Perspectives 
on Housing

 

A White Paper on Affordable Housing, 
by Thomas N. George

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BarnRaisers

 

page last updated September 09, 2005

 


Perspectives on 
Housing

 

 

 A White Paper on Affordable Housing,
 Page 2

 

Over 75 percent of the rental units in this country are owned by solitary owners, and not by investor companies or groups.  We need to return to the practice of fostering the duplex or triplex, but we cannot do so under the present system. 
        Keep in mind, not all units need to be three-bedroom ranches.  Many of those needing affordable housing need only one or two bedrooms.  If an elaborate, four-bedroom, three-bath, dwelling is allowed on  a one-acre-minimum lot, why canít we have two affordable one- or two-bedroom, one-bath, dwellings on the same size lot?  The amount of effluent that is discharged from a home with three or four children as residents is probably far greater than that of two units occupied by a single person or elderly couple.  Aesthetics might suffer with more cars in the yard, but cars donít sleep in a cold doorway.  This is, after all, part and parcel of the family lives of our citizens, who live in a real town, not a museum exhibit.  It is in the best interests of landlords to monitor aesthetics, to protect their investment.

 

*     *     *

The Pied Piper of planning for years on Cape Cod was Armando Carbonnel.  In Commonwealth Magazine (summer, 1999), he had a great deal to say about the issue of density as it affects environmentally sensitive development.  He wrote,

But there is no question that some patterns of development are more expensive than others and will contribute to higher real housing costs.  I think itís important to see that in a big-picture context.  .  .  .  Planning and smart growth can be very consistent with reducing those costs.

Mr. Carbonnel went on to write, 

Let me talk about density for a second.  I think density has been something to be avoided in Massachusetts for many years.  Weíve been reducing density, increasing lot sizes and so forth, to try to achieve environmental goals.  But in many cases, I think thatís been counter-productive.  I think we need to encourage appropriate density, more intense development in appropriate locations with proper infrastructure.  I think that will have the effect of reducing land costs, so it will contribute to reduction of housing prices.  But I think it would also lead to more efficient patterns of development that would reduce the total cost of living for households.

I concur.

 

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There need to be more loan programs, in both the public and private sectors, with easier application and qualification criteria.  If banks doing business in Massachusetts can invest in housing in Brazil and China, they should be able to allow looser credit criteria for the purpose of buying homes by our own local citizens. More loans must be made available to those within close reach of ownership.  Banks must be more innovativeófor example, they must write loans with longer amortization periods, loans wherein interest is paid only for the first few years, followed by regular amortization for the rest of the term.  After five years, the ownerís wages will have advanced or the value of the property will have increased to allow a refinance at a lower monthly payment.  Owners and banks must be agreeable to a payroll deduction for loan, tax, and insurance payments.  Owners should be able to get advice or training for self-help simple home maintenance projects to alleviate costs.
        Requirements for building homes or using manufactured homes should be reviewed to ascertain areas of construction that can be modified with the intent to lower building costs while maintaining safety

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