YIMBYtown 2024 "Alternative Housing" talk

"Alternative Housing: how mobile, self-build, village, co- op etc approaches open radical possibilities."

presentation and discussion YIMBYtown 2024 conference, Feb 26-28, in Austin, Texas. 


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Audio recording: (39 mins, 13MB file)

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Outline (auto-generated by Otter.ai)

Alternative housing models and personal experience with affordable living situations.

Alternative housing options for marginalized communities.

Alternative housing solutions in Austin, including cooperative living.

Speaker Chris proposes cooperative housing model to empower low-income residents.

Alternative housing options and their potential impact on social outcomes.

Alternative housing solutions, including DIY projects and legalizing SROs.

Informal housing development and its challenges.

Speaker 5 argues that the focus on freedom from inspections and compliance is not scalable.

Speaker 1 suggests that alternative housing options should be acknowledged and recognized.

Speakers discuss the potential for flexibility in building codes to accommodate different living situations.

Speaker 4 questions why homes need wheels, while Speaker 5 highlights the importance of upgrading tiny homes to cottage clusters.

Speaker 5 suggests modifying building codes to accommodate alternative residential dwelling units, while Speaker 6 envisions a Japanese capsule hotel-inspired solution.

Affordable housing solutions, including tiny homes and modular construction.


Well, I think we might as well dive in. This is the unconference at YIMBYtown [2024], session which I ginned up in about five minutes before the 6pm deadline. The title from the program is [reads full title].  

So what does that mean? There's actually a surprisingly good wikipedia page for Alternative Housing. It's very broad. 

[Here's how I think of it:] In every place, there's there's a dominant way of building, or a few of them. In North America, that would be either private market rate, or nonprofit affordable housing, usually "stick-built" wood construction, just a couple of models that predominate. There are a lot of other things, but the bulk of things are in a few buckets like this. And of course, they are not totally unitary, they have edges that are doing new things. 

But it seems like there's some value [in having an 'alternative' category], as in other fields, like there's "alternative medicine," right? What is that? Well, it's a broad set of things that could include Chinese medicine, traditional, etc, that maybe are in some disputed state, have not caught on, or questioned, or emerging, or something like that. And so it's deliberately open-ended in that way. 

And what it means for me and who I am is, I grew up around housing development. My father is a now-retired planner and architect, working in the UK and US, and we moved back and forth. So I grew up seeing plans and holding [measuring] tapes on building sites. But then at some impressionable moment, my father says to me, "there's got to be a better way to make a living than this. Maybe you should do something with computers."

Yeah, probably, probably. I didn't really think about it at the time, but that may well have steered me. So then I studied design and graduated from college around the time of the first Web boom. So, like a bunch of people without a better idea at the time, I was swept into this, and I moved to New York. So I did web design, advertising stuff for a bit, and then that segued into working in electronic publishing and software for libraries and universities, so it's kind of tech, and I was a product manager, mostly. 

And actually that was sort of, in a way, stepping back towards  [housing/planning] because it's thinking about large [social & community issues]... I worked for one of the world's largest cooperatives. Which is, the people that run the back ends of the library catalogues of the world, it's actually a gigantic $300 million a year operation.

Alert audience member:

Yeah. OCLC that's it. Yeah. It's a thing everyone uses and has never heard of.  

Then in [late 2011 into 2012], first of all, I spent a couple of months in London visiting family, where I grew up partly, and then moved to the Bay Area to take a job at Stanford's electronic publishing division, and I was just bowled away by the scale of the crisis [I saw in both places]. Like, why is it that both here and in different parts of the world and apparently everywhere, this huge front-burner issue, and half the people you talk to are like, I'm having to leave the city, I'm couchsurfing. And it was like, there's something massive going on. That is far less obscure and cryptic than the weird metadata standard I was working on. 

