Finished home sites are in short supply, and are expensive. Affordability--or its lack--is a real issue, especially at the "cost of entry" point of homeownership--as a vicious circle of high rents and high credit qualification barriers make big down payments virtually necessary but hard to amass.
A truly and fully-functional free enterprise housing market would seize on such an imbalance--the gap between potentially large demand and an extraordinarily squeezed supply of affordable, conveniently located, pleasant community dwellings that mix people of varying incomes, age groupings, job types, ethnic and cultural heritages, and other distinguishing characteristics into functioning neighborhoods. A truly and fully-functional free enterprise market would offset impediments with ideas, and every challenge would have its counterbalancing solution, and every inertial drag could be released by transformative and sane new thinking, disciplines, and strategy.
The operative term--"truly and fully-functional free enterprise housing market"--we know, is a pipe dream. Gluttons, as we human beings are for punishment, we invented and we populate local panels of officialdom called zoning, and planning boards. Apparently, many of us have nothing better to do with our Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday evenings after supper than to while away hours and hours, week after week after week going over plats and plans to ensure that they comply down to the nanometer with the latest version of our local rules, and regulations, and requirements, and restrictions, and fees, and mitigations, and obligations, and horse-trades and promises.
We're convinced that were it not for the rats' nests of local rule, "truly and fully-functional free enterprise" might have kick-started far more of the housing market than has done so to date.
We've got a good portion of an entire generation of young adults clinging to their mothers' and fathers' nests right now until they're 33 or 34 or 35 years old. Do we think that's a healthy way to build and sustain our culture and society and its economic underpinnings?
It could be. It's certainly what is happening.
Glimpses of a "truly and fully-functional free enterprise housing market" are apparent in the inklings and baby-steps of traction creative lot use is making.
Density--the seven-letter four-letter word of residential real estate--is making its way into more municipal conversations as a solution to multiple challenges rather than a taboo whose slightest incarnation would signal the doom of town life as we know it.
And here, thanks to the work of William P. Macht, professor of urban planning and development at the Center for Real Estate at Portland State University, we see evidence that another creative land-use approach--private accessory dwellings--have begun to break through as an answer to some communities' tight supply of housing. Macht writes:
If PADs can be added in appropriate scale and number, existing housing, zoned land, and current infrastructure could be efficiently used to increase housing supply and to stabilize or even reduce housing prices. Moreover, since PADs are by definition smaller than existing dwellings, they will attract both younger and older residents who will enrich the intergenerational composition of both urban and suburban communities.
In two pieces by Macht and his PSU research associate Naomi Cole, "Rethinking Private Accessory Dwellings," and "Developing Private Accessory Dwellings," the authors explore the local regulatory push-back, the tactics, and a number of compelling new approaches, designs, and ideas to solve for both community worries and a property-owner's needs and desires.
In a world that is moving toward multi-generational "pocket communities" and walkable, affordable, connected, and even economically inter-dependent households in infill areas proximate to work, play, culture, and necessities--true "sharing economy" households--PADs are one way into the future handed down to us thanks to ancestral wisdom.
Is local resistance to ADUs or PADs an impediment to initiatives you'd undertake to develop and build compelling, new, affordable homes and communities? We're interested to learn from you which are the key ways localities have continued to hold back housing's recovery. Please chime in in the comments area below.