luxury housing which is hard to inoculate humans against. No one likes to "feel poor" and that can so much be a comparison game, and many young people struggle to fight it. A friend's mom (mom my age, friend mid-20's) recently handed her daughter the, "why don't you have a car like your cousin?" line. My son then spent an hour talking to her about the real cost of car ownership and the far more affordable options of walking, cycling or bussing and how particularly the first two have the added benefit of much-needed exercise since she's in a totally sit-down job!

This segways neatly into the need for not just affordable housing, but affordable neighborhoods and affordable communities where people can work, live, grow food and play without travelling excessive distances where they can book one of a dozen cars for use when needed.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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I wonder what would happen if I tried to get a building permit from my county with those 600 SF cottage plans. I mean, the Federal Government itself said that the plans were good, why would the county stand in the way?

Jay gives me an idea for building a multi-generational house. Take that 4,000 SF that is expected, reserve 1,000 SF for common areas, and then break the other 3,000 SF into private space and bedrooms for three families. Take the "open floorplan" trend and make it useful.

So the common areas would be a big living room and a massive kitchen. I'm thinking two kitchen work triangles of sink, fridge and stove. One of the work triangles has an extra fridge for the third family. Maybe have three dishwashers as well. Anyways, dedicate 600 SF to kitchen, dining and laundry. Then you have 400 SF for a common living room and other such space. Next to the common area have the first apartment, on the ground floor, for the senior citizens of the family. Then upstairs put two more apartments. 1,000 SF can fit a private living room, bathroom and two or three bedrooms easily enough.

Our tax inspectors start to talk about "multiple units" if they see a stove in an additional living space. But they don't complain if you have two stoves in one kitchen.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Our area is similar in so far as if it contains a kitchen it's a house. There are strict limits on number of houses. But you can have an outdoor kitchen and separate small living areas. So that's our plan. Outdoor kitchen and detached bedrooms to increase the housing capacity of our land.
 
Jay Angler
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Jeremy VanGelder wrote:

Jay gives me an idea for building a multi-generational house. Take that 4,000 SF that is expected, reserve 1,000 SF for common areas, and then break the other 3,000 SF into private space and bedrooms for three families. Take the "open floorplan" trend and make it useful.

Exactly the sort of thinking we need! You've written it as "multi-generational", and that's a catch we need to encourage Municipal governments to allow more flexibility in - many places limit the number of unrelated people living in one house. In other words, what used to be commonly called a "boarding house" are limited in many areas. That said, sometimes Municipalities can show flexibility and I've read of an example up Island from me. A house builder wanted to do something to give back to the community. He convinced his town to allow him to build 3 homes each with a large "double kitchen" - two stoves, two fridges, two dishwashers etc, and a common area and then two private areas for bedrooms etc and these homes were specifically for single parents. The example given, one parent was a nurse and had to work occasional night shifts. Because the other single parent was in the house, this was completely legal. There has never been a shortage of parents wanting a spot in one of these houses. Yes, as with all situations like this, there needs to be give and take and many people need to learn how to communicate in "nice" ways, but those skills can be learned and are useful in other settings.
 
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I'm currently going through so much of what is discussed here right now in trying to build a home for my own family! I don't even know where to start with the flood of thoughts anymore...

I mentioned this post to my mom today (because, lo and behold, we're currently in a multi-generational housing situation) and we had a discussion on what defines 'affordable housing' and even 'affordable housing crisis'.

We came to the same conclusions: there is an expectation crisis and affordable housing looks different for different folks and different locales.

As for central Texas, I think much of the housing crisis is being made more extreme by real-estate empires that are buying out the smaller, more affordable houses, fixing them up real nice, and renting them for 1-2 years just to resell for a much higher price due to the upgraded features. My sister saw this trying to buy her first home in Austin... they ALL had the same boring grey walls and countertops because some giant real-estate empire was just flipping houses non-stop- with the same boring style at that. She essentially bought the first un-renovated house she found and only managed to get it because the owners wanted to sell to a family and not a business.