So I kind of drifted and then jumped in and, and then also right around then [I was suddenly forced out of my housing]. I had lucked into, [when] I'd moved to Palo Alto -- one of the most expensive places in the country, $2500 usual starting studio rent -- I fluked into a $500 a month, backyard cottage rental, a converted one car garage, that for a few decades had been keeping this elderly lady [homeowner] able to afford to live there.. 

And I'm thinking, this is unbelievable. This is the best housing situation I've ever had. I mean, I'm four blocks from the [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg compound, somehow stumbled into servants quarters. I'm [easily] biking into downtown Palo Alto to [take the train] into San Francisco. And there are literally 1000s of other garages like this just in Palo Alto. Right? And also, I'm living really well in basically the space of a parking space. It's the best housing situation I've ever had. And it's in a backyard and my cat loves it .

Quizzical audience member:
was it permitted? 

So I would have assumed, given that I signed a lease, it had been operating for 20 years. But, it TURNS out… It turns out that my elderly landlady had fled the Chinese Red Army in [1946] as they were taking over Harbin, China, where she had grown up as a White Russian refugee. And it turned out that my Chinese girlfriend visiting triggered her and maybe the cat, that may have been it or it may have been her crazy son trying to take over the property. But a neighbor one day says oh, by the way, it finally got called in, you should get off the property and all your belongings today.  It had never been permitted, and the city had declared it uninhabitable. 

So well, sorry to get on this thread, but I was thrown out, in a matter of hours. I confirmed it with the City and they're said, you're not actually considered a resident or a legal party in this, you should get out of there. Because you might be [arrested for] trespassing. 

And I thought, well, I've already begun this housing experimentation project [Houslets]. Maybe I'll try that for a few weeks. And that has now gone for 10 years of me never since having a conventional housing situation, by hook or by crook, and mostly not paying rent. So in that 10 years, I've lived for whole stretches totally off-grid on friends' property in Mendocino [County]. I lived in a housing hacker warehouse in Oakland; I've lived across, I have an archipelago of housesits, you know, people that I move between. 

Presently I live full time in in a Prius in Portland, which turns out to be great, for example, for making it really easy to up on short notice and come to YIMBYtown [in Austin], and stay here, without having made any prior plans. 

It's never quite turned into the great prefab startup or anything. But it has been a spectacularly interesting, stimulating path of discovery. I've just gone with the experiment. And there's this thing that like, what what is it that you actually know about or have any credibility to write on? Well, I'd love to be an expert on building code, who's delivered buildings, and be able to speak credibly on that, but that didn't happen, yet.  

But what I can speak to is that we actually live in this world where there's like, tons of space. And there's all kinds of possibilities and potentials that are rarely even thought of or discussed. And also a lot of the poorest and more divergent people of all kinds are living that way, by necessity or preference. And so way more than most people realize there are people living in vehicles and basements and doing everything you can imagine out of sight. Right? 

And so what it's developed into is, I say, what if we think about housing from the bottom up? of people who are in no way served by normal systems, or very poorly served, or who don't even really want to be in an apartment block or building, or who have just come across the border, and arrived at somebody who said was their uncle in San Antonio, or just moved, just graduated and have nothing? 

And more specifically, a lot of things I've worked on have to do with homelessness response or other refugee and disaster response. What would you do if you just arrived in the city and had nothing? How can you bootstrap up? 

Because one thing is that policymakers and things have probably never been unhoused, really, or if so long ago, and they think about government programs. But the average person on these margins has, I think, little to no expectation that the government is going to do anything for them. The government is the problem, probably: the person you're fearing is going to boot you out, or condemn your cottage, or knock on your window tonight. We'd like, maybe, public housing will come that will serve all; but I know that the people on the margins have little to no expectation of that and are just making do. 

So with that…I already met three people in the lobby, who told me about something really cool [they're working on]. And I'm like, great, I'm putting you on to [talk].

First of all, I want to give a shout out to, right after this, actually happening right now and at 9:55 is a YIMBYtown tour to an actual wonderful example of this, called Esperanza Community. And so I've been actually following this for years. 

