Housing Options for the New Century

Hotels as Affordable Housing

Real estate developer, Repvblik, takes unused commercial spaces and lets people live in them.  A former Day’s Inn in Branson, Missouri sat vacant for eight years, until a LA-based development company converted it into affordable housing.  The project combined rooms to create studio and one bedroom units with rents starting at $495/month.  Designed to target renters who might be struggling to afford housing in the area, but are not necessarily in the lowest income tier, the developer looks to address an unmet need.  Their “target” are those typically earning between 60% to 120% of the area’s median income.

Many U.S. cities have a severe shortage of affordable housing, an issue that is sure to be severely exacerbated by the pandemic so any and all innovative solutions should be looked at.  The project was also unique in that it did not rely on any federal funding or support.  By buying the property at a steep discount (remember it was vacant for eight years) and making a low-cost conversion, it’s possible to make the economics work while keeping the rents at the target level.

You can read the full article at Fast Company here.  Given the increasing need for affordable housing, and the growing amount of commercial spaces that are vacant or projected to be vacant due to the pandemic and overall market changes this may provide a great solution to a real problem.  Especially since the economics have been shown to work, hopefully we will see a wide range of landlords look to how they can redesign their spaces (malls, hotels, etc..) to meet this need and pivot from an outlook of vacant properties to the ability to continue to deliver both a social and economic return.

Designing Cities to Manage Climate Change

As we are all aware the vast majority of cities we live in were designed (or re-designed) for life in the late 20th century, especially when it comes to car usage and a reliance on fossil fuel based energy.  As we move into the 21st century it is interesting to see how new designs are starting to appear.  Case in point is a proposal for a new city in China that is being designed to be as green as possible.

A new five million person city is being planned eighty miles southwest of Beijing that will be powered by clean energy, feature huge green spaces, and unsullied by many cars.  City blocks would surround courtyards of native plants and garden plots.  Apartments would have large balconies with built-in boxes for gardening, while greenhouse with vertical farms would sit on the roofs.  The wooden buildings are designed to use 80% less energy than traditional designs, and will make use of on-site solar power.  In addition, most streets are designed to prioritize people on bikes and on foot, not cars.

Tying into the 15 minute city concept, daily needs can be reached via walking or biking, with offices, stores and schools adjacent to housing.  The city would be an organization of self-sufficient neighborhoods rather than a copy of current cities with disparate downtown and suburb areas.

The can read the full article here.  While, it is more difficult for many countries to build new cities from the ground up, we certainly have the ability to redesign new neighborhoods to incorporate these principles and start creating places to live and work that improve the quality of citizens’ lives.  The design of this new city in China is being led Vicente Guallart, a Barcelona-based architect and the author of The Self Sufficient City.  After reading the basics of the article and diving in a little more, I have definitely added the book to my reading list as I am always fascinated at those using their expertise to push us forward.

The Free Range Viking

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