The ProHousing Project
Summary and Recommendations
The great paradox in the uncertain American economy today is that as more and
more people need low cost housing, fewer and fewer low cost houses are available.
Currently, middle to high cost homes are accommodated by laws, social customs,
and lending practices while really lower priced housing has simply been largely
ignored and actually forbidden.
Many people have been forced by conditions into a low cost way of living, yet
the options for actually living a minimal, and yet decent, lifestyle do not exist.
This compels many into illegal solutions for housing--many are illegal only
because they have not yet been addressed by codes and zoning ordinances.
Pro-Housing offers the scenarios and plans presented here as workable, possible
solutions for affordable housing. They are simple in design, easy to build,
and are not dependent on government funding. However, in order for them to be
successful, it is necessary for us to challenge some of the current conventions
and assumptions about zoning, building codes and other housing-related issues.
We recommend that small, low-rent accessory dwellings or garage houses, as described
in Scenarios One and Two, be encouraged by our zoning policies and tax breaks be
We recommend that small areas of high density be permitted by sub-dividing
existing lots at certain minimum proximities to one another as described in
Scenario Three, with small, low-occupancy dwellings built on legal parcels.
We recommend that shared housing units, as described in Scenario Four, be
encouraged and sold and financed as shares of the entire house, similar to
condominiums and co-housing.
We recommend that an owner-builder category be included in the building code
based on the Nimbin Homebuilders' Creed, and the Island County and Mendocino
County owner-builder codes which are included as an addendum to this report.
We recommend that a tax incentive be provided to owner-builders as a means of
alleviating the low-cost housing crisis. This is a real gesture of acknowledgment
for the role they play in providing low-cost housing for themselves.
We recommend that the building department's policy should be to empower people
to build their own homes. It could even be a resource center with a lending
library of video tapes and books providing information on proper construction
to educate owner-builders on ways to build their own sound, safe, efficient
and ecologically based homes. We believe that the building inspector's role
should, as a matter of policy, be that of a helper so that we may regard him/her
as a friend rather than a bureaucrat who has the legal authority to shut down
We recommend that the governing unit -- city, county, etc. -- recognize the
benefit gained from owner-builders who go beyond the constraints of recognized
technology and can submit sound basis for new, innovative designs and techniques.
We recommend that these governments create a variance process designed to review
and approve owner-builders' alternative plans for innovative construction,
energy, sewage disposal, and so forth, and that owner-builders should have
easy access to the process.
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ProHousing - Copyright © 1991, 1999 by Ron Konzak
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