Austin has several of the most interesting, bold, groundbreaking things in this space. Because there's the flagship national alternative village housing, doing unbelievable things for the formerly unhoused, it's called Community First! Village. It's on the outskirts of Austin. 

Audience member:
It's not, it's outside. 

Yes, right. It's outside, just outside it. And it basically it's…It's not without government support, in that many residents may have SSI, Social Security, etc. But it was conceived and developed and largely run as a private initiative. And it has now gained such momentum that it's now planning to go to into the 1000s of people. 

I haven't been there yet, but it was half the reason I wanted to go to Austin. And so that's amazing. And then also the tour today, the second loop of which is going to leave right after this at 9:55am is to something called Esperanza Community.

This was a case where I think it was TxDOT, Texas Department of Transportation, maybe the last people you might think to for doing something compassionate and helpful for the unhoused, as far as I know. 

Well, at some point many transit agencies are managing a problem of [homelessness], they're already in it, you know, it's not IF it's HOW we manage this. They've got a lot of people living on the property. 

So as I vaguely recall, the origin was, at some point, they're like, OK, we need to clear people out of this area and there's that disused freeway exit out there [on city outskirts], that's got a couple of those sheds. Maybe we can lstick them there and get them out of the way for a while. So this barren expanse of concrete off some freeway exit, they display some people there. And it was kind of horrific looking, it was barren. 

And then unexpectedly, in the reverse of what usually happened, it actually has evolved [to community control]. A local nonprofit, [The Others Ones Foundation], said, we could do better here and like, put some planters in and help convene a resident Council. And it's evolved into Esperanza Community, which is village like. 

There's this concept of, we can bring back village concepts and elements, in helpful ways, so that's also amazing. But so that's one area of things. 

But also another interesting thing is there's all this, an actual large part of the population does live in some form of mobile or movable housing. So trailer, you know, manufactured housing -- pejoratively known as mobile homes, which the industry tries hard not to say -- still is many, many millions [of households in the US], a significant percentage of all. And by the numbers, it is the leading form of affordable housing, that that lower income people are in; but often in precarious, insecure, exploitable circumstances.  But that's just because of the arrangement that they don't own the land and don't have good rights. 

Another interesting thing that happened, Chris [in audience] is involved in is -- or your wife, your wife is -- is that well, a bunch of people have observed, well, gosh, this is actually the lowest cost housing in our town, but it's been shut out, and they're not creating any more. And if we don't do something, it's going to get bought up and redeveloped. 

But maybe there's an opportunity, we can jump in and buy out the owner and turn it into a co-op. Right? And so weirdly, through that back door, cooperative housing has a significant inroad. And of course, people see that happening, and think, that's awesome and empowering, suddenly, some people have community and self determination… Maybe you could try that with this SRO [Single Room Occupancy] or other apartment building. Right? 

Yes. Question. Can you say who you are?

Q: I'm [..] I'm part of YIMBY Denver, and Colorado last year passed a law that, giving the owners of the trailers in the park was an opportunity. Yeah, first right of purchase.

Someone else:
we tried to do that in [..] once. 

Q (cont.):
Yeah. Anyway, it passed last year. So they just have to be able to get the capital together. But I think there's all kinds of I'm not sure, but I think the state provided ways for them to purchase.

I have one heartwarming story I can tell you, which is the first project that my wife organized with, NeighborWorks, was outside of town in Missoula. And they got the whole thing done and the day that they closed the deal, One of the residents who was an illiterate Korean War veteran who had been a drywall hanger his whole life, went and spent $2,000 of his own money to buy a new riding mower and has mowed everybody's lawns in our whole community ever since, because he just never thought he would ever be able to own anything.

