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Article - Bring back the boardinghouse

JNA

Cyburbian Plus
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25,063
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54
Print Headline was Why not bring back the boardinghouse ?
http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/05/20/community-life-generation-neighbors-column/27085959/

Links in article:
D.C. developer bets big on apartments with shared eating spaces
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/where-we-live/wp/2015/04/28/d-c-developer-bets-big-on-apartments-with-shared-eating-spaces/

Not A Group House, Not A Commune: Europe Experiments With Co-Housing
http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/02/16/385528919/not-a-group-house-not-a-commune-europe-experiments-with-co-housing

Bring Back Flophouses, Rooming Houses, and Microapartments
http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/07/sros_flophouses_microapartments_smart_cities_are_finally_allowing_the_right.html


Does your fair community zoning ordinance still list a boarding house as a permitted/allowed use?
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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14,070
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44
No, but I've always thought a boarding house would be a good thing as long as you kept it classy. No flop houses, or at least control those a little.
 

The One

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8,289
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29
Yup

I can tell you from experience that boarding houses are a GREAT idea. While on my vacation from Planning and working all the live long day on the railroad, I relied on boardinghouses for cheap (and safe) living. They were older (sometimes "hotels") buildings in downtown areas of small towns and often had a live in caretaker to keep things in order. In Eastern Montana I was paying between $80 a week (furnished with efficiency kitchen, cable and in room bath) to $125 a week for a larger room in a hotel/boarding house with a full kitchen and bedroom with bathroom, cable, electric, water and trash included. Some were hotels in name only (Minot North Dakota and Glasgow Montana have good examples of this) and filthy places.

I think these are great opportunities for cheap housing in older buildings that might be a good value to purchase. Maybe not so great for families.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
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14,070
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44
That's just it. I don't think you could do a family version easily, but you could have buildings set up to house either men or women. All the old TV shows display women's boarding houses in NYC. They are always reputable and have the mean house mom. As long as you keep some controls on it I think you could keep them reputable, as a place for poor single men to live while they do temp work or save up for a better place. You just wouldn't want them to become flop houses, whore houses, or just a general put of scum and villainy.
 

The One

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True.....

There will be a need for some level of subsidy for this type of housing in more expensive places. If it is targeted to a specific population, we could save money on other things like prison and legal system issues. Housing authorities purchase the buildings and social services provide the managers.

Also- The boardinghouses owned by the railroad do involve serious subsidies in rural areas due to vacancy rates and not renting to the general public.
 

Maister

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I just love the term "flophouse." Whenever I hear the term it makes me want to bum Chesterfields from passers by while milling around the sidewalk in front of the pool hall.

 

hilldweller

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In one city I worked for a downtown bar owner had purchased an abandoned warehouse and made it his own after hours party spot, with a number of beds laid out on the floor. It was determined that the "sleeping arrangements" constituted an illegal use and the owner would need to remove them to comply with zoning/codes. We all thought it was funny (and pretty cool) to come across an actual flophouse.
 

luckless pedestrian

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bumping this to get more discussion going - I started a zoning conversation about this in that forum/thread
 

Maister

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Semi-communal living arrangements; let's use that phrase. Occupants pay weekly/monthly charges to provide access to semi-private sleeping quarters, bathing facility, and communal meals. Gosh, it almost sounds like the operation of a college dormitory. In terms of land uses we should ask what impacts this will have on neighboring properties - are there going to be issues related to vehicle parking? Noise? Some other factors (which necessarily does not include mention of the phrases "those people" or "think of the children") which could conceivably alter the character of the surrounding area?
 

luckless pedestrian

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Semi-communal living arrangements; let's use that phrase. Occupants pay weekly/monthly charges to provide access to semi-private sleeping quarters, bathing facility, and communal meals. Gosh, it almost sounds like the operation of a college dormitory. In terms of land uses we should ask what impacts this will have on neighboring properties - are there going to be issues related to vehicle parking? Noise? Some other factors (which necessarily does not include mention of the phrases "those people" or "think of the children") which could conceivably alter the character of the surrounding area?
yes all of this is what I'm dealing with trying to write something up - and that's just internally with staff!!!

I am thinking of allowing it in the downtown and where multi-family is already allowed, and in the single family residential zones only in listed historic homes
 

Maister

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yes all of this is what I'm dealing with trying to write something up - and that's just internally with staff!!!

I am thinking of allowing it in the downtown and where multi-family is already allowed, and in the single family residential zones only in listed historic homes
Two other questions: 1) why did they fall out of favor? and, 2) is there some pressure or need to resurrect them now, and if so, what is the cause/source?
 

luckless pedestrian

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1. Well the ones in my fair small city are somewhat wayward - horrible living conditions, padlocks on doors, crusty shared bathrooms - just one step up from homelessness

2. We have an affordable housing workgroup plan that mentioned shared housing and I have been reading about it and since we have the concept of boarding house already in the ordinance, I thought maybe we could millennial-fy it

If the current ones are nasty, I say deal with that as public health issue but not sure how I will get it out of internal committee so I may drop it

I also got into it in a pull-a-thread-on-a-sweater kind of way as it was oddly lumped into the definition of tourists homes and bed and breakfasts which was weird and I was originally looking at short-term rentals which made me read tourist homes and then on it went from there and now I have a 30 page report with a document on all of these things but my adult add is happy
 

Whose Yur Planner

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I think they are a good idea as long as they are maintained. They could also serve as a second life for older hotel/motels. They could be a way of combating homelessness. I could also see where they would get caught up in the STR discussion. I agree with putting them in with multi family.
 

Doohickie

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31
STR? Short Term Residence?

I think there are two major purposes for boarding houses (or shared housing or whatever): super cheap housing to combat homelessness, and affordable single-person housing for professionals in areas where housing is prohibitively expensive. I think those are two totally different applications of the same concept though, and it's unlikely the two would be mingled.
 

luckless pedestrian

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STR? Short Term Residence?

I think there are two major purposes for boarding houses (or shared housing or whatever): super cheap housing to combat homelessness, and affordable single-person housing for professionals in areas where housing is prohibitively expensive. I think those are two totally different applications of the same concept though, and it's unlikely the two would be mingled.
True but how do you differentiate them in zoning - I think in terms of land use, they are the exact same thing
 

MacheteJames

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940
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20
The community I plan for is dealing with these in a big way right now. What's unclear is who their tenant is in many cases; is it down and out folks who need somewhere to go, or is it more of a co-housing (think WeLive) sort of setup.

We don't actually classify them as a residential use, which presents its own set of issues in terms of regulating design standards for them.
 

Luca

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1,181
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21
Historically, a 'boarding house' implied a house in which board (food) was provided (usually breakfast and dinner, not lunch) communally and each 'guest' had their own room.
There were all class of boarding houses, from very disreputable to rather nice.
It was a relatively common fall-back for widows with grown children who owned their own home.
I think that until the late 19th century they were the most typical sort of long-term, 'rental' accommodation for young or single people of anything other than very commodious means.

A step down in services provided was to take in lodgers without offering food ('bedsit' in British English) but offering access to the kitchen facilities.

What people seem to be describing here are (low class) 'residential hotels'.
 

ChairmanMeow

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105
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5
Is that because the concept sucks or because the company sucks?
More the company. I don't have a problem with the concept as long as they don't end up like the SRO's of NYC past.
It's also, essentially, a similar concept but with a fancier name.
 

B'lieve

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219
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9
Any kind of affordable housing, provided it's livable, is a good thing, espcially in places with high housing costs and homelessness rates, and places (like Yup's rural railroad towns or much of my own rural native county) where apartments are scarce/absent. Baltimore isn't California, but rents are alot higher than 10 years ago, and homelessness is rising, too. And the City's occupancy-limit-ordinance that forbids landlords from renting any unit--even if it's a full-size multi-bed multi-bathrm house--to more than 4 "unrelated persons" (hello, mandated intrusion into people's personal lives) makes it a little harder for people with neither a spouse/family nor an income above $50-60k a year. There was even a failed attempt during the comp plan update a few years ago to cut that limit down to 2 "unrelated" people per unit, same as in suburban Baltimore County (seperate from and nearly surrounding the independent City)--apparently b/c some older folks in rapidly hipsterizing Hampden got annoyed by the small fraction of young people who were getting rowdy, decided it was time to clear them out, and persuaded a City Council member to try squashing their local ant with a citywide hammer. Nevermind the more effective options of noise-ordinance, health codes, quick police-call for the really rowdy ones, with no collateral damage to totally uninvolved strangers across town who are just trying to make ends meet. Thankfully the amendment was shot down. With market forces and policies both hurting more and more people, and no shortage of folks pushing both, there's a role to play for something like the better boardinghouses.

The two pