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Thread: Small lot housing

  1. #1

    Small lot housing

    Halifax Regional Municipality (located in Nova Scotia, Canada) is currently experiencing a strong shift in new housing demand from standard size single dwelling lots (5-6000 square feet) to small lots (3-4000 square feet). The appearance and quality of these new subdivision developments has raised considerable concern from residents and politicians. I am looking for information on any studies that may have been done on the subject, as well as design guidelines which may assist us in dealing with future developments.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    What is the point? Most all cities now are going to smaller lots and homes almost touching.Before the 40's was small lots than they moved to bigger lots and homes set back and lots of space to the 90's.


    It seem the tren of small lots,homes by the street,homes almost touching is the norm now but this is NOT keeping the price of homes down.If they use the policy of homes like the 50's.60 .70.s they where be well over $800,000 in the Toronto area if they use that lot size for new homes.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    In what form is this "strong demand" coming to you? How are you aware of this "strong demand?"

    Is this from land owners and developers that stand to make an easy profit, if they can just get the city to agree to allow more density?

    Do those who complain about a "lack of affordable lots" even live in the area? Are they strongly requesting that "in-fill" be allowed in their neighborhood?

    Isn't this presumed "strong demand" what has caused planners and cities to allow more dense housing than the streets can handle - and everyone complains about "traffic"?

    Be careful.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    A lot of cities in the Central Valley of California are experiencing the same trend. What we have found what worked best was taking City Council/Planning Commission/ Staff out to various small lot projects that we considered to be well thought out, well designed, etc. Some Cities have also published guidelines as well, but some of them tend to be to vague, or do not ensure a quality small lot product is produced. A small lot project with various densities seem to hit the mark very well. The project is in the San Jose Area of California known as Rivermark Master Plan, and mixed small lot homes at a density of 8-12 units to the acre, with higher density townhomes, and apartments, all intertwined with a commerical center and town green. You can see me at the PM for a set of design guidelines for small lot products.

    http://www.tndwest.com/rivermark.html

    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    In what form is this "strong demand" coming to you? How are you aware of this "strong demand?"

    Is this from land owners and developers that stand to make an easy profit, if they can just get the city to agree to allow more density?

    Do those who complain about a "lack of affordable lots" even live in the area? Are they strongly requesting that "in-fill" be allowed in their neighborhood?

    Isn't this presumed "strong demand" what has caused planners and cities to allow more dense housing than the streets can handle - and everyone complains about "traffic"?

    Be careful.
    Sounds like an advocate of sprawl to me.
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 26 Sep 2007 at 1:26 PM. Reason: double reply
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  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    In Columbia, only the developers are clamoring for this trend. They seem to sell well to single professionals, but then the SP's get stuck with them because they are almost unsellable. Seems buyers of this type of property only want brand new, and folks with kids, and married couples want more lot and house.

    Leastways, that's waht I see in Columbia, SC.

  6. #6
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nec209 View post
    What is the point? Most all cities now are going to smaller lots and homes almost touching.Before the 40's was small lots than they moved to bigger lots and homes set back and lots of space to the 90's.


    It seem the tren of small lots,homes by the street,homes almost touching is the norm now but this is NOT keeping the price of homes down.If they use the policy of homes like the 50's.60 .70.s they where be well over $800,000 in the Toronto area if they use that lot size for new homes.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    A lot of cities in the Central Valley of California are experiencing the same trend. What we have found what worked best was taking City Council/Planning Commission/ Staff out to various small lot projects that we considered to be well thought out, well designed, etc. Some Cities have also published guidelines as well, but some of them tend to be to vague, or do not ensure a quality small lot product is produced.
    LA like most south west states have more Mexicans coming than the city can keap up with that is the problem and many don't have money for big homes or big lots that cost so much money
    Moderator note:
    The intent may not be racist. But your post can easily be precieved as having racist intent. Please think about you are writing before you hit the "post" button.

    I'll be watching you.