Yeah. And bringing it to the YIMBY context, clearly the main line, sentiment, banner, perception of YIMBY is it's kind of as some people perjoratively, All Units Matter. This is an allusion to, with Black Lives Matter, some people maybe [seriously said this, said, Hey, you know, it's not just Black lives, but All Lives Matter. But it became a satirical thing, suggesting a reactionary, racist response. Right? 

So among the [YIMBY] skeptical there's a concept that YIMBYism is like All Units Matter. 

The thing is, I was around in the origin, of being one of a ragtag band of Sonja [Trauss]'s friends [in San Francisco] who were like, hey, maybe we should go to that [housing] hearing before going to a bar…and clearly there's only so many words fit on your banner, and it worked, amazingly… the incredible focus, saying, it isn't just about making some low cost housing, it's that you have to have ENOUGH [housing for all] it's that simple, Is that not obvious? 

However, there is a possibility that a few decades in the future we'll be saying, did they not realize they were kind of fighting the last war, of  scarcity and underbuilding? and what they didn't see is they were not sufficiently resisting the new takeover by institutional capital? And so now it's all owned by them, and nobody own their own housing. Right? And so maybe there are some alternate buds and paths we might try to get things on. 

And particularly when you look at affordability, how do we look at that? Well, there's what can I rent today. But in the long run, who owns the land and has the value is is determinative of social outcomes. 

And so one angle to this ism you could say, well, let's look at what the state is encouraging or allowing, and one is a [conventional] Affordable Housing complex, it's is going to be deed restricted [for affordability] for 40 years. A 

Maybe instead we could make it a Community Land Trust plus co-op housing. Well, they might be roughly equivalent now, [e.g. in rents offered], but radically different in their long term equity and social value. Because one is going to just revert to this institutional owner, and maybe turn into market housing in 20 or 40 years; and it's never is going to be resident-run. It's just basically an apartment building owned by a nonprofit.

This other one [the co-op alternative] is going to permanently take the land value out of speculative rise, and is going to permanently empower some people in stable tenure, it if it works out. 

So while [the two buildings] might be kind of roughly equivalent units now, in a 100 year perspective they have radically different outcomes in their equity. 

So anyway, with that, I just realized maybe we might introduce, do we want to quickly say who you  are and anything you work on? Or a question you have about it? Anyone? How about here?

I'll go first. My name is Eric Herot. I live in Boston, which is a place that it's actually we don't have this, it's a little bit of an abstract discussion from the perspective of my actual city boss. Although I've kind of come to it from the perspective of I want to, I want to see how it eventually translates into maybe modular construction of multifamily buildings. Yeah. Even though I feel like, you know, there's probably a good number of layers in between there. Okay. But also, of course, there's no state in the country where  manufactured homes don't play some role. Like, maybe not in Boston, but in some of our outlying suburbs. Yeah. Sorry. But that's yeah.

And by the way, I wanted to mention something about the term, [Alternative Housing]. I've been working all this stuff and tracking all this stuff, and I've been for a long time been asking, what do I say [I do, or focus on]?

So I've tried out for a while different terms, for what do you do? Is it Self Build? The term "alternative housing" is a capacious one I kind of like, but as a friend pointed out, they said, "You know, I used to use that term, but then I realized it's kind of like alternative medicine, the stuff that's like probably fake and your insurance won't pay for." So I take that wise point. 

And then I have this embryonic nonprofit, which is just to try to sort of organize all this, a shingle to hang out, and I decided to call it Housing Alternatives Network. The double entendre there is, it's not only thhaving a predisposition to asking what are the wider [housing alternatives and] possibilities we might consider, but it's also saying, we need to find someplace to put those alternative types of people to get to, because it's not working out for them. 

Well, I was wondering if we could offer, you know, something to add?

Exactly. Yeah. So I'd like to do that. If we go round. Do you want to go?

Yeah, so I, I love the Netherlands, I follow everything that happens to things I learned recently, from their public TV media. WikiHouse,

I know all about it, amazing project.

that you can totally build yourself with a group of friends. Some of you should be experts at like architecture and engineering. And some of you just need to know how to use a drill. 

