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How to solve the Affordable Housing Crisis

 
pollinator
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Well it is simple, the codes and laws need changing to suit the new requirements
 
pollinator
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Jay Angler wrote:

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.  




Some places have caught on to that loopholes, and closed it by banning mobile homes, RVs, and "portable dwelling units".
 
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1. One size fits nobody.  There are a variety of housing options succeeding in the marketplace.  This variety exists because a variety of lifestyles exist.  What is your lifestyle today?  What will your lifestyle be tomorrow?  Literally, "tomorrow" as in the day after today.  It can change that fast and that often.  How does your weekend use of housing differ from your workday housing needs?  Before asking what kind of housing someone needs, first ask about their multiple lifestyles.
2. What kind of housing is popular?  Why is that type popular?  Affordable housing or giant mansions, it still has to be sold.  Do some market research.  
3. If you cannot afford housing, you definitely cannot afford private transportation along with your housing.  Much of the affordable housing crisis would disappear if useful public transportation were widely available.  Inexpensive housing tends to be pushed away from concentrations of jobs.  The ability to move yourself and enough stuff to where you need to be is more important for survival than any one shelter.  To thrive you need a secure place to store and use your accumulated stuff.
4. Private activities and public activities need separate spaces.  You can limit your housing to private activities if there are places for your public activities in your neighborhood.  Fewer public services and activities in the neighborhood means you need a more multi-functional, thus bigger, house.
5. Over time, the simplest shack may be built into a mansion.  Then it becomes unaffordable to maintain, everyone moves out, and the accumulated resources, in the now mansion, become waste.

Conclusion: Give up on stand alone "affordable" housing.  Build affordable neighborhoods instead.   Save resources by sharing activity spaces and services. Keep travel distances to a human scale instead of automobile scale.  Mix it up so that when someone changes their lifestyle, thus changing housing needs, they may be able to continue living in the same neighborhood, in a different house.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, on a human neighborhood scale.
 
master steward
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Raymond Olsen wrote:

Conclusion: Give up on stand alone "affordable" housing.  Build affordable neighborhoods instead.

This is exactly what some "tiny house communities" are doing - particularly ones geared towards an identified group. I believe somewhere in Canada, they're building one specifically for veterans for example, and I know there's at least one near Portland, Oregon specifically for transitioning homeless people. The Oregon one has all jointly used cooking facilities, washroom facilities, and a large common area with some computer access and project areas. My understanding is they have one full-time staff member whose first job is to facilitate communication skills! Most of us North Americans haven't experienced that sort of community sharing and interacting - we can't expect it to "just work" without some input in the social skills area.
 
John C Daley
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Permits cost money because that is an income stream for the local council.
I think its reasonable to have then charged to new work, otherwise where will the local authority get funds to operate?
 
pollinator
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Raymond Olsen wrote:

Conclusion: Give up on stand alone "affordable" housing.  Build affordable neighborhoods instead.   Save resources by sharing activity spaces and services. Keep travel distances to a human scale instead of automobile scale.  Mix it up so that when someone changes their lifestyle, thus changing housing needs, they may be able to continue living in the same neighborhood, in a different house.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, on a human neighborhood scale.



I totally agree. One thing I love about my neighborhood is that it has a mix of housing options.  Within one block we have single family homes, condominium apartments, rental apartments, specialized housing like assisted living and “halfway houses,” and many “two flats” which is a house with two separate family-sized apartments, traditionally the owner lives in the ground floor apart, and rents out the upper floor apartment.

We have enough population density to support real bus service as well as elevated and commuter rail, plus bikeable and walkable streets. We can walk to grocery store, pharmacy, school, and other stores and services. Lots of public parks provide shared open space.

It’s not perfect, because rents are going up, like everywhere, and the private developers want to flood the market with “ luxury” studio apts and one-bedrooms instead of mid-range family housing.
 
gardener
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John C Daley wrote:Permits cost money because that is an income stream for the local council.
I think its reasonable to have then charged to new work, otherwise where will the local authority get funds to operate?



I see that in Australia property tax is not charged on a person's primary residence. So the local councils really don't have much in the way of property tax income. Here in the US, counties and cities charge property tax on all real property. And then they charge for permits on top of that.