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    Last edited by mendelman; 28 Sep 2007 at 12:52 PM.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plan 9's avatar
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    Welcome to "new urbanism", the science (not art) of cramming as many homes as you can into too small a space and trying to convince people it is a good thing.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    In what form is this "strong demand" coming to you? How are you aware of this "strong demand?"

    Is this from land owners and developers that stand to make an easy profit, if they can just get the city to agree to allow more density?

    Do those who complain about a "lack of affordable lots" even live in the area? Are they strongly requesting that "in-fill" be allowed in their neighborhood?

    Isn't this presumed "strong demand" what has caused planners and cities to allow more dense housing than the streets can handle - and everyone complains about "traffic"?

    Be careful.
    Streck,

    I would be curious to know what your solution would be in a place like California with the following factors:

    1. Extremely high land costs
    2. Very small amounts of "buildable" land left in the metro areas
    3. Strong job-producing economies
    4. High population growth from many sources (legal and illiegal immigration, as well as births)

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nec209 View post
    LA like most south west states have more Mexicans coming than the city can keap up with that is the problem and many don't have money for big homes or big lots that cost so much money.
    That is probably the most ignorant thing i have ever read in a post. First off, not all immigrants are Mexicans, as matter of fact Latinos come from all different countries (in addition, i am latino, and i am not of mexican decent). So try to keep your racist immigration views out of these posts and keep them to yourself. Immigrants come from all countries, and yes, many do come from south of the border in the western states, but we also take in a lot if migrants from other states and countries such as yours (canada). So please don't butt your head into a complex situation that you obviously have no idea what your talking about.

    It is not just "mexicans" that can't afford homes, its everyone in general in our state. Housing prices are through the roof for homes that are generally 5,000-6,000 sf which is a typical SFR product in the golden state for the last 10 years. Small lots help by creating more units on smaller tracts of land, and thus, brings the afford afforability down a notch. For example, around here a typical house in the northern SJ Valley that is 5,000 sf plus will sell for around 450K-600K depending on the proximity to the Bay Area. The closer to the Bay, the more expensive it gets. A small lot product would sell around 225-400K depending on the square footage and location again. My wife and I certainly aren't mexican immgrants, but we are trying to get by and could only afford a small lot house, which is what we have. We bought what we could afford, and it happens to be an older home, but as you can see, affordability comes with a smaller lot product. With the right set of design guidelines, one can see a quality product. Recently my firm (and as a part of the project team) comepleted a small lot product in Lincoln near my home town, and it looks great! Even my mother was shocked of how well it was designed and how small the lot actually was.
    Last edited by Raf; 28 Sep 2007 at 12:42 PM. Reason: spelling
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  11. #11
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Responses to CJC:

    1 - High land costs: This is the natural capitalistic market working. Where cost of something is "abnormally high" that is a red flag showing a need to be provided. In this case, not enough land for the number of people who want the land. Supply and Demand. This can be a good thing, but might show that you have run out of land, or there are too many people in the area.

    Prices can be lowered by creating more land (not likely).
    Going up just increases costs and brings in more people straining transportation and utilities.
    The natural solution will be when land is TOO high that no one can afford the land in that area, and there will be no land sales. Then prices will come down to its market level.

    Price controls don't work, so that is not a solution.

    Government subsidy of for land purchases does not lower land costs. It just shifts some of the cost to others (taxpayers). The *real* cost of land still increases.

    2 - Lack of land: Well, what can I say? When there is no land to be bought, you are out of land!

    Of course, the government could come in and take as much land as they need - The Supreme Court said so.

    You can go up like NY and Chicago, etc.

    Or you can be content (sounds like it is too late now) with having filled your city to an optimum level (reserving green space, etc.) and let the metropolitan area provide the land (in other communities).

    It sounds like the areas of California you are talking about lost control of their density limits, and people just kept coming in - driving up prices and occupying all the land.

    3 - Strong job producing economies: It is obvious that reducing the oppressive tax burden helped nation wide. I don't know if it can be reduced any further and still provide a benefitial return.

    Entrepeneurs will take care of the economy. We have a strong work ethic in America, although universal Health Care, Welfare, unemployment insurance etc from the nanny state, will erode the desire to work. It is up to planners to guide this growth in good directions for quality of life.

