Monday, June 16, 2008

Editorial supports smaller homes

The Idaho Statesman newspaper published an editorial Sunday supporting a developer's request to include smaller-sized homes in a new Kuna, ID subdivision. The developer's request to build several homes less than the 1,400-square-feet required minimum size was turned down last week.

Several customers recently told the developer they wanted homes in his subdivision, but didn't need 1,400 square feet. The developer focused on 1,250 square feet which “wouldn't detract from the values of nearby, larger homes. One hundred and fifty square feet less than somebody else isn't going to ruin a subdivision."

"The city should protect a neighborhood's integrity. Very few investments in our lifetime are more important than our house,” said the planning commissioner.

“When I signed the development agreement (minimum 1,400 sq ft), we were at $2-a-gallon gas,” the developer said. “Green, energy-efficient homes that are what you can truly afford - that's the marketplace right now.”

The newspaper urged the planning department to work with developers and builders to educate residents that with good design, construction and maintenance, even a small house can look great and uphold neighborhood property values.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Microhomes multiply

John Faust, subscriber to the new Google Group and mailing list "Low Cost Community Housing", recently brought two great examples of comfortable low-cost housing to our attention.

First is infill microhomes being built in Reno, Nevada. The homes are created by HabeRae Investments, Inc. The company specializes in urban infill projects in the urban core of Reno.

Here's another example of micro homes in Dwell. Called H.E.L.P. (Help Every Last Person), this mini prefab created by designer Carib Daniel Martin is one of many architectural responses to the housing crisis created by Hurricane Katrina. Known as microHOME, the home is available starting at about $40,000 (delivery and installation included).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Put your life on a diet

Gregory Paul Johnson has published a new book entitled "Put Your Life on a Diet". The subtitle is "Lessons Learned Living in 140 Square Feet", referring to his Mobile Hermitage. The book focuses on living a simpler life, leaving behind a smaller environmental footprint, and living a healthier life for you and the planet.

Small house conference in July

Great news from the April issue of the Small House Society News. (I like the way Greg refers to recipients as a "Friend of Simpler and Smaller Living".)

The Small House Society Conference 2008 will take place July 12 and 13 at the Iowa City Public Library. It is part of an overall Resources for Life Conference.

Don't miss this chance to take a first-hand look at Greg's 140-square-foot residence, the Mobile Hermitage, on July 11.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Affordable housing discussion: Together or separate?

I'm considering forming a new Yahoo group for people serious about truly affordable cohousing concepts. Already I've received several private e-mails from people expressing an interest in doing this. I hesitate to start a discussion like this separate from the main coho mailing list because the knowledge and support of experienced cohousers is needed.

Since coho projects often are formed in a particular geographical area, I'm not quite sure how this new list would look. I'd like to see it include people who primarily want to keep expenses well under $150,000 per member, including community construction and membership -- from any geographical area.

If you are interested in being notified about formation of a group like this, please leave your name and e-mail address in the comments area. I'd also encourage you to subscribe to the C
ohousing Association's mailing list , check out the Cohousing wiki, and follow links from these sources and the Small House Society to read more about it. More later as this idea percolates.

Discuss truly affordable cohousing

Truly affordable cohousing and accessibility are the current hot topics on the Cohousing mailing list. Although there is a concerted effort at many projects to have some units available to people with low incomes, posters (including myself) have suggested that many new building techniques can open the cohousing threshold to low-income and poverty-level people.

Most projects have an entry-level expense of about $200,000 to $300,000 and up. A typical three-bedroom home in cohousing can be the same price as comparable homes in that geographical market. Project home prices often are slightly higher than comparable homes when the shared expense of developing the community (Common House) and/or 'green' construction features are included.

Affordable housing examples that could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 include smaller houses (less than 1,000 square feet), prefabricated or modular homes, converted shipping crates, Katrina Cottages, or homes built entirely of recycled materials. Many of these types of dwellings are discussed on the Small Home Society mailing list and on a growing variety of web sites focused on sustainable and ecological building construction.

I'm looking forward to further discussions and will include new information here as the topic unfolds. Please contribute your observations or opinions about truly affordable cohousing in 'comments' to this post.

Review cohousing list discussions

An attempt to summarize various topics discussed at length on the Cohousing-L mailing list is underway on The Cohousing Wiki. One recent topic was modular construction.

The cohousing wiki was created in March 2007 by several list members including Fred Olson of Minnesota and John Faust of Arizona. Since it is done in 'wiki' style, the project will continue to add information and be available for people to edit or update articles.

Since the cohousing mailing list averages from 2 to 50 posts a day, it can be overwhelming, especially if you miss reading it for a few days. Fred also provides archives for the mailing list that are searchable, but you need to be subscribed to the list for access. The wiki makes many current cohousing topics available at the reader's convenience.

"The discussion can be transformed into something more meaningfully organized," said John, " with the possibility that it becomes cohousing knowledge and an evolving resource for others."