Not particularly radical: housing ideas from Right to the City
NotionsCapital calls our attention to an article (" Radical Real Estate Ideas To Fix Our Broken Housing System") in Fast Company on the "Right to the City" manifesto on how to expand affordable housing options in the context of the hyperstrong market in many center cities.
From the article:
Permanently affordable, inclusive housing models like community land trusts (CLTs)–represent a tiny portion of the housing stock, but if it could go mainstream, they could give people the affordable options they need and the market can’t provide.
That’s the crux of a new report from the Right to the City Alliance, a nonprofit focused on creating equitable urban areas, and its Homes for All Campaign, which advocates for affordable, dignified housing for all. “Communities Over Commodities: People-Driven Alternatives To An Unjust Housing System” details four models of “decommodified housing” (in other words, housing that is a place to live, not an investment vehicle) that have proven, in other countries, to provide stability to families struggling to afford a place to live.The four types are:
-- Limited equity cooperatives
-- Community Land Trusts
-- Tenement Syndicates
-- Mutual Aid Cooperatives.
Cooperatives. Because I went to college in Ann Arbor, where there is a strong set of cooperatives functioning as housing for college students (Inter-Cooperative Council at Ann Arbor), some cooperative housing developments dating to the 1960s/1970s, and NASCO, a national cooperative promotion organization that was based in the Student Union but is now in Chicago, housing cooperatives don't seem particularly radical to me, especially because as a form of housing, they exist in plenty of cities.
I suppose co-housing is a kind of variant, as what is called an "intentional community." There's a co-housing development in the Takoma neighborhood of DC, which is at least 15 years old.
But cooperative housing dates to the 1920s, with housing projects initiated by Labor Unions and other groups. New York City is well known too for its upscale cooperative buildings, where the board must approve of each new tenant before a sale can go through.
DC Cooperative Housing Association represents 100 market rate buildings and 15,000 units of housing. The city also has a number of low income housing cooperatives, including 1417 N Street NW. Some are financed by the DC Department of Housing and Community Development.
-- "A Brief History of Affordable Housing Cooperatives in the United States," Gerald Sazama University of Connecticut
-- National Association of Housing Cooperatives
-- COOPERATIVE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT TOOLBOX: A Guide for Successful Community Development, Northcounty Cooperative Foundation
-- COOPERATIVE HOUSING DEVELOPMENT TOOLBOX: A GUIDE FOR SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, Northcounty Cooperative Foundation
-- Developing Cooperatives: The NYC Experience, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board
-- Cooperative Housing International
-- Profiles of a Movement: Housing Co-operatives around the world
Community land trusts were discussed in the book, Streets of Hope : The Fall and Rise of an Urban Neighborhood, about the Dudley Street Neighborhood revitalization effort in the Roxbury district of Boston. The book dates to 1994, and I read it about 15 years ago. There's also a documentary, "Holding Ground: The Rebirth of Dudley Street" by New Day Films."
The Dudley Neighbors Land Trust owns the land for 95 units of permanently affordable owner occupied houses--which have restrictions requiring the sale of the property to people of a certain income level, and has 77 cooperative housing units and 53 rental units.
Note that CLTs are also used as a way to preserve open space and agricultural lands.
-- "Community Land Trusts and the Fight Against Gentrification," The Atlantic
-- Community land trusts, urban land reform, and the commons, Commons Transition
Tenement syndicates are kind of like cooperative rental buildings, and that's a bit more radical, although I think it's a stretch to think about them as being founts of democracy. If you could create a community development corporation to create such buildings, that would be a bit more radical. My understanding is that Jubilee Housing of DC does some work along these lines. They do assist people in creating cooperatives, and they have organized cooperative apartment projects for lower income residents.
Mutual aid cooperatives are sort of like Habitat for Humanity. There, people contribute effort towards building a house that they're going to buy. MACs involve owners not just in operating the housing once it's built, but in constructing it too.
Scale is key. For example the number of units controlled by the land trust in Roxbury is 225, which probably is not significant enough to have much impact on the housing market there, although it is extremely important to the 225 households participating in the program. The aforementioned 1417 N Street NW building has 83 units in a single building.
(7) Also radical would be the insertion of social housing creation requirements into large scale master planning initiatives. There is frequently a tension between "inclusionary zoning" residents and non-subsidized residents in mixed housing over monthly condo fees and other matters. One way to limit this kind of tension is to create buildings that are 100% affordable, which remain so.
A different kind of "radical action" would be to change master planning of large scale tracts so that rather than rely on and expect all the development to be by traditional for profit developers, set up the program so that some parcels are automatically provided to social housing developers. That's what's done in cities like Helsinki. Here the concept could be expanded to include cooperatives.
The HafenCity development in Hamburg, which is led by a corporation owned by the city government, in addition to providing "subsidized housing" comparable to what we call "inclusionary zoning," they have provided parcels for both cooperatives and what they call "joint building ventures" which are a variant of the tenement syndicate/mutual aid cooperative:
A group of households joins forces to construct a real property which they will then use themselves. They are advised by a construction supervisor. Often joint building ventures are able to realize high-quality living space at prices that are well below going market rates. The building is then divided into individually owned properties.(8) Technical assistance and monitoring matters too. Because as small properties, and owned by people with limited resources, problems can multiply and properties can experience significant financial problems. Managing democratic processes in times of crisis can be very difficult. See the 2016 blog entry, "The long term potentially negative aspects of condominium buildings as a dominant housing form in cities."
DC and missed opportunities to do social housing as part of large master plans. By way of a similar kind of opportunity, DC has three very large redevelopment projects underway, at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, at the St. Elizabeths east campus, and at the Armed Forces Retirement Home.
But DC master planning processes don't include more specific guidance on providing different housing tenure arrangements nor do they call for the inclusion of such housing when creating plans. So there aren't plans for that kind of housing at Walter Reed, and probably not at St. Elizabeths.
The AFRH is about to go into redevelopment ("Some of DC's biggest developers interested in Armed Forces Retirement Home," Washington Business Journal) and theoretically that could happen, though not without prodding from the city, which isn't inclined to think in this fashion anyway.