Yeah. That's an amazing, incredible project. 

In the city of [..], they have obtained some lands, I don't know who they are actually. There's like enough space to build 20 Wiki Houses, and then people who want to build one, like, volunteered and elected to move their, their own wiki house. Yeah. For the cost of materials and pizza. I don't know. 

Right. Right. 

And then the second thing I learned from this, like same series of Dutch housing crisis, is that the city of [den Brough?] had like a former landfill area that but they were going to redevelop it eventually, after, you know, doing whatever mediations is necessary. But in the meantime, this group of self builders asked if they could have five year a five year lease, to build whatever the heck they wanted to. Said, Okay, and so there's this aerial drone footage of the small village that's the size of like a Walgreens parking lot, maybe a little bit. Yeah, yeah. And everybody has built a different type of house. Yeah. And they're, I think most of them are connected to sewage. Not all of them. Yeah. And then, like they interviewed some of the residents and one is like, I'm a 22 year old student, and I built this wacky thing. Yeah. And, and then another person is like, yeah, I salvaged all these windows from a deconstruction project somewhere. Yeah.

And guess what, there's more values and goals involved than just having square footage, right?

That's a big perspective, is we have a conception of housing, that's, particularly in the US, deeply driven and ruled by real estate, terms and metrics, that reduce things to private, interior square footage. 

And it's like, okay, I get it, it's a big country, we've got to have mortgage systems, you got to standardize, but it's like an incredibly narrow lens on how to define and rate housing. And many people might far prefer a smaller home that they can design or, obviously a smaller home they can own, which they can't now. 

But what we have largely is a system that assumes what is valuable on very narrow metrics, and then builds everything around that. 

So one big angle you could come from on this is, it's basically a housing diversity orientation: to say, we need enough housing, for sure. I mean, it's musical chairs, so everyone's got to land somewhere. But it may be that unless you're very expanding greatly [the types of housing made], and not just expanding but re-legalizing things that were widespread like SROs, and boarding houses, that we're never going to get there. Because we'll never have the Vienna that we'd like to have. 

Yeah, question. Yes.

So like, I love the idea of all kinds of weird, crazy people doing wacky things, that even kill them.

(laughs) "You break it, you own it."

my lived experience is a builder in a jurisdiction that's controlled by an HOA [Home Owners Assocation] tells me that it's possible. Sorry, like a building department. Yeah. Authority Having Jurisdiction. Building Code term.

Yes. Sorry. Yeah.

Like tells me that this is like a fantasy land that nobody's ever you know, that only exists in like Southern Arizona. Yeah, I mean, is there is there like a reality where you can advocate for like innovation zones and cities where?

Multiple audience members:
On wheels. Make in on wheels and there's no building code, right? 

What happens when you live in a place where things freeze and you want to have access to plumbing? 

I'm Michael, from Sightline, here because I'm trying to get ideas and thoughts around a state level legalization of housing on wheels including RVs.  

Right now in Portland, they started by decriminalizing RVs on private land. And then they legalized them, up to one on private lands, in residential zones, if you have a utility connection, so like, if you have pipes, and electric and sewer, yeah. 

the bureaucrats clawed that one back from the anarchists.

Right. But the key thing is they didn't require an inspection of the structure. And so like, the attendant does this by law, you probably but the you know, once you start adding a standard three to the structure, then if he's the whole purpose of this super lightweight thing, my friend Cole has a small business now. Or a sideline, really preparing backlots for these homes on wheels. He says he gets a few inquiries every week,

like putting in the utilities and the permitting, like they'll allow you to put in they don't do a permit. They just check your sewer tap your SIR connection looks fine. I think I don't think the city ever sends the person. I think the technician who has the certification to do the sewer thing simply you have to have a license. Yeah, put the right Yes, exactly. And they don't inspect it. Generally, they're just excavators, depending on where you are usually in or you can,

if you're in town here in Austin, you can't do anything with that. You can't make a trench without an inspection. I mean, yeah. 