We saw this in what is supposed to be a more affordable San Antonio trying to buy a house in 2020. We wanted a fixer-upper because that was in our budget and we can cope with fixing it up ourselves but the real estate gurus would come out and swipe the houses off the market before we'd even get a chance to go look at it.

We aren't poor, but we aren't upper middle class/rich either. However, we live in an area that is becoming increasingly out of the reach of many people of our income. The only reason we are able to afford building our modest home is because we have been living with my parents for coming on three years and we are sharing the land with them as well. We all bought it together just a year ago :)

If it weren't for my husband's and my own personal convictions there would be no reason to have bought such an expensive piece of land (goes for 25-35k an acre here), but we all have a need for one reason or another to live here and to own acreage... so we did our best with what we have and that looks like having a multi-generational.. not home, but property.

In the location of the land we had higher expectations, but to compensate we lowered our expectations for everything else.

Here's a summary of our plan to make 'affordable housing' in an expensive area a reality.
  • Share land
  • Build in phases (dogtrot)
  • Owner-built for as much as we can
  • Rainwater (wells are otherwise ~30k here)
  • Passive solar design (decreases operating costs)
  • Solid construction for a more permanent home (helps build generational wealth)
  • Live with less

  • I really loved the image of the Roman architecture shared early on in this thread as I always dreamed of having a U-shaped home due to the courtyard it creates in the middle. "La Galleria" as mentioned in the previous video would be a perfect way to walk to and fro different rooms in such a house when our heating days are so few.

    Now we aren't doing a U-shaped house since we're going with only 1000 sqft, but due to both preferences and the fact that we want to build in phases, expand the home as the family expands, we'll be doing a dogtrot style home. Our first build is a 2 bed 1 bath 1000 sqft home. Second build will be just bedrooms- at which point we will remove the interior walls to the bedrooms in the first build to allow more living space. Of course the two buildings will be attached at the rooflines for a true dogtrot!

    Here's our phase 1 floorplan.


    Our biggest struggle with this is the fact that we are sharing the land with my parents. It's just raw land and they are also planning to build and finance a home on it at a later date. So how do we finance this all together?

    Some lender told my dad today the two homes would need to be on one mortgage. One home would need to be considered a guest house (ours definitely fits the size for that) but they would need to be built at the same time... well they are by no means ready to build a home right now and we are eager to get started. Yikes.

    I just started the process of quizzing the local banks on this matter, praying we find one that will work with us :) I know there are other solutions out there, just need to find who is willing to do it. So, if any of y'all have any ideas on that I'd love to hear them.

    With that said, financing your affordable housing project is a whole other animal. But it's about time alternative living infiltrates the legal documents and introduces new vocabulary and ideas.
    For example: We discussed skipping the septic system but apparently if you have a kitchen sink in Texas... you have to have septic.

    Thank you to all of you who make me feel sane regarding what we are doing where as when I discuss it with friends and even my parents who are helping with the project I often feel pressured into things I don't truly want.
    That's why we had like 15+ editions of our floorplan... I started with a passive solar design with clerestory windows... took a million detours... and now I'm just right back at the same passive solar design with clerestory windows.
    The guidance of friends and family was a... how do I put this nicely? A huge ass distraction.

    At the least I have more conviction in what I want now.

    If anyone is interested in helping me talk through things regarding our plans, feel free to join my confused self on this post lol

    (Love the idea of the homes for single moms! We had discussed a multi-generational house but decided it wasn't best for us. I also hope to have an extra small home on our property to offer to someone in need at some point.)
     
    pollinator
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    Many of the issues with affordable housing come down essentially to social policy. Housing can be built to be affordable, but in many areas those affordable options are specifically prohibited. For example, in many locations you cannot build properties with multiple apartments - build regulations force homes to be larger, single dwellings. This protects the property values of existing homeowners, at the expense of those who cannot afford a home at all.

    In places with very high property prices and rents, allowing urban infill with affordable housing would relieve a considerable burden.

    But in permaculture discussions, affordable tends to centred around making the fabric of the building as cheap to build as possible, and finding land as cheap as possible. That works for those who want to live rural life styles, but that is not appropriate for the vast numbers of people who want to live urban lives.

