Re: affordable housing
From: Ann Zabaldo (
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2019 07:32:54 -0800 (PST)
Hello Sara — I hear you.  WE hear you.  We who have been working in cohousing 
for a while have been dealing w/ affordability - -  for a long while.

Manufactured housing- a,k.a. mobile homes —  is most certainly an answer to the 
high cost of housing in some areas of the country.  The issue for urban areas 
is Ta Da!  Zoning.  Most urban areas will not allow “trailers” in residential 
areas.  The stranglehold of single family residential housing seriously reduces 
more affordable multi-family housing even if the housing is conventionally 
stick-built.  I can hear the collective call of property owners:  that level of 
density, whatever it is,  will bring down property values!  Traffic will 
increase!   Homes that sell for less than the prevailing prices in a 
neighborhood are perceived as reducing property values.

But if people are willing to live outside a city in more rural areas then you 
might be able to create a multi unit community using manufactured housing.  
EXCEPT … around here in the DC area once you get out of the urban areas you run 
into “greenbelt” zoning — that is, in order to keep the rural areas rural the 
zoning is established at 1 house per 5 acres.  For just 5 houses you would need 
25 acres.  Plus you’d also need zoning that would allow clustering in order to 
create cohousing.  Farther out in rural Virginia the zoning is 1 house per 50 
acres.  So going farther out may not be the solution.

What you are hearing from Philip’s email may be frustration at trying to create 
housing to fit zoning, income and tax structure instead of these structures — 
zoning, income and tax rules serving people and the housing “shortage” for 
moderate income households.  Or more simply:  trying to fit the square peg of 
affordable housing into the round hole of zoning, income and tax regulations.  
I’m making suppositions. Philip can answer for himself.

Arlington and/or Alexandria, VA, suburbs of Washington, DC, this year passed 
regulations allowing homeowners on certain size lots w/ other included strict 
criteria to build a “granny flat” or Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in the back 
of their premises.  The ADUs are one response to the lack of available housing 
in those suburban cities.  The wailing that went on by homeowners predicting 
the negative impact on property values could be heard where I live which is as 
far north of those cities as you can get and still live in DC — approximately 7 
miles away. I predict those ADUs will actually INCREASE property values making 
the affordability crisis in those cities even worse.  Why?  Because what 
homeowners would not like a steady income stream of more than $1,000 per month 
that requires so little effort?

BTW - there are exceptions to everything I wrote.  Tampa, FL has had a mobile 
home park within its city limits for over 50 years.  It’s located in a less 
desirable part of town in a very industrial area.  But it’s there!  In 
Missouri, as I understand from folks at Dancing Rabbit ecovillage, there are no 
building restrictions— at least in the rural areas.  That’s why the DR 
ecovillage decided to build there.

Sara —  if you will allow me … the most important you can do if you are intent 
on building affordable housing using manufacturde housing or Tiny Homes, is for 
you to research where the city or county will allow you to build clustered 
housing using those two options.  This research will give you clarity and more 
importantly give you power to make decisions.

Let the list hear from you.  We are interested in what you find out.

BTW — where are you located?

Happy New Year!

Best --

Ann Zabaldo
Takoma Village Cohousing
Washington, DC
Member, Board of Directors
Mid Atlantic Cohousing
Principal, Cohousing Collaborative, LLC
Falls Church, VA

“If the earth was flat, Cats would have pushed everything off it by now."

> On Dec 31, 2019, at 9:31 AM, Sara Wye via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l [at] 
>> wrote:
> as someone looking for housing under 100,000 i don't find this very helpful:
>> I will say again:  We do NOT have an ?affordable housing? problem.  What we 
>> have is a serious income inequality problem.  Trying to create affordable 
>> housing by cheapening the product ? and cheapening it within the paradigm of 
>> the stand-alone single family dwelling ? simply leads us further into the 
>> dead ends of the unsatisfactory (?mobile? homes) and the absurd (tiny 
>> houses).  If we combined more multi-family zoning with the progressive tax 
>> structure that served America so well in the ?50?s and ?60?s, the affordable 
>> housing problem would pretty much solve itself."
> the income inequality problem is a lot longer term issue than the immediate 
> need for community that is affordable.  i don't find tiny houses or mobile 
> homes absurd at all.  i would not consider these 'cheapening the product'.  i 
> have seen beautiful mobile homes and would consider living in one if they 
> would allow me to continue working in my home.  i am a 75 year old mental 
> health counselor. and as someone who has been looking for affordably 
> community for many years, these remarks feel like snobbery to me.   i saw not 
> too long ago a group of small if not tiny homes built by a group of friends, 
> a cluster of 8-10 homes, so they could form their own community.  i admit i 
> am not educated about the cost of buying land and building but if they can do 
> it, it can be done.
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