Re: Affordability
From: Thomas Lofft (
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 09:33:44 -0800 (PST)
As has often been said, "The definition of Affordability is all in the budget 
of the purchaser"


Many of the suggestions quoted are all about the way it used to be.


When the Europeans first invaded North America, there was a very communitarian 
based local culture of nomadic tribes who had affordable housing that they took 
with them from summer pastures and hunting grounds to winter feeding and 
camping grounds.


The Europeans introduced three major new ethics: land ownership, firearms, and 
European government.


Ever since, it has been the concept of control of the land through restricted 
ownership, as constrained by the regulation of government enforced by the armed 
militia, that has continuously forced up the price of housing, regardless of 
the actual cost of moving or erecting a new tepee.


Regardless of how much it costs to actually build a home in either Delaware 
Commons or Liberty Village, Swan's Market or Cambridge, the major difference is 
the cost of the land which is typically of limited supply in a market of 
increasing demand due to the constraints of local government. Ergo, price of 
land keeps rising. Currently, in a period of apparent oversupply and diminished 
demand due to employment uncertainty, affordability for the least in demand 
housing stock has increased for those still able to afford to purchase.


Land costs of a new residence, including sewer, water, taps and permits, used 
to be about 25% of the total product cost.  Now it has risen to over 40% and 
will move up to 50% as soon as local governments attach the next round of 
'Energy Saving Mandates' for an even more egregious one size fits all backward 
bureaucracy.  If subdivision of a huge supply of vacant land were more readily 
achieveable, land costs would decline and housing would be considered more 
affordable.  Of course, that would mean a declining value of all presently 
owned property and there are a lot of voters who would resist that also.


Tom Lofft

Liberty Village, MD


Originally from: Brian Bartholomew <bb [at]>
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Afforability
To: Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at]>
Message-ID: <20100111210712.12B6375DCC [at]>
"Rob Sandelin" <floriferous [at]> writes:
> If housing development was cheap and easy everybody would be doing it.
That's exactly right. If housing development was cheaper and easier,
lots more semi-poor people would be living in houses, all over the
world. If a house was something you could bring home from the store
and pull a rip cord to inflate, then anybody who wanted to could be
living in a house. The closest real world approach to this is
probably a yurt kit, which fits in a pickup truck.
> It's neither.
That's also exactly right. I wonder why that is? Why aren't there
yurt cohousings forming everywhere, full of people who've lost their
house to foreclosure? Suppose you wanted to form a budget cohousing,
made from Katrina cottages at mobile home spacing with a center common
house, on a vacant lot urban enough to bicycle to shopping. Let's say
$70K purchase price for each household. This is affordable, and you
start by hiring construction workers to lay sewer pipes in the ground --
> The building permit department has so few permit applications that
> they have laid off 75% of their staff from 2 years ago.
-- but as soon as the caterpillars arrive, the remaining building
permit department shows up to stop you. After they finish telling you
what they will permit you to build, your price will have increased
over three times, from $70K to the $250K we observe today. This is
why the low end of housing costs as much as it does. Where does the
political support for all this permitting come from? Well, I've had a
cohouser tell me that she wasn't about to pay all that money into a
mortgage, only to have her resale value lowered by being next door to
a Katrina cottage. The voters that want to raise the minimum price of
housing by political means have succeeded; the consequence is that
housing is now less affordable than it otherwise would be.
We will have affordable housing when home purchasers start telling the
neighbors they don't get a veto for cosmetics.

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