beautyfromashes, in the photo above you can see the result of this practice. On stretches that once had 11 houses, you now see five or six. This practice even further reduces the density we once had. Combine that with demographic changes. Those tightly-spaced houses might have had six people living in them 60 years ago. Now they might have half that. Be reminded that about 40 percent of all households in KCMO now have a single person. So the city become less dense with each passing year. Our newer suburban neighborhoods aren't being built as densely as the older ones, so it's going to be infrastructure funding nightmare in about 100 years--probably sooner--if we continue the way we are.
Affordable housing should also include domiciles with smaller sq. footage. One of the primary expenses of concern to low-income residents are utilities. Shared-wall structures are more energy-efficient, since two walls usually have no surface exposure. The thermal massing of attached housing results in lower utility bills.
Another thing to consider about lot size. It's just not that replacement houses sit on bigger lots--adding to the expense of creating housing, and the city's operating costs. Many low-income residents who rent and buy houses still have to mow the yard. This is a small, but added expense. Some pay others--especially renters. In the summer months, that's at least $25 a week,and that's for a small yard. The larger yards are more. Even some Habitat for Humanity houses are built on parcels that used to have two houses. When you are talking about people living from paycheck-to-paycheck. you need to consider all monthly expenses they may have. Big yards also become a burden to older residents as it becomes harder for them to maintain yards, and they too must pay someone else to do it while also being on fixed incomes.
I have a disabled cousin who lives in a Habitat House. Having to pay out $100 a month just to have the yard mowed is a economic burden. She is getting off cheap because her house sits where two houses used to be, and has a large yard. The neighbor who mows her yard is an addict who does it cheap just to get some cash for booze.
Many people don't desire yards. People in dense cities live without them, and don't miss them. Some residents might be better served with houses built up to the sidewalk with a nice front porch, and then have a cobblestone courtyard in the back of the dwelling as their private space. No yard to mow. If you take walks down many neighborhood alleys, you will see how unused a lot of back yards are. I hardly ever see my neighbors using their back yards. One lets his poodles out to pee in his. That's about it.
The Habitat organization is not doing low-income homeowners any favors putting housse on large lots. I have noticed a couple of other things they are doing. They are now building larger-sized one-story houses with big sq. foot roofs. If you are concerned with keeping houses affordable, build two-story houses with 750 sq. foot roof instead of a 1500 sq. foot roof over one-story. Many Habitat homeowners are going to have a hard time affording to replace a roof to begin with, and doubling the size of the roof is not doing them any favors. Roofs also absorb the hot sun, so doubling the surface area only heats up the house more in summer. A big roof would only be an advantage with if you covered it with more solar panels than are required to power the house and sell the extra energy. Highly unlikely for affordable homes.
Even better would be to put half the square footage in the basement instead of a second story, and still keep the roof small. That would also keep utility bills lower.
This image below illustrates my point. These two houses have almost the exact square footage, but notice how much smaller the roof size is. Roofers quote replacement cost on sq. footage for materials and estimated time to do it. The newer house's roof is about twice the size. The difference in cost to replace might be several thousand. Add financing costs because it's highly doubtful that low-income residents will have the cash saved. So you are paying more because of increased size of the roof, and also having to pay more to finance the larger roof cost. These are things I wonder are being considered when Habitat is considering affordability of their efforts.
The sq. footage of the older house appears to be spread over three levels, including a basement level. If the older house was insulated as well as the newer one, I'd be interested to see the utility bills for the older house to see if it is actually cheaper to heat and cool it because part of the house is underground and because it has less roof surface to absorb heat int the hot summer months.
My cousin lives next to another Habitat house, and both struggle to pay bills and feed their children. An extra $100 a month would make a big difference to them, since both already struggle even with food stamps. Her neighbor works full-time.
The reason I worry about long-term costs for Habitat residents is that the roofing shingles they have donated are the cheapest ones. My cousin has lived in her house for 8 years since it was finished, and the house inspector for her insurance company told her that she needed a new roof already. That it was already showing signs of failure. Some of her siding also fell off. She has no ability to save money to replace the roof. I worry that at some point, after some mold damage, she will have to abandon the house.
Her house also has an electric furnace and water heater, which are more expensive to operate than gas. Her house has central A/C, but she can't really afford to run it except when it gets really hot.
I don't think these houses are well-built and many struggle to make these types of repairs later. Her refrigerator failed at year six, and she had just bought a week's supply of groceries--all lost. She didn't have the money to buy a new refrigerator, or groceries. A long-time friend took pity on her and bought her a new refrigerator. She has two bathrooms, and she can't use the sink in one of them because of a leak. She doesn't have the extra money to call a plumber, so doesn't use it. That happened by year two. There was another appliance failure. I can't remember if it was the dishwasher or water heater. She moved into her house about the same time I bought mine, and I haven't had any of the failures she has, and my appliances are all older.
In hindsight, I think it was a mistake that she did the Habitat thing. She should have just stayed in subsidized public housing. At least there she didn't have the constant worries of replacing the roof, siding, and appliance failure. Sometimes I think this idea that every American should own their own home, combined with Habitat's good intentions, leads people down a path they shouldn't go. I may be wrong about that. However, after hearing her complain for 8 years, I don't think she has any business owning a home. I can only imagine what will happen when the furnace need to be replaced. I expect she'll get to the point she can't pay for something to keep the house habitable, and she'll just walk away. The only problem is that there's a waiting list to get back on subsidized housing.