Well, in Boston, if you do like like plumbing or electrical, like they will get their own inspections at the end. 

Well, I want to point something out here. So most people in any housing discussion, live in and assume and presume formal housing. And that means that what they live in was inspected, is known about, it has an address. 

But that's really kind of not the normal case globally. And it's not even the normal case for like a large portion of the poorest people in the US. 

Almost everywhere in the world, the lower realm of some percentage of all housing and how people live is all informal. Meaning there isn't a formal lease, or it isn't [compliant with] building code, because that's just what happens as you go down the scale of marginalization, and income: things like tenure, and it being building-code compliant, you know, become luxuries that you didn't reach. 

So everywhere it's the case that the lowest levels are couchsurfing, [and informal and makeshift housing]. And in some parts of the world it's practically everybody. That's something to think about, think for a minute that you just arrived. You're like, building permit? I'm not sure what town I'm in. I'm just thinking of what can I get from this week's wages at Home Depot to gin up in my cousin's backyard.

And the truth is, is that in much of the world, it's not going to be inspected.  That could be a disaster. But that's the living reality, right? So when we say that lots of things don't happen [often if means] they don't happen formally. Or they're not legal. That doesn't mean they're not happening. 

Also, the other thing is, in the long run, it may work, may very well be that as the founder of Sightline said in a very memorable speech.. Alan [Durning], right. years ago, he gave this great speech to Build Small Coalition's [Build Small Live Large conference], which I remember, and he says, so how did Vancouver [BC] become this huge leader in having these incredible rate of ADUs [Accessory Dwelling Units]? He says, well, basically, because a bunch of people said, this just makes sense, we've got alleyways and space in the backyard, and they started doing it fairly broadly. To the point where it had momentum and buy in where it was facts on the ground. Right. 

Audience member:
asking for forgiveness instead of permission. 

Right. And so that's an interesting, rich world case of actually just kind of mass, make it happen. But this is also a perfectly normal form of developing-world development. 

In Lima, Peru, where the sort of Godfather of D.I.Y. (i.e. Self Build] housing. John F. C. Turner, went from England and worked for the UN, he observed this incredible wide-scale pattern [of informal, incremental development].. They call it "Pueblos jovenes" -- young towns. And there's now over many decades now a very worked-out process, whereby a group of people from their village.. because there's a just an ongoing influx, what he observed happening then, and what is true now is that most of all, the future housing in our world of people is basically new arrivals, very poor, arriving on the fringes of sub Saharan African mega cities. That's three quarters of all future population growth and net new housing. So that's the normal case. Right? As people go as household formation goes, right, according to current predictions. 

So in the in the 60s, John F. C. Turner says, I've arrived as a UN consultant or something, with this big guide book of our plans. And it turns out that we actually barely know anything about how this does work. And for the actual people who need it, who what they do is, well beforehand, in their village, or tribe or network, they organize ahead of time, and arrive there with a whole group of people on a patch of currently unused or unclaimed land, and overnight, mark it out, mark alleyways and set down enough markers that they will effectively claim it, and then continue building it. 

And then it's become normalized over a long period of time, it eventually gets recognized and start to get city services. That's how two thirds of greater Lima was developed. Right. So anyway, so weirdly enough, the Vancouver ADU story is something like it -- if something just makes a lot of sense, maybe we just do it, even though it's not even legal. Because maybe it actually will become recognized and accepted. Maybe. Or maybe there'll be a horrific, massive, fire, a ton of people will die and we'll never allow it. But okay, so other anyway,

Audience member:
I mean, I think if you're going to do this kind of thing, first of all, I think it should be acknowledged that like, although yes, the the vast majority of like people in the world are living in housing that is not inspected. This trend is definitely toward more inspections and more people

living in inspected housing. Yeah, yeah. And mostly is a good thing. Well, it's definitely true in the United States. But I also think, even in the rest of the world, it's not like we're not going from a state of more inspections to less, it's kind of the other way around. 