The total cost of regulatory compliance when building a new home in Washington State is $100,000 now. It used to be $80,000, but the state adopted an updated code last year. So, say you are building a 400 square foot house on a permanent foundation. Conventional construction costs $150 per square foot. So your construction costs are $60,000. But then you have to add the $100,000 for permits and fees and planning and all the other regulatory costs. Those regulatory costs don't really scale with the size of your house. So this is why wealthy people are largely the only people building new houses in the US. If you can afford to pay the extra $100,000, you can afford to build a massive house for yourself. If you can't afford to pay that, you just can't build a house.

And note how this barrier actually lowers the income to the jurisdiction in the long run. A small lot with a 400 square foot house on it brings a lot more property tax than an empty lot. But the jurisdiction would rather see it sit empty than give a discount on one-time permit fees.
 
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There is more than one expansible home plan btw.

https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/ipd/apronsandkitchens/files/original/7f32e893f61837e6330a79c41169ad3e.jpg
 
Rocket Scientist
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That is a nicely laid out house. It could even start as a simple rectangle with part of the living room screened off as bedroom for a young couple, and one or both bedrooms added later without disturbing anything. I also like the centrally placed stove nook which could effectively heat the whole house.

My mother designed our 5-bedroom house in a similar fashion in the 1950s. It started as a rectangle with entry hall, family room, kitchen, bathroom and master bedroom, and adjoining two-car garage. Then my parents added the bedroom wing, another rectangle joining at corners, with four bedrooms, laundry and bathroom. Having the laundry next to the kids' rooms was a very wise move. Finally when I was about four, they filled in the corner of the rectangles to make a complete "L" with spacious living/dining room.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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Since the original poster was interested in dogtrot houses, here is one as a duplex.

Stuart Duplex
 
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YOU'VE GOTTA LOOK AT THESE "AFFORDABLE" HOMES!

They cost a bit under normally constructed homes from what I've read.
Also you get long term cost savings from the way they are insulated so you save on heating/cooling costs.

They almost all look nice inside and out and just are pleasing to the eyes.

They have different requirements on all the hardware for heating and cooling. I'm not sure if the company sells such systems or helps owners learn what is required.

See the two sites listed below. The first is their Home Page and the second leads you to view several of their featured homes.

They are not all just a bubble. Many different floor plans exist and if you don't see what you want talk to the people at the company. I am NOT affiliated with this company at all. I just like DOME HOMES!     :-)

https://www.monolithic.org/homes

https://www.monolithic.org/homes/featured-homes/there-s-a-dome-of-a-home-going-up-on-pensacola-beach

ENJOY!
 
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:

some things could be made more efficient that aren't actually "problems", but they are daily annoyances. Most dirty laundry is produced in the bedrooms and bathrooms, right? So why is the laundry room often so far away from both?



This one I can answer. Our washing machine and dryer are in the upstairs bathroom right next to our bedroom , and, more importantly, the bedroom of our lightly sleeping 3 year old son. This means thar we need to make sure that the machines have finished running by the time he goes to bed at 7:30. If it were further away, we'd have a lot more flexibility in doing our laundry.
 
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I have a suggestion as to ventilation in homes. As a child, we lived in an apartment in Chicago that had transoms over the outer doors. these slanted downward, that is to say that the top of the transom (which was a glass window the width of the door opening and about 12" in height) would slant down from the ceiling and allow the hot air that accumulated at the top of the room to escape and cool air to come in through the opening that the slanted window opened at the bottom. We also did this with our windows that were in two sections. The top window as lowered and the bottom window was raised. Hot air went out through the top window and cooler air came in through the bottom window. If I build a house in the future, it will have both these features.
 
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If a person was going to build a earthship type design with a mortgage and also have to deal with regulations and inspections, tire walls are  almost impossible in a lot of areas, but what about more of a walk out basement design using more conventional materials single story, with a attached green house/long wall facing south/
For the shell of the house and then incorporate the natural building aspects more on the finishing doing more of a hybrid approach still using the principles of a earthship, I'm pretty sure earthship biotecture
Has plans for building without tires.
 
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There is great info in this post. I am posting as an alternative to building. We have a modest ranch-style home on one acre in Wisconsin with organic gardens that we are considering selling next year. We are just exploring creative ideas & wonder if there is interest in rent-to-buy with an "approved"  family, where a portion of rent can be applied to purchase. This property is pretty unique in a very small subdivision.  We have eagles every day & all the wildlife that Wisconsin offers along with established fruit gardens (strawberries, amazing blueberries& elderberries) & vegetables like asparagus & garlic. This home comes with kayaks as water is nearby & it sits in a nature corridor.   Beautiful mature oaks, maples & a majestic willo tree in the front yard among spruce & pines. We are just pondering how letting go of this property could be a win for everyone. I am not in here very much but any personal interest you may want to explore I invite you to pm me.  I will respond but probably slow ...Thanks for reading.
 
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"Affordable" is such a tricky word, but I'll put that aside for now.

Regarding approach, there's a firm in the Hudson valley that's trying to address this mix with their Flexhouse series, which ups the ante by incorporating the Passive House standard- they use simple forms that are not dissimilar from the shapes of the 100+ year old farmhouses that dot the adjacent landscape and design them to be flexible to evolve with the owner's long-term needs.

Check them out- They're called North River and are based in Ulster County NY

https://nriverarchitecture.com/flexhouse/
 
pollinator
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Personally, I think the single biggest thing to "solve the affordable housing crisis" would be to change zoning regulations in existing suburbs to allow for tiny houses on any lot.  The tiny houses would either be rentals or for extended family--in laws, grown children, a single adult sibling. etc.
 
pollinator
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I think that it makes sense to 1st define what affordable housing is, to me it is not a house that only doctors or laywers can afford it is a house that someone can afford while not being "lazy" and working 40hrs per week for 52wks/year while getting paid minimum wages, so in USA, probably around $10/hr aka $20,000/year. Assuming that everyone has a roommate or a spouse/partner lets call that an household income of $40,000/year.  I know that most female gets paid less than what males make on average and that alot of the folks who need affordable housing have a minium wage less than $10/hrs. So maybe I should revise that household income down to $35,000/year.  And about 1/3 of those pre-tax dollars should go to housing, aka lets use $1000/month for nice round numbers.

An affordable $120,000 house with an affordable mortgage of $1000/month for two adults making a $10/hr minimum wage A single parent or single person would only be able to afford half of that obviously, not too sure how they would make it happen.

So what elements could keep it in that price range:
- smaller total square footage of 1,000sqft or less vs the newer trend of 2,500sqft @ $100/sqft
- while we want it "smallish" it should still be functional with 2-3bedroom, living room, kitchen/dining room, bathroom/laundry/hallway)
- less bathroom, every bedroom doesn't need its own bathroom
- get fixer-upper house and then bring it up to standand with sweat equity
- get a smaller house and then add rooms to it in the future

Being that we are on permies.com I also want to look at this with a permaculture lens it would be nice if we had:
- a collective place to apply for contruction loans to build more sustainable houses
- a place to go to get design plans for houses/electrical/solar/HVAC/etc systems and setup
- a place to go and find trades people to help create/renovate said houses
- a collective place to buy and sell these affordable, sustainable houses and get mortages for them

I also don't think that an affordable should only exist in "the boonies", it should be affordable in every state, every metro-area (in the actual core-city limits might be too tall an order)

Sadly I have also seen the term affordable housing being abused by officials to the point that in my city of Boston if you make $98,000/year as a single person you qualify for income restricted/affordable housing, because you are poor/not rich, but with the avg triple decker cost of $1million to $2million in even the bad parts of town, I guess it makes sense.

I wonder what dollar value others would state as affordable, maybe for other affordable means something that they can do with cash and no mortgage and as such it should be something that they can buy for $40,000 cash, or build for $40,000 over 3yrs which is usually how long the government gives owner builder to build there house while sleeping onsite.
 
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I am planning to build a 12 x16 cabin using aircrete on an off-grid property in Nevada. Aircrete is made by mixing soap bubbles (like shaving cream consistency) into Portland cement with between 4 to 5 gallons of water per batch. This inflates the cement from 1cu ft to 6cu ft. My current estimated cost for the shell is a little over $5k. I chose this material because I can make it myself with a 55 gallon barrel and a 1/2" drill with a mortar mixing paddle, air compressor and a small water pump and some 5 gallon buckets. With aircrete you can make your walls as thick as you want, and it has insulative properties once cured so that extra insulation for the walls is not needed. My cabin will have 12" wall thickness, using a slipform method of wall construction. You can also make blocks of any size and mortar them together, but that takes longer. Aircrete resists fire, water, and insects. If you make a dome shaped house it will resist tornados and hurricanes. I am retired and living on a fixed income, and my ability to obtain a mortgage is slim to none.
 
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Being from the deep south of the US I am familiar with the dog-trot style homes. And really love the design as it leads to separation of function of the home. And if planed and built correctly they can be very affordable. This is especially true for a family just starting out.
I don't see this as building two houses but rather than one. Remember that if you are planning to grow a family you will eventually need more room. I don't like to use term term tiny house because it tends to make folks think of a space that is 8 feet wide and some length long with a loft sleeping area. While this might work for some it doesn't for most. I don't want to stoop over to get to my bed or have my television 6 feet from me.
Having said that I think of a dog-trot as two separate areas of a home that function as one. They are connected by a common open air area. Notice that I didn't say outside area. Although it essentially is. You could use a portion of this area for cooking during the summer. A good design would include a way to close off the central portion of the house in the winter, then the warmth of the kitchen would be a welcome addition to the home.
Again being from the south it used to be a common thing to have an outdoor kitchen. Keep the heat out of the house in the summer. While not practical by some of todays standards this is an option.
Another feature of southern homes was a porch completely around the house. Yes a porch on all four sides. I've seen these on Dog-trots as well. You would be amazed at how nice of a place there always is to sit at anytime of the day or night when you can move around the whole house. Also this can provide for sleeping areas that are very comfortable during portions of the year.
Also being a builder and home designer I am familiar with the permitting process, code requirements and the inspection process during the build. I am also familiar with the wants of the banks and the needs of the folks that I work with and for. Most times they will come to me with a floor plan that they found on the internet and would like me to make changes to this plan to fit their perceived needs.
Very seldom are they willing to move far from their perceived needs.
So part of the problem is that people generally want what they think they need more than what they really do. There have been several times when the folks that I've drawn plans for have suffered sticker shock when they got to the point of getting prices for the building of their homes. Some of these have actually came back and asked me to help them downsize, most do not.
Natural building products here are wood. We have several verities of wood that are highly rot resistant, and lots that are not. There is something to say for a house that is built completely with wood. If you look at how some of the very early settlers homes were built then you would get a lesson in local building materials. Wood framing with wattle and daub infill for the walls. This was covered with a layer of local clay or if you could afford it then the plaster of the walls would be lime cement. Split wood shingles were used for roofing. The roof had large overhangs to prevent rain infiltrating the walls. These houses were without fail built up off the ground, sometimes by many feet. This provided for good air flow over around and through the home. Something that is very important during our long hot, humid summers. There are still a lot of these houses around.
There are many newer and different types of construction today. If you are looking for a minimal carbon foot print then IFC is not the most friendly. One of the most useless siding materials I can think of is vinyl siding. I would rather use something like Hardiplank, which uses cement and corn stover  to make a near indestructible siding board, it is near fire proof as well. Steel roofing is the most effective way of covering your home. It will outlast most every other roofing material and is also fire proof.
There are also many ways of providing for an energy efficient house.

I would love to talk to anyone who is thinking of building a new home and needs help with design, layout...



 
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Jay: I agree with the *REALLY BIG* workshop area
 
Sid Deshotel
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When I think of "workshop" I think of a pole barn. Easy to put up and efficient in material use. If you live in my parish if you are putting up a agriculture building you don't have to buy a permit. That's not to say that the parish inspector will not show up to see what you are doing. And if you are putting in plumbing and wiring for electrical then that's a different story.
Now I never want to encourage anyone to lie or do something dishonest but, we've built several barns in the past few years that later on had solar panels and equipment for off-grid power requirements.  One of these barns also has rainwater catchment. None of these have septic systems.
Having had to have a few building inspected in the past  I know the parish inspector fairly well and have never had a problem with this sort of setup. As long as they are independent of the public power and water systems and are called an ag building you're good to go.
 
Daniel Schneider
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The problem with workshops in separate buildings, at least in the north, is heating. My carpentry workshop is out in the barn, and in the winter I can't really do anything that takes more than an hour or so at a stretch, as the cold makes my muscles start to misfire, and the room's big enough that an electric heater wouldn't be practical. Then, when you consider that we also do spinning and weaving, and I do blacksmithing, a separate workshop building  for each would mean you'd looking at potentially having to warm up 3-4 small buildings (admittedly, not all at the same time), which due to their significantly lower mass to surface area, won't *stay* warm nearly as long, which means having to actively heat them each time you use them, pretty much the entire time you're using them. I'm also not so convinced that several small buildings won't use *more* resources than a single structure of equal area, especially those that need to be built strong enough to deal with significant snow loads.
 
Jay Angler
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Daniel Schneider wrote:The problem with workshops in separate buildings, at least in the north, is heating.

Not just the north. In my region, dampness is the big problem.

I admit that our dream workshop would contain several rooms for different types of jobs - metal working machinery isn't keen on the acidity of sawdust, and a "clean room" for painting would be good also. However, some of those areas might need to be based on movable storage units so they could be expanded or contracted, but still keep most of the mess contained.

Building houses that way would make a certain amount of sense! Some walls fixed, particularly if they contain plumbing, but other walls insulated for noise, but moveable so if you want to have a big party, you can create a bigger space.
 
Rob Teeter
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charlotte anthony wrote: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.



You should look into aircrete as a low cost way for non-builders to create permanent structures. It can be cast in forms as in slipforming, or made into blocks and mortared like bricks. YouTube has many instructional videos with details.
 
Jay Angler
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All  the communities in my province have been working on what is called their, "Official Community Plan". The push and pressure for more housing has been intense in all of the areas around me, however, if you look at the statistics for the last 10 years, there have been areas that have had huge amounts of new housing of single family homes, row housing, and condominiums.  And yet, people keep saying, "but our young people can't afford to buy homes".

This has driven me to the conclusion that the only way to fix the problem is to increase the number of "cooperative" housing projects and the "charitable" housing projects. The current model of house building is totally based on the "economic" housing principle - in other words, how does the builder and the banker make the most money. The answer to that is to build "luxury" townhouses and "luxury" condos, rather than family friendly apartment buildings or rental townhouses.

I'm not sure how to do it, but in North America we have to stop thinking of housing as "an investment" and go back to thinking of housing as "housing"!
 
Kim Huse
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Jay"

YES! This investment thing is getting out of hand; every time you turn around, there's a 'bubble' that bursts; and the housing investment market is one of the worst bubble makers there is! We had one helluva time 6 years ago when we had to move out of the complex we lived in because the rent was going to be more than 1/2 of our income at the time, and  getting a house would drop that payment back down to 1/4 of our income.  And even then, then we ended up in a fringe area, that is between the really bad part of town and what would be considered a middle-class area; and  we have a lot of differing family and  ethinic groups here, and we are also one of the areas that were 'bypassed' in the 1920's through the 1960s  for  major roads, good supermarkets, etc, because of the 'perception' of racism at the time' things are sslloowwllyy getting corrected...but geez....

My husband and I, and our friends, are in the middle-to late=middle age group, and its been  a real big pain in the a$$ to watch our nieces and nephews and extended chosen family members, try to get loans here recently on DECENT, move-into-condition houses just to LIVE IN.  The current recession will help a bit; bit by all that's powering the cogs in the Universe, as greedy human beings try to 'win' back their losses, it will do it once again!  We live in Dallas, Tx; and the  find a home on a decent area at a decent price has knocked ssoo many people who would qualify  tot he curb, it isn't funny; and yes, the prices are dropping, but oh-so-very-slowly...

I want to go out and strangle the person who thought to look at anyone's home as an 'investment', and then work the market to artificially  inflate the value. GGGRRR.......I just wanna stomp EVEYRONE who has been on that particular train, STOMP SOME SENSE INTO THEM!

ok, rant over...thank you for letting me vent...
 
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Well, opening post was about how to make affordable houses from the perspective of the builder. If you want to discuss how to solve affordable housing from politics, the options are plenty but most of them are disliked in the USA.

Let me give you some examples:
In Germany there was a policy that taxed very heavily the purchase of a house. While this makes the purchase of a house more expensive, it has prevented speculation, housing is not a juicy market in which to invest, thus the pricing remains affordable. However, this has a cost: the amount of houses is not coping with the demand. In other words, houses are affordable IF you can find a house to buy.
In France, the state owns roughly a third of the rented houses. The state provides affordable housing if you can prove that you need it. In addition, private rentings are driven down, not by the state, but by the market. That's because private renters must offer something better that the public housing if they want to rent their houses, so they cannot increase prices as they'd like. Some say this is unfair for the investors, but in case of housing scarceness, the state just build more public buildings. The other facet of the system is that it involves a lot of burocracy.
In both cases it helps that the buildings are high density, with many services available nearby at walking distance. This is by design.

Higher densities solves a lot of problems, while creating their own. The size I favour is what I can find in well developed villages here in Spain: small buildings of three to four stories. They get water pressure without pumps and they don't need to use elevators. Cars are parked in some town square a few hundred meters from the buildings (you may unload the car in front of your building but you cannot park it there). This way people walk for pretty much everything except when they need to go to the city, then they pick the car.
This height is also good for shading the streets, never wider than two lanes, which is a bonus against the heat.
The only thing I dislike about these villages is that they usually don't have many urban trees or green parks, since there are so many farms and orchards around.

Expand this model, including a few forested parks, and you will have the model of most european city centers. Four-story buildings bordering each block, enclosing a private park, then punctuated by a few public parks in some blocks. This model is proven and has served well for centuries. The current european model of high rising buildings requires cheap petrol and 24/365 electricity to be viable.
 
Kim Huse
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I like the concept of the 4 homes to a  block, maybe up to 4 stories tall.  In fact, MOST buildings in Dallas/Forth Worth area are single or 2 story, maybe 3 to 4, except for Silicon Row and other downtown buildings; but thats downtown Dallas; and those buildings have been up for decades, some going on 100 years or more, and they all have some type of structural problems.

However, there are those who are disabled, either by accident or from birth, who would be unable to walk or go up stairs; they are confined to wheelchairs or other mobility aids.  I am presuming that there would be access up onto sidewalks for those mobility aids, and that the available housing would be on ground level, and that there would be ways to get into the building for those of us disabled.

However, what if the only available housing is on the second, third or 4th floor? What happens then to that disabled person who can not climb stairs? or even a ramp?

Yeah, I know I am playing Devil's advocate; but I myself am disabled, and I know a few others here are as well...and we have the right to live independently if we wish, with proper accommodations.

 
Jay Angler
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Kim Huse wrote:However, what if the only available housing is on the second, third or 4th floor? What happens then to that disabled person who can not climb stairs? or even a ramp?

Yeah, I know I am playing Devil's advocate; but I myself am disabled, and I know a few others here are as well...and we have the right to live independently if we wish, with proper accommodations.

Actually Kim, I'd like it if you removed the word "Devil" and simply said that you wish to advocate for yourself and others who wish to live independently, because that's the best way to keep disabled people an active, participating part of society and there are many people who support that!

I read about a CoHousing project in I believe Denmark or country close to that, specifically aimed at older people like 50+. Many of their buildings were built as two story with stairs to the upper apartments, but the lower ones were wheelchair accessible. The stairs helped to keep the younger members physically fitter and healthier (I've read that elsewhere about stairs) but they had the ability to accommodate people as they aged in place. The design was intelligent and thoughtful!

In contrast, I know of a lady who lives in Ontario who was in the process of moving from a house into an apartment when she badly broke her leg (as in multiple places - *really* messy). She was essentially trapped in this apartment for months as the building was so poorly designed that she couldn't get from the elevator to the lobby even, let alone outside. She could get to the underground parking, but could only leave there with help because the auto opening door a) only worked from inside going out, and b) was such a short cycle that she couldn't push the button, position her chair properly, and get through the door without it closing on her. She's working with Management and apparently this problem is being worked on, but the lack of accessibility appalls me in this day and age!

Keeping people healthy and independent is cost effective if intelligent designs are included in the design stage. All the Malls I've visited in the last 5 years are completely accessible. Our local library is, most of our restaurants are (some have door issues due to our windy environment, but there are usually people around who can lend a hand and do so without even being asked!) so tell me, why isn't our housing being built/renovated to the same standard?  I suspect in my area, the percentage is fairly high that this is being done as we're near the "Senior's Capital of Canada". Most of the requirements aren't rocket science! Things like wider doors, if there needs to be a door lip, make it more like a speed hump than a speed bump, grab bars in bathtubs/showers and near toilets, electric outlets that aren't all only 8" from the floor etc. However, even more important, is to have common areas that are welcoming and human-scaled so the people actually get to meet their neighbors, because that's what gets people back to working as a "community" which is what Abraham Palma wrote:

Four-story buildings bordering each block, enclosing a private park, then punctuated by a few public parks in some blocks. This model is proven and has served well for centuries.

 
Abraham Palma
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Kim Huse wrote:However, what if the only available housing is on the second, third or 4th floor? What happens then to that disabled person who can not climb stairs? or even a ramp?


In commercial areas the ground floor is for shops and, depending on how busy the street is, homes, In residential ones, ground floor is for homes only. So, we are building roughly 20% of the housings at ground level. Considering that normally people prefer higher stories (better views, harder for tresspassers, more privacy), there's no lack of housing at ground level for those who need it. You would need to have more than 10% of the population with mobility issues and no help from family for this to be an issue. In the rare case it happened, policies can be enacted to give them preference, or exclusive use, as the disabled parkings.
However, I agree with Jay, many old and modern houses are not built with armchair accesibility in mind. At least homes at the ground level should be encouraged to be built for mobility, even if we do not need it (now).

Take this with a grain of salt: I suspect that people that usually take the stairs have less probability of having mobility issues just because they keep exercising.
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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Have I posted about the Fuggerei yet? A guy named Jacob the Rich donated land and money to build affordable housing in 1521. I think the buildings are made of rammed earth. It is still going strong, rent is roughly one Euro per year.
 
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Abraham Palma wrote:
Take this with a grain of salt: I suspect that people that usually take the stairs have less probability of having mobility issues just because they keep exercising.


I agree with your general point here, but think stairs are a poor example. When I was supposed to be in the prime of my healthy years, I had developed all sorts of mechanical problems with my leg muscles and ligaments. I noticed walking up stairs was inducing a sort of repetitive stress on my legs. Limiting exposure to stairs (and more importantly other efforts to avoid detrimental cultural fixtures like taking a minimalist footwear approach) have produced much happier legs overall, though they still groan when asked to tackle a long series of uniform steps.

My inclination is to think that any sort of top-down, bureaucratic, socially engineered solution to a housing "crisis" is going to serve to lock impoverished people into an economic rut while disguising the deeper social issues that brought about the situation. I grew up on the edge of that culture, but my personal situation allowed me to seek out an environment where stairs do not prevent me from accessing common resources.

 
Jay Angler
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Jeremy VanGelder wrote:Have I posted about the Fuggerei yet?  I think the buildings are made of rammed earth.

I think what is particularly impressive about Fuggerei is that the buildings are still housing people after nearly 500 years. Current housing built in my region is considered "old" and "ripe to tear down and start again at 60 to 80 years of age, and it wasn't cheap to begin with.

So it seems we have models we could follow that demonstrate housing that can last far longer and still be popular and desirable to live in, if it's well designed! Thanks for posting the link Jeremy!
 
John C Daley
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Has anything progressed on this issue?
 
Jeremy VanGelder
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John C Daley wrote:Has anything progressed on this issue?


I was talking to my boss last week, and he mentioned that conventional construction now costs $400 per square foot. Which is pretty depressing.

On the other hand, it means that alternative construction methods that give you something that will last longer look a lot more competitive now.

Clay Chapman, the guy behind 1,000 year house, has been building structural brick houses in Oklahoma
. He says the foundation and walls cost $50,000. They are made to be nice houses in an affluent neighborhood. It proves that structural brick can be approved in America for reasonable prices.
 
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