Re: Off-Grid Systems

Sharon Villines

On Jun 29, 2020, at 10:26 AM, Steve Taylor <steveastrouk@...> wrote:

Yes, those are very handy.
I think the ONLY way we'll develop Hidalgo is with some very creative solutions that keep things affordable and serviceable out there. 

You might want to look at the site. It’s a new site so not a lot of information but I’m researching options for low cost housing. I just put up a blog post on building strong communities and keeping building costs low while still producing a house that banks will finance and zoning boards will approve.

After a life time of real estate sales and development in Dallas, Ty Albright is working on a model for low-cost housing. Every cohousing community begins wanting to be low cost to be inclusive and diverse. They all end up at market rate or above and some people inevitably have to leave because they can’t afford the rising costs. Zoning and construction requirements raise costs but it is also caused by the desire for green technology and cool things. If you are building yourself, you want it to be everything it can be.

Albright says the main points to keeping the initial design low cost are:

1. Forget expensive green technology. Good insulation and a tin roof that will last forever. That’s it.

2. Don’t include any features that will scare the bank or the city planning board. Sod houses were a great idea in the Wild West, but not something a bank or town board will even think about. (A community in Utah did get approval for straw bale, however.)

3. Traditional houses on traditional lots. 2-story with a big room upstairs. Can then you can have a roommate or finish it off as an apt. (But don’t mouth it around.) Never say two-family. 

4. Partner with a local builder so the builder will profit by doing a good job in the least amount of time required. Being an investor elevates the builder and shares the risk/responsibility.

5. Choose an area with other amenities — state parks, recreation water, some history. Anything that adds a bit of extra interest and can be capitalized in the future. A Dark Sky community would fill the bill.

6. Build with what you have. Don’t go looking for more. It adds risk, not opportunity.

8. Build one house at a time. Build the first, sell, get the mortgage, build the second. If 8 people can invest $33,000, they could do this themselves without involving a bank. If the houses cost $164,000 to build and will sell for $197,000, that is a return of $33,000 on the first house. Then a mortgage will be available for the finished house. And the second house can be built.

This is the traditional Chinese method used in NY in immigrant communities. Money is pooled to set up one member of the group in a business. Then the money goes to the second person. (I have no idea how they decide who is first, second, etc.) 

Albright is now working on a model for a $100,000 house. I would doubt very much that it won’t work since he is basing his strategy on knowledge of the field. Working with a local builder also adds local knowledge and trust — if you choose a builder who is trusted locally the bank and potential buyers will be reassured. A #1 consideration.

He highly recommends the Pocket Neighborhood book by Ross Chapin.

The blog post includes some other tips on changing your perspective in order to use what you have without reaching beyond yur means.


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