Affordable Housing Or Bust

Does anyone really care about affordable housing? Are the politicians just going through the motions to say they do, with no real solutions to back it up?  How many of us remember our parents telling us that if you work hard enough you can achieve almost anything?  For those now lucky enough to own a home, too often we forget how we made that first leap into homeownership. Perhaps a generous gift from mom and dad, borrowing from credit cards, a fortuitous inheritance, or a good-paying job put us in the driver's seat. We all have our stories. Have times changed so much that any chance for affordability has gone by the wayside? “Why make it easy for those earning minimum wage?” some may ask. “Let them work harder because that way they'll appreciate it more." The American Dream is not a guarantee, but can only be attained through perseverance and sacrifice.

Then there is the fear that building affordable housing will bring more crime, lower home prices, and be a burden to our economy. In actuality, studies have shown the opposite: less crime due to pride of ownership, appreciating home prices bolstered by move-up buyers, more jobs, a stronger workforce, younger families with kids attending local schools, a healthier economy supported from additional tax revenue, and a reduction in homelessness.

We can come up with all kinds of excuses not to care, but the bottom line is that if you want something badly enough, you'll find a way to make it happen.  Or maybe not.  I don't consider my affordable micro-village a free handout in any way. Residents of Prospector Village will be required to put in a specified number of sweat equity hours for the upkeep of the community, not to mention qualifying for a mortgage.  According to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio: “If work is honored and respected, workers feel valued; and when they know our society believes in the dignity of work, and their employers believe in their dignity of work, workers are empowered as citizens. That strengthens our communities, our nation, and our democracy.”

Minimum-wage workers are the backbone of our country. Does that mean they should have to rent forever and be subject to rental increases on a regular basis?

Don't you think they should have a shot at buying a home? Well, I do. And I'm willing to work relentlessly to make that happen.  Here is a chance for the American people and our government to get behind a cause that will make a huge difference in someone's life.  Something I know firsthand, since my wife and I are a partner family for a future Habitat for Humanity homeowner. 

For-sale affordable housing may not be a right, but it should at least be an option.

Now is the time to be a beacon of light for hope and change. Let's honor and respect our minimum-wage workers by giving them the same opportunity for the American Dream.


Buy a house with low income: not always easy, but possible

When you buy a house with low income, you face several obstacles.

It’s not easy to save a down payment while renting. And when you earn less, it’s more difficult to keep your bills paid on time and your credit pristine.

In addition, less income makes it harder to keep your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) low enough to qualify for a home loan.

Fortunately, there are government-mandated programs to help low-income individuals break into homeownership.

And, chances are, you qualify for at least one of them.

H.E.L.P. (House, Empower, & Lift People) wants to hear about your home-buying search. Please send us your stories, pictures, or videos telling us about your struggles as well as your successes.

Affordable Housing News

Many local jurisdictions are adopting codes that promote affordable housing. In many cases, cities and counties are offering bonus densities, fee waivers, streamlined review processes, or other incentives to encourage affordable housing. In some cases, local jurisdictions are experimenting with alternative and affordable housing types such as cottage housing, accessory dwelling units, small lot development, or attached housing. Often, these codes include exemptions or provide for flexibility in applying regulations to help hold down the costs of affordable housing production.

Darrell Berkheimer: Nevada City resident details affordable small homes plan

Cottage Communities

Benefits of Cottage Living

These days cottage living does not mean just living in a small house by yourself. There are many cottage communities that are full of activities and amenities. Although the cottages stand alone, residents can enjoy things like shared tennis courts and swimming pools.

Living in a cottage community also provides residents with an opportunity to meet others and make new friendships. This helps to foster feelings of friendship which can ward off the depression that some face during their retirement. Many enjoy this type of living because it may remind them of the communities they lived in years ago when they grew up. For many this is a comforting factor as they get older.

The idea of cottage community living is also appealing because of the safety factor. Due to the fact that these are such close knit communities, neighbors watch out for one another. Crime is generally low which is appealing to people at any age.

Cottage communities are defined as a grouping of small, single-family dwelling units clustered around a common area and developed with a master plan for the entire site. They are often developed in infill areas within existing suburban neighborhoods in order to encourage sustainable community development. Also called pocket neighborhoods, cottage communities provide connected backyards, create a pedestrian friendly environment, and are designed to encourage community involvement and social interaction.

First introduced in 1996, “Third Street Cottages” in Langley, Wash., were made possible with the adoption of an innovative cottage-housing zoning code which enabled high-density housing on residential lots if houses were less than 1,000 square feet, oriented around a shared garden, and provided parking screened from street views. While suitable for all ages, cottage communities are attractive to the aging population. They are small and easy to maintain, energy efficient, and are suited for those with mobility limitations. Cottage communities are gaining popularity, especially around the Pacific Northwest, where cottage housing ordinances have been crafted to provide residents with housing options that improve affordability.

Benefits and Obstacles to Development

Cottage communities can be built in small clusters, within existing neighborhoods among single-family homes to maximize land use and minimize sprawl. Aging adults seeking to downsize from larger homes, can enjoy quality housing in a supportive community. Local regulations, however, can be a drawback for cottage communities. Many zoning codes regulate maximum densities and minimum-size requirement for houses and lots. Codes can be amended to allow for the development of sustainable and affordable cottage communities.

Successful Cottage Communities

In 2004, Port Townsend, Wash., adopted the Cottage Housing Development Design Standards within its zoning code to: “encourage affordability, innovation, and variety in housing design and site development while ensuring compatibility with existing neighborhoods, and to promote a variety of housing choices to meet the needs of a population diverse in age, income, household composition, and individual needs.” The Port Townsend cottage housing code details the number of cottages per square foot that are allowed, as well as the minimum lot size for a community. An example of a successful cottage community in Port Townsend is Spring Valley Cottages, a green-built community, within walking distance to the town and service centers, with compact features, and a strong sense of community.

Inglenook, a cottage community in Carmel, Ind., features a series of six to ten cottages with front porches facing a common green space.

Not only do I hear baby boomers and families describe cottage homes as “cute,” but young married couples and singles do, too—only they use the word “cool.” And that’s not all. After they get beyond “cute” and “cool,” they’re amazed by how a cottage home “lives so big.”

Concord Riverwalk, a community of thirteen small homes in Concord, Mass., embodies the state’s sustainable development policies, which call for energy-efficient homes built near jobs, transit, and services.

Cottage Clusters: Portland’s Chance to Build Community in a New Way

Nevada City Cohousing

Third Street Cottages

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