    4 - High population growth - Another social problem. Not really anything we can do in the planning field. There is plenty of room in America for more population. It just doesn't need to be encouraged to be concentrated in urban areas. Control your density.

    With computers and cell phones there is not as much need to be immediately in a concentrated area "downtown." An enterprising city could actually leap frog out into the fringe area and assemble land for a new city node as part of the existing city government. Why can't NY have a "sister city" or node or "burrough" in New Jersey or Pennsylvania? Cities have put their airports outside their city limits like that.

    In summary, I just think that planners should be more conscious of the power they have to prevent some of these problems by proper use of density control. That (to me) will solve a lot of our city liveability problems. And yes, some might call that a symptom of "sprawl" - but I see it as a way to a cure some urban problems.

  12. #12
    The trend I'm seeing is a push for clustering to save on infrastructure costs and preserve open space. However, density is calculated on a gross basis that accounts for the surrounding open space with emphasis on preserving environmental features (e.g. nice grouping(s) of native (non-invasive!) trees, environmentally sensitive areas, and the like). Design is typically reviewed via master planned developments with conditions of approval. Central water and sewer is a must.


    Villa housing has become a hot market in my area of FL for retirees who don't want to (or no longer can) mow the lawn, but still want their home to sit on a fee simple lot even if it is the size of a postage stamp. Most of these subs remain private w/covenants that perpetuate their maintenance via homeowner association fees. However, they still are required to plat and build roadways, drainage, ect. to same minimum standards as if the County was going to accept them. If you don't set the standard, you will suffer with poor quality. Remember the three Ds: Density without Design equals Disaster!

    As far as keeping costs down, I'm not seeing much of this in new cluster subdivisions. These new cluster subs are usually mid-range priced to high-end exclusive (those tied with the golf courses/clubhouses ). Those looking for affordable housing are going back to older existing subdvisions (pre-1970s, usually with outdated infrastructure and/or lack of central services) to buy lots typically 80 x120.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Responses to CJC:

    1 - High land costs: This is the natural capitalistic market working. Where cost of something is "abnormally high" that is a red flag showing a need to be provided. In this case, not enough land for the number of people who want the land. Supply and Demand. This can be a good thing, but might show that you have run out of land, or there are too many people in the area.

    Prices can be lowered by creating more land (not likely).
    Going up just increases costs and brings in more people straining transportation and utilities.
    The natural solution will be when land is TOO high that no one can afford the land in that area, and there will be no land sales. Then prices will come down to its market level.

    Price controls don't work, so that is not a solution.

    Government subsidy of for land purchases does not lower land costs. It just shifts some of the cost to others (taxpayers). The *real* cost of land still increases.
    You contradict your statements here later on when you talk of "density controls" - which are a form of price control and direct government interference in the price of land. Density controls limit the price that a seller can receive for the land, and at the same time, drive the cost of land up as land is being used for a lower use than the market desires. I'm not saying that I'm against all density controls, just pointing out that you can't talk about the "free market" in one sentence and talk about severely restricting the free market a couple paragraphs later.

    It seems to me that you have a lack of understanding of the market in any area where land is not plentiful and cheap - going up certainly does NOT increase price per unit when the price of land accounts for an extremely large percentage of the purchase price of any unit of housing. For example, I'm assuming that where you are construction costs account for 70-80% or more of the cost of a unit of housing. In almost any place in California, land costs account for more than 50% of the price. In the inner Bay Area, the LA metro, and the San Diego metro, land can account for 90% of the cost for a single family home. Construction costs are minimal - that's why condos in multiple story buildings of identical square footage to a SFH can cost up to 50% less.

    2 - Lack of land: Well, what can I say? When there is no land to be bought, you are out of land!

    Of course, the government could come in and take as much land as they need - The Supreme Court said so.

    You can go up like NY and Chicago, etc.

    Or you can be content (sounds like it is too late now) with having filled your city to an optimum level (reserving green space, etc.) and let the metropolitan area provide the land (in other communities).