The other thing, and I don't have data to support that, but the fact that the world is getting generally richer and people are starving less would suggest that that is likely to be the case. 

So I kind of think like, visions of the future for what, you know, a world of you asked, I also kind of take issue with like, alternative housing thing. I just like to think it's like housing, and we should maybe try to think that like, yeah, that doesn't have a specific and very narrow definition. Right? Not that that really disagrees with what you're saying. But But I think just in terms of the narrative,

it's kind of ghettoizing it, right. It's like, saying  "alternative medicine"... It's like, Oh, you're so you're not a real doctor. 

Audience member:
And it's like, kind of like we're constantly reminding people that like apartments or homes. 

Yeah, true, true, but it's just a practical thing, you need a banner or a section name, I need some label.

Audience member:
say like you live in a McMansion, I live in a manufactured home. But I do think that there's a lot of room in this to kind of say like, you know, and this is mostly I think a lot of what UMB is really about is like, uncoupling the basic necessities of the fire code from everything else. Yeah. Because right now we kind of like, try to pretend like they're the same thing and be like, well, in order to be compliant, you have to live in a 5000 square foot single family home suburbs. But I think to the extent we can do that, there's actually a lot of room to do it. Yeah.

And most people just radically underestimate or don't know, how readily and easily you can actually build functioning housing.

Audience member:
If you just if you didn't have to throw out the international residential code. I mean, I did to build a  cabin on a lake and you know, the cute little Scandinavian sleeping cubbies and bedroom that I designed. Were totally not thick enough to be qualified as a biller. Yeah, let's talk about the IRC like well, but then you can't have a house without a bitch. That is definitely workshop. But that's definitely not defensible, aspire. I can't get three but building without a primary job.

But also, let's think pragmatically, like, are they going to make surprise inspections and food regularly in future years? Are they maybe going to inspect it first time?

Audience member:
Oh, no, I just like, Okay, I just don't know the whole thing as a unit and then put a wall and make cubbies After inspection. 

Yeah. There's a lot of work around cannibal like,

Audience member:
it's not scalable. You can't like go and say like, Hey,

on the internet thing, I think it's you're gonna have it be manufactured and you want to ship it to more than corretto. One place? Yeah, it gets got to be code compliant. But I do think there's actually a lot of room for discussion and making the code not be so inflexible about stuff like bedrooms, whether or not what I'm interested in fire is like, what sort of like, can we designate certain areas as like, you have to sign the waiver in their yard? 

Like, why wheels, essentially you're end-running around code? Yeah. Does it have to have wheels, what do one of the wheels do do for Hello, 

Audience member:
I think the wheels thing highlights a an interesting way to do workarounds, which is like rather than just say like houses no longer have to have bedrooms, you say, Well, what if we're not going to call it a house, we call it like an Alternative Residential Dwelling Unit 

that's an interesting thing. So in homelessness, especially, there is this bifurcation of like, these things are deemed shelter and these things are deemed housing. And there are various cases where you simply will not get any funding, unless it can qualify as one.  

But on the other hand, people are starting to realize, okay, for example in Portland we can now se up, for a year, with no neighborhood veto power, a temporary "outdoor shelter." And [the units] could be movable things. Well, what if we upgraded them to, say tiny homes. And now we actually now, I mean, it's still it's legally a shelter, but it's now become like a cottage cluster of sorts? But it's way easier to do. 

