Re: Comm. Land Trusts at Affordable Cohousing conf.
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 5 Feb 2020 09:37:57 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 3, 2020, at 7:20 PM, Brian Bartholomew via Cohousing-L <cohousing-l 
> [at]> wrote:

> Our current housing market does not have the minimum price set by
> supply/demand. Instead, the minimum price is set by legislation which
> requires minimum sizes and features. This arrangement is functional
> for boomers who voted for it, dysfunctional for millennials who didn't
> vote for it, and unsustainable.

This has been in practice for decades and probably centuries. The whole concept 
of zoning is to restrict use. The king used to do it himself by telling people 
what they could do. And large landowners decided by not selling land for 
purposes they didn’t want it used for. 

> Currency inflation, bank licenses, and minimum house size laws are all
> created by humans, and could be changed. The expected trend of house
> prices in a system of supply/demand is forever downward, as building
> and repairing houses gets cheaper due to technological innovation
> which reduces material and labor inputs.

But don’t land prices increase as it becomes more scarce? On another list a 
city planner just mentioned Japan as a place where housing costs have not 
spiraled out of control. The reason is that they have no zoning. People build 
the housing they need on land they can find. Probably tearing down and 

> One model omitted from that list is housing that is cheap enough to
> build the occupant can afford it, possibly with short-term labor from
> their community. Are there readers in income-sharing communities with
> farms who could talk about barn raisings, kits for steel buildings and
> structural insulated panel houses?

One place to research this is at Dancing Rabbit. They have a seemingly complex 
system so people can pay for what they use. They are rural so have lots of 
options. I was told by a resident a number of years ago that one person lives 
in a tent on $4,000 a year. Others have private homes. Others live in rooms in 
a group house. Some use a common kitchen and some don’t. The only task that 
everyone has to participate in is whatever they do to composting toilets

> Once there was a SIP panel kit
> house factory in Florida who sold a 1,500 SF house kit for $45K, had a
> 140 MPH wind rating and some level of LEED certification. After a
> slab was poured and a ridge box beam welded, one person with a
> forklift could assemble the shell in a week. Factory had an on-staff
> GC who would hold the liability for building completion, this allowed
> ordinary mortgage lenders to lend to self-builders. Of course the
> city and county would not allow the self-builder to live onsite in an
> RV, they had to waste a rental payment on housing elsewhere.

Do you have a name on this so I can research them? 

One thing I’m looking for is prefab companies that will work with potential 
communities to design homes for low-income residents by altering their normal 
designs. FabCab has designed a component system (I call it modular but they 
don’t use that word) that is shipped flat pack and assembled onsite by a local 
contractor. Since what they do is modular, it should be relatively easy to just 
leave out some interior details, for example, or build smaller homes. Or 
downscale finishings. Their market is $300 SF and sizes begin at ~620 SF and 
up. I’ve contacted them to find out if they could go down to 400 SF for a 
specific client or group of clients.

$300 a SF includes all the appliances and interior finishes. The local labor, 
wiring, etc may cost 55% of the basic cost. They stress that is an estimate. 
And it doesn’t include land. The standard interior finishes look upscale and 
there are choices. They have a PDF brochure that show floor plans, etc.

A program at the University of Alabama designs and builds prototypes (one offs) 
built for $20,000 — I’ll be writing about it. It’s called the 20K program. Not 
including land and they are urban/small town so utilities are there. And they 
are in rural Alabama, not New York or California.

Some companies will not want to be identified with affordable or low income 
housing for more reasons than status and reputation. The concept of affordable 
and low income housing is so attached to government subsidy programs that it is 
a whole different set of skills related to paperwork and layers of 
requirements. It takes commitment to the cause.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC

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