    It sounds like the areas of California you are talking about lost control of their density limits, and people just kept coming in - driving up prices and occupying all the land.
    As is well documented, the two cities with the largest amount of public green space are NYC and SF - also the two most dense cities in the US. If you're talking about thousands of square miles of private yards, where would the water come from? The metropolitan area for LA and the Bay Area now spreads over hundreds of cities and crosses mountain ranges - it isn't a case of there being available land in "other communities", unless you're talking literally 100 miles away. People come to places with opportunities and a lifestyle they like (everything from weather to culture to acceptance by others) - you can't simply throw up a gate when density reaches a certain level (at least as a planner). It sounds to me like you're advocating draconian government measures of forcing people to live in areas they don't want to, simply because land is available there.

    3 - Strong job producing economies: It is obvious that reducing the oppressive tax burden helped nation wide. I don't know if it can be reduced any further and still provide a benefitial return.

    Entrepeneurs will take care of the economy. We have a strong work ethic in America, although universal Health Care, Welfare, unemployment insurance etc from the nanny state, will erode the desire to work. It is up to planners to guide this growth in good directions for quality of life.
    California has had one of the strongest state economies in the US for almost every period since it's statehood, I'm not simply talking about now. California also has the largest nanny state in the US, yet continues to thrive, showing that there are MANY other factors involved in creating a strong economy than just lowering taxes - including quality of life issues. You evaded the question though - what to do when an area that is "full" by your measure continues to produce jobs? Tell the entrepreneurs they must move? I was asking a planning question - what do we do as planners when politicians decide that more jobs are needed locally, but greenfield land is no longer available?

    4 - High population growth - Another social problem. Not really anything we can do in the planning field. There is plenty of room in America for more population. It just doesn't need to be encouraged to be concentrated in urban areas. Control your density.

    With computers and cell phones there is not as much need to be immediately in a concentrated area "downtown." An enterprising city could actually leap frog out into the fringe area and assemble land for a new city node as part of the existing city government. Why can't NY have a "sister city" or node or "burrough" in New Jersey or Pennsylvania? Cities have put their airports outside their city limits like that.

    In summary, I just think that planners should be more conscious of the power they have to prevent some of these problems by proper use of density control. That (to me) will solve a lot of our city liveability problems. And yes, some might call that a symptom of "sprawl" - but I see it as a way to a cure some urban problems.
    Again you're advocating government interference. Jobs are not as concentrated in downtowns in California as they are in other states. Silicon Valley has no dominant downtown and jobs are spread across miles and miles. The fringe area of LA and the Bay Area are already 100 miles away from the center - should we leapfrog into Nevada?

    You seem 100% concentrated on greenfield planning, which may be fine where you are, but it simply isn't an option for thousands of us. My city, and indeed my metro area really has no greenfield left.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    CJC says:
    HTML code:
    Again you're advocating government interference. 
    Yep, that is what Planning is all about - setting rules for the betterment of the community.
    HTML code:
    Jobs are not as concentrated in downtowns in California as they are in other states. Silicon Valley has no dominant downtown and jobs are spread across miles and miles. The fringe area of LA and the Bay Area are already 100 miles away from the center - should we leapfrog into Nevada? 
    Those areas apparently do not "need" a downtown center. Why do we "need" to have a downtown center?

    HTML code:
    You seem 100% concentrated on greenfield planning, which may be fine where you are, but it simply isn't an option for thousands of us. My city, and indeed my metro area really has no greenfield left.    
    And that is a shame that some areas have no "greenfield." By that reasoning it appears that it is too late for your area to have good planning, doesn't it?

    But government could still come in and buy up some occupied land and convert it to "greenfield" use. That is a legitimate function of City Planning (after a legitimate study and public input). Planning should always look to improving existing conditions, not just saying "it is too late." Chicago developed its whole lakefront after there was "no more greenfield" inside the city.

    I appreciate your comments CJC, and I agree that there can be too much government "interference" and regulation. I think *good* Planning overcomes bad government interference, and that is how exchange of ideas in Cyburbia can improve such planning.

