Re: a strategy for affordability
From: Marganne Meyer (
Date: Wed, 26 May 2010 00:42:05 -0700 (PDT)
At 7:45 AM -0400 5/25/10, Megan McDonough wrote:
Where I live (in western Massachusetts) I know of *no* local jurisdictions
that restrict the size of the house you build.

So anyone can build a home that's 3,000 to 10,000 square feet (assuming the lot size and setbacks are OK)? People actually do this in California.

Most towns have zoning that lists minimum lot sizes and setbacks that create
more suburban looking neighborhoods than the tight cluster most cohousing is
looking for.

Is the underlying assumption here that people might build as large as the lot size and setbacks allow? Here in Sacramento, if I'm recalling correctly, the *minimum* size of a home is set at 1,200 square feet, regardless of lot size and setbacks.

...If you build a small super
insulated 1 bedroom house it will get compared to other 1 bedroom houses in
your area for establishing the price - the fact that you put extra effort
into the green features won't be accounted for.  You can't get a mortgage
for more than the appraised value.

Perhaps that's where some of the problems arise for smaller homes. There may be other one bedrooms in the neighborhood, but the small, 1-bedroom home probably will be half the square feet. Even without adding super-green features, smaller homes don't cost as much to heat or cool. Also, taxes are lower for the home with less square feet.

Banks only want to mortgage houses that they will be able to resell if
forced to foreclose.  Banks may resist mortgaging super tiny houses.
However, if you are talking about super tiny - you may not need a mortgage.

There is resistance to mortgage smaller homes because some banks are convinced there is no resale value. But when you look at some of the square footage Sharon cited (many other examples of this are available), the value sometimes rises due to demand.

A lot of this has to do with our changing cultural values, plus the biggest part of the U.S. population (baby boomers) are creating more demand for smaller spaces -- less mortgage, less to clean, heat and cool, smaller taxes, less work to maintain. With the recession, many people don't have the amount of money they thought they would when they retire. Some chose to cut back on space rather than lifestyle.

I sure wish there was an EASY way to know about locations, such as western Mass, where building standards have adapted to accommodate homes that might not fit the concept of housing that existed long ago. A simple list or text document in a central web area would give anyone easy access and make it simple to modify as things change.

There's another thing that's changing -- more people are relocating after retirement where there is a lower cost of living. Maybe the concept of needing to gather locals for a cohousing project is also changing. I'd be much more likely to move somewhere else if I knew a bit more about the people who would be living around me.


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