Audience member:
The interesting thing is, a lot of the rules about bedrooms and in  IRC are kind of designed around making places more habitable, but they're also kind of, and I mean, like I entered, I think it's, in some ways, it's well meaning, but it's, but the key thing is, in some ways, it's also in some ways, obviously, design, everything had a good intention, Rachel, well, like, for example, DeCarlo intentions for, for example, like having, having a bedroom with a window. And I feel like when a lot of people do these tiny homes, it's not that they don't want to achieve some element of comfort and livability, but they do it by different means. And so like, for example, like I kind of feel like, I wouldn't be against living in a place where you're kind of sleeping in a cubby space. And it works, not because the cubby has a window, but because the cubby is sufficiently a part of the rest of the living space that really doesn't need one. Yeah. And so it's like, that's the kind of thing where, you know, the code ought to be able to accommodate different and smaller ways of achieving the exact same outcome. 

I think I should try to move towards wrapping up. I'm sorry, we didn't get around [to hearing from everybody]. Because what I would love to do is, I started a document that I was going to post his open notes, but I would love if anyone would just tell me what's the cool thing you've heard about? or would like to do or are doing and I will put it into a doc and put it up.

Audience member:  
like the sleeping Cubby. I'm having a hard time picturing that I'm thinking of like Japanese capsule hotel. Yeah, I have pictured. 

Audience member:
See when I say what I really mean is I want somebody to put together a like plausible sounding piece of legislative change that would make people think, okay, I can envision putting that into the code. 

Well, what if we joined our local building code councils? Yeah, we have a thing. They have the tiny house edition. They're sleeping lofts. And there's..

Audience member:  Yeah, you know, I honestly think the key thing is just getting some people on these code compliance committees that don't live in the 5000 square foot single family homes in the suburbs. 

that's definitely happened. Tiny House Industry Association has gotten its way into representation at the International Code Council. 

Audience member:
Right. That will be, we inspect every tiny house. Yes, yeah, it's problematic. And it's not a bad outcome, as long as the code is better. 

I mean, but if you look like HUD Code, manufactured homes, like, people, so that I mean, is one thing that actually standardized and made manufactured housing better, and kept the cost incredibly cheap, right. 

Like, everyone wants to talk about modular homes, like in Texas. The problem is, you can't put them anywhere. You can put them anywhere. They're like, incredibly cheap, even still now, like, they can build at like $70 a foot. But you know, I would say everything. Yes, that's air conditioning, that's literally set up. Like we shouldn't be doing this everywhere that we can. And so like, for example, we've gone through in Austin and technically, we finally had to get because we had a building code is finally read written a memo that confirms what we've been saying for 10 years that they're actually allowed, you can get a permit, and then they're like, well, but then the problem is tree ordinance and setbacks. And so like, they don't build manufacturing homes that are like not because they they're limited out on when you're,

you're so like, that's the problem that we have on the roads, right? Yeah. So you could do 16 foot wide, but you're not going to get someone to make the 30 foot long, right. So now, you can do but not HUD Code here, the park model homes and then now those aren't inspected, so you can't put them on your lot.

So I've got a radical, quick shortcut. I've got this talking point where where I say like, look, housing is about the most complicated problem in the world, it's the intersection of all the pathologies and problems of the world. power and control of territory, my personal space, my tribal signaling -- it's like, how does it get more complicated than that? 

But on the other hand, if you put a gun to my head and said, Tim, tell me how to solve the housing crisis, or I'm blowing your brains out, I would say, OK, local jurisdictions should allow vehicle residency. Because it's only local law that prohibits it. There's a ton of people in need, who at least provisionally would live in something that can be a vehicle, and there's a ton of people out there eager to sell you every variation of RV and tiny house, used or new, from a few $1000 up. 

Audience member:
You have to repeal the parking requirements.

Well, and so the simplest thing you could do, I think, is you could say all right, we've got parking permits and rules already and signs and apps and everything. Let's just create a Parking Dwelling Permit program and designated areas. In most cities there are100 times as many unused parking spaces as our unhoused people. 

So I'm just saying is a radical simple option --  a bit like the idea [you can radically reform parking] just by finding and deleting the parking requirement lines in city codes. 

I would love to get from anybody anything that they would have liked to tell me about, you know, any time. 

well thanks everyone for coming.