    And even if we do push for great settlement of rural areas, with "cheap" housing, I get very concerned about the impact of that housing. I remember reading a study a few years ago about virgin forests being destroyed (I think it may have been NE Australia?), and on investigation the driving force for it was people leaving the cities to find their own chunk of rural paradise. Homes were being built, and the land cleared for roads, gardens, building and swimming pools. On top of that, people living in those areas tend to have very high environmental footprints. Everything they need is distant from their homes and needs to be driven to them.

    Urbanisation has many faults, but at the same time it has taken enormous pressure off rural areas.
     
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    Rebecca said, "I just started the process of quizzing the local banks on this matter, praying we find one that will work with us I know there are other solutions out there, just need to find who is willing to do it. So, if any of y'all have any ideas on that I'd love to hear them.



    From what you have said I see the problem is that banks and mortgage lenders are not going to loan money to build a house on a property that you do not own.

    To get around this your Dad can give or sell you the part you want to put your house on. Or like the lenders have already suggest "Put the loan in your Dad's name."

    But it's about time alternative living infiltrates the legal documents and introduces new vocabulary and ideas.
    For example: We discussed skipping the septic system but apparently if you have a kitchen sink in Texas... you have to have septic.



    I believe what I mention above about lenders not loaning money if you don't own the land so I doubt that there is a way to change the language.

    In Texas each county sets the guideline for waste management according to the state requirements.

    You can install your own OSSF. On site Sewer Facility.

    Here is some more information:

    Texas law does allow for an OSSF to be exempt from permitting if the OSSF:

       serves a single family residence on a tract of land that is 10 acres or larger,
       is not causing a nuisance or polluting groundwater,
       all parts of the OSSF are at least 100 feet from the property line,
       the effluent is disposed of on the property, and
       the single family residence is the only dwelling located on the tract of land.



    https://www.tceq.texas.gov/permitting/ossf/ossfpermits.html


     
    Rebecca Blake
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    Anne Miller wrote:

    From what you have said I see the problem is that banks and mortgage lenders are not going to loan money to build a house on a property that you do not own.

    To get around this your Dad can give or sell you the part you want to put your house on. Or like the lenders have already suggest "Put the loan in your Dad's name."

    But it's about time alternative living infiltrates the legal documents and introduces new vocabulary and ideas.
    For example: We discussed skipping the septic system but apparently if you have a kitchen sink in Texas... you have to have septic.



    I believe what I mention above about lenders not loaning money if you don't own the land so I doubt that there is a way to change the language.



    I was not clear, we own the land in conjunction with my parents. We purchased it early last year and four of us (my two parents, my husband and I) all signed our names on the deed.

    Whatever we do, they’d have to co-sign any of our mortgage documents and we co-sign theirs. I know that for certain since there are multiple owners to the property.

    That is if we can have separate loans for the two families.
     
    pollinator
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    There are a number of points thru this I would like to comment on.

    1.  One of my mother's design rules was the kitchen should be a dead end.  It should not be the path to anywhere.  Ideally it should be right next to the door used to carry garden produce, cold baby livestock and other stuff in.

    2.  Where you are building is critical to how a cheap, durable, livable home is built.  Wofatti for example may be great where trees are common and you have hills.  But if you are in Kansas or Oklahoma in an area with almost no trees and you have to drive 20 miles to find a hill 10 feet high it is far less practical.  Home design will change depending on whether you are in Alaska or Texas.

    3.  Reading the list of stuff needed for a home here.  What if you could eliminate most of that stuff and the need for most of the utilities?  Start with the water tank heat storage from this:(start about an hour in and watch the next 50 minutes for a good explanation)

    Heat storage

    Then combine it with this for cooling

    geothermal cooling(no heat pump)

    You have just eliminated heat pump, water heater, auxiliary heater from your cost while you added other costs.     In most of the country I think these combined could be made into a viable system for heating and cooling.  In the summer you might even be able to use the bottom half of the tank for cooling by doing radiative cooling at night thru the collector panels.  Combine it with radiative cooling/heating from the ceiling inside and you reduce overall  ventilation system costs too.  The other gain is this will greatly reduce utility costs going forward.

