Thursday, September 13, 2007

Land costs render Habitat For Humanity modle obsolete?

Gathering volunteer labor to build a house may not be the magic bullet to affordable housing in many areas. Land costs seem to be the biggest stumbling block to affordable housing in metropolitan areas; especially here on the pricey west coast.

Labor and construction expense is not as big a percentage of the overall home expense anymore.

Maybe organizations, like Habitat for Humanity need to (or already are starting to for all I know) update their strategies.

In this age of $500,000 lot prices, the pathway to affordability would be multi unit development.

Apartment buildings, condominiums.

In more rural settings, mobile home parks can be nice as well.

Maybe the Habitat for Humanity model of sweat equity can be applied in the multi family arena.

Also it could do more for single people.

There is a lot of thinking, in this society, that is too "family oriented."

When people think of condominium towers and high density, they often think of singles. Families tend to gravitate toward detached homes in the outskirts of town.

Sometimes people move to the outskirts to save on land costs while adding to automobile cost and environmental degradation in the process.

Often the needs of the growing population of singles and "child free" people are neglected by low income housing programs that focus on family living.

Is there a Habitat for Humanity for multi unit living?

Maybe there is.

The model of "bringing community together to build a home" is a nice Norman Rockwell ideal.

Maybe this ideal can also be applied to apartment and condo living not just during construction, but after residents move in.

Some people don't like the idea of "apartments" as they have bad visions of "strangers stacked in tin cans." It helps when there are incentives for neighbors to get to know one another.

Community life.

Also community management of buildings, such as ownership co-ops.

I am sure many of these things are being done, but at the same time there does seem to be a bias toward "detached family oriented living" in some of the low income housing programs.

This tends to drive people out into sprawling areas. Drive people to more driving.

Families in our culture seem to shy away from multifamily living.

In other cultures families often occupy multi family spaces.

As our population grows, American families could be too spoiled?

At the same time, our culture does have a growing segment of single and child free people who are often under served if they are low income.

I read, on the web, that there is a Habitat For Humanity condominium project in San Francisco. Considered a new innovation for that organization. Maybe it will be a future trend.

* Today's flurry of posts come from reorganizing other parts of my site.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Surfed onto your web site today where you posed the question in a recent article "Is Habitat for Humanity Obsolete?".

My response is definitely not! I volunteer for Seattle/South King County Habitat and we're currently in the process of building two multi-family buildings in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of South Seattle. Each building will have six 'zero lot-line' town homes--not a condominium but not a free-standing single family home either. More like a side-by-side duplex trebled--where each family or individual owns the unit and has their own front porch, but its not a free-standing single family home either.

This Habitat construction is happening within walking distance of the future light rail station at Othello which will hopefully relieve the burden of car ownership from the residents and society.

I'm not sure this is the first experience this Habitat chapter has had with multi-family housing, but I'm sure it's not the last.

My observation about Habitat has been the each chapter is a little different. When I lived on Whidbey Island, the Island County chapter seemed a little too conservative and church-based so I never did any volunteering with them. On the other hand, the Seattle chapter reflects the diversity of this community.

Its been a great experience--and good exercise too.

Thanks for the article,