    And thank God for Planners.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Those areas apparently do not "need" a downtown center. Why do we "need" to have a downtown center?
    I didn't say that we did. You mentioned that having downtowns was unnecessarily concentrating jobs in on place. I countered that Silicon Valley has NO downtown and has spread jobs over tens of miles AND STILL has tremendous problems.

    And that is a shame that some areas have no "greenfield." By that reasoning it appears that it is too late for your area to have good planning, doesn't it?

    But government could still come in and buy up some occupied land and convert it to "greenfield" use. That is a legitimate function of City Planning (after a legitimate study and public input). Planning should always look to improving existing conditions, not just saying "it is too late." Chicago developed its whole lakefront after there was "no more greenfield" inside the city.
    You misunderstand my use of the word "greenfield". I'm not talking about parks or open space - we have that and plenty of it. I was talking about developable land currently not developed - farmland, etc. As I mentioned before, San Francisco has the second highest percentage of public open green space set aside after NYC. The Bay Area as a whole has an incredible amount of public open space. We have no "greenfield" areas left to DEVELOP.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    That is probably the most ignorant thing i have ever read in a post. First off, not all immigrants are Mexicans, as matter of fact Latinos come from all different countries (in addition, i am latino, and i am not of mexican decent).
    First you misunderstood my post and second by the census.gov California - Mexican are at 8,455,926 %25.0 in California and Los Angeles--Long Beach--Santa Ana, CA Urbanized Area Mexican are at 3,783,979 % 32.1.


    http://factfinder.census.gov/

    http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet...DEC_2000_SF1_U

    http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet...mat=&-_lang=en


    And third I don't care want LA is and I may not have elaborate enough and caused confusion in my post.From a economic stand point the price of homes are determine by supply and demand.And other thing I should elaborate on the home developers don't care about race they care about money.I don't what sound like in my post Mexican or Latinos are the only poor people in the US or LA and there are many US born white people or black people that are in poverty or poor.And there is poverty and poor in every country in world.

    Well sorry for the confusion if sounded in my post like Mexican are poor and others are not .Other thing it does not matter who moves to US the price of homes are based on supply and demand.The low paying jobs and jobs off-shoring have nothing to do with race it is US government problem of CEO that want to get rich .Poverty is all over the place in the US so I don't what to sound like its only in LA or or that it is Mexicans.


    There are many cities in the US that have shanty homes or shanty small trailer park homes.And if I remember I believe US poverty or poor is at 12% or some thing more or less in that range in the US.

    If there is a high demand for homes in Vancouver , Calgary, Toronto,New York,Los Angeles ,Los Vegas , Phoenix so on the price of homes go up and become more densely packed.

    If you think Los Angeles or Los Vegas is big on sprawl with its densely packed homes and if they build like the 60's 70's and 80's suburb like in Toronto you can double the sprawl .At least homes in Toronto in the 60's 70's and 80's had some property and now it is so densely packed the homes.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Man With a Plan's avatar
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    Minimum lot size is merely one piece of the puzzle. History has proven that small lots are best when combined with other sound design principles. Nevertheless, design is only one piece of a larger puzzle. What is the socio-economic condition of Halifax? What is the public's perception of urban/traditional neighborhoods? Is there transit nearby?

    It appears that traditional design principles work really well in areas where people want to live in an urban village such as Newport, RI and Arlington, VA. However in blighted areas where the middle-class has fled to the American Dream, small lots still wait for reinvestment.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Minimum lot size is merely one piece of the puzzle. History has proven that small lots are best when combined with other sound design principles. Nevertheless, design is only one piece of a larger puzzle. What is the socio-economic condition of Halifax?
    Who knows why Phoenix,Los Angels and Las Vegas is the way is .

    All I can say is it is very densely packed may be because lack of green space.And high demad for homes amd such .



    What is the public's perception of urban/traditional neighborhoods? Is there transit nearby?
    I don't care has long has its walkable and not 90% car centric like toadys suburbs.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    So what's wrong with density in housing again?
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian
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    I don't have a problem with housing density .All I care is I can walk and take a bus than live in city that is car centric .

    I never going to drive a car.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    So what does that have to do with small lot housing?
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