    Simply getting a mass produced large tank and a control system would make this viable in much of the nation.  Some other neat things is most of the products to do this are built here or would likely be built here rather than china.  Lower levels of pollution produced to make.  Buildable by the normal DYI person.  System is mostly independent of house design.  Way lower solar panel square footage needs compared to PV panels as solar thermal is 60% to just over 80% efficient vs 20% for PV.  Also this system would scale beautifully for multifamily dwellings.  Since the loss thru the insulation increases as the square of size while the storage volume increases as the cube of the storage volume the bigger it is the more efficient it will be and the over all build cost per person will go down slightly
     
    Anne Miller
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    Rebecca Blake wrote:I was not clear, we own the land in conjunction with my parents. We purchased it early last year and four of us (my two parents, my husband and I) all signed our names on the deed.

    Whatever we do, they’d have to co-sign any of our mortgage documents and we co-sign theirs. I know that for certain since there are multiple owners to the property.

    That is if we can have separate loans for the two families.



    Sorry that I missed the part about co-owning the land.  Maybe that was somewhere other than your post here.

    Then maybe the county has a regulation about only one family dwelling per property, but a guest house is okay as it is not a family dwelling.

    Have you asked the lender why they made this decision?
     
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    How big a home is in square feet and how it actually feels to occupy can be two different things. There are a lot of ideas to be had in this way from marine architecture, Japanese homes, peasant cottages and even modern RVs.

    Wrap around shelving and cabinets from about elbow height on up to arm's length can free up a lot of space by allowing furniture to slide flush against the wall underneath, and storage up higher doesn't crowd the floor. Cabinets under stairs, pocket doors, thinner, vertical windows to let in as much light as wide but low ones without the impeding the floor layout as much, etc.

    Christopher Alexander recommends actually making the access to rooms in a house circuitous and meandering, to lengthen the journey between rooms and make the small house feel larger without adding footage. This also makes the rooms feel more private. Varying ceiling and floor levels also will complexify the space and enlarge it by sense of variety and hierarchy. Also very important is the spacial effect of views on rooms and spaces, as in what's seen through a window. A narrow staircase might be enlarged by a well placed portal window with a distant view, for example.

    All in all this is one more area where intensive design focus up front can build in permanent, low maintenance assets, and with a repeatable design to amortize costs. But it has to be done with practicality of materials and construction in mind, so as to make a truly affordable and useful building and not a precious dollhouse.
     
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    This?  
    hyg·ge
    /ˈh(y)o͞oɡə,ˈho͝oɡə/
    Learn to pronounce
    noun
    a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).
    "why not follow the Danish example and bring more hygge into your daily life?"
    Feedback

    Tim Flood wrote:Great feedback, all. In general, everyone seems to grok what I'm asking.

    I really like the use of the word, "cozy"

    If I could create homes that have that feel of Grandma's home - That kind where you walk inside and immediately feel "Ahhhhhhh......." inside.

     
    pollinator
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    I dont think its reasonable to complain about permit cots.
    Those fees are part of the income for the Municipality, if they dont charge them, who else do they charge to get income ?
    If you starve the City of funding nothing can be done in the way of repairs and maintenance in the city.
    Now I know some will say that does not happen anyway, well that is an issue of accountability and local taxes rather than permit fees.
    BUT back to the starting point, where are we in terms of Affordable housing.
    In Australia I have been floating a concept as follows;
    An Affordable has is defined as below
    - 2 bedroom
    - one bathroom
    - separate toilet
    - kitchen /dining/ lounge
    - max size about 800sq.ft.
    - designed to be extendable when the need and the funds are available
    -block of land is big enough to allow the extensions.
     
    Anne Miller
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    Permits also protect the consumer.

    Especially if you are hiring any contractor to help with the build.

    Or if you are buying a house.

    It is a small price to pay to have a safe place to live.
     
    Jeremy VanGelder
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    Here is the "Expansible Farmhouse" floor plan that Jennie Little mentioned. What stands out to me on this viewing is all of the closets and other interior storage. Every hall has at least one closet. There is a block of four closets in the center of the house that open into the living room, dining room, and two hallways, respectively. I take it that this is because the house was designed before there was an expectation of an attached two car garage. They couldn't stash all of their stuff in a garage, so they had closets in the house instead. This is a fairly common feature in the other USDA plans from that era.

    USDA House Plans
    ExpansibleFarmHouse.jpg
    [Thumbnail for ExpansibleFarmHouse.jpg]
     
    Jay Angler
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    Jeremy VanGelder wrote: There is a block of four closets in the center of the house that open into the living room, dining room, and two hallways, respectively.


    Jeremy, if you look closely, the "Build first" part of the picture, doesn't actually have a bedroom. The large area is actually labelled, "living and sleeping" area. So those large closets are for all their clothing and any personal items that wouldn't be stored in the bathroom. As a farm family, a fair bit of closet space would be allocated to pantry storage because at that time the "grocery store" didn't have many of the foods you find in one today.

    That design would be called a, "Bachelor's Apartment" today, only today, the kitchen would be the size of one of those closets, and that doesn't work for people who actually want to cook healthy food for themselves. A friend who lives in a place of similar size has all her canned goods on an open shelving unit in a hallway. The kitchen barely holds the equipment she uses regularly to bake, can, and cook. She prefers to come to my house to do big canning projects and we do it together.

    Not counting the porches, that house is 660 sq feet - that might not be described as a "tiny" house, but it's definitely in "small house" territory. The problem is that today, many places won't allow people to build that small, so they are forced to go "tiny on wheels" which limits them to 8-10 ft in width, which is very inefficient for design and heating. However, there are many places in this world that would think that house was a mansion. There are people near me whose garages are as big or bigger!
     
    Stacy Witscher
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    Jay - why wouldn't they allow you to go that small?

    I'm planning on building a few detached bedrooms with kitchenette at around 250 sq. ft. Of course, I'm not going to permit route with these.

    I like large detached garages and outbuildings. They allow your house to be smaller. I have a detached 2 car garage that we use for all the solar equipment and the generators. It also doubles as a plant nursery. I plan on adding another garage for use as a garage and meat/cheese curing with a small apartment upstairs for my kid.

     
    Jay Angler
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    Stacy Witscher wrote:Jay - why wouldn't they allow you to go that small?


    "The BC Housing Design and Construction Standards provide standards and technical ... a minimum floor area of 760 sf (70.6 m2) " .
    However, I did see another reference that said, " bc building code states, that minimum dwelling size must be circa 400 sqft". The problem with this one is telling for sure whether that really meant a "stand-alone" house, or a suite within a house which is allowed to be smaller. A suite over a garage with a larger house on the property might easily be passed under the concept of "it's just an apartment".

    However, this sort of thing is a moving target in many locations - there's plenty of talk about reducing minimum square foot requirements, with many voices in favor for and against. My bigger concern is when they start putting small houses on even smaller lots - increasing density with no food security and a danger of water insecurity if the infrastructure breaks for any reason.

    I love the design I saw years ago for small block houses in China built strong enough for a serious soil load on the roof allowing people to at least grow fresh veggies and herbs.

    There are plenty of healthy approaches to solving a lot of the housing crisis, but it does require thinking about what *really * matters - things like food security and community cohesiveness/inclusiveness.
     
    Stacy Witscher
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    The big thing that they are against here, is multiple houses on a single property. We have two existing houses, one is classified as a farm worker building. You can build a single huge house, like 5000 sq. ft. but they don't want a bunch of small houses. It's absurd.

    But for it to be considered a house, it has to have a kitchen and a kitchen requires a stove. So detached bedrooms with an outdoor/summer kitchen works. And once you have an approved house with septic they don't fuss too much with additional structures.

    I feel very fortunate to live where I do, and have so many options. I also recently bought a fifth wheel that I'm fixing up for guests or people wanting to work on the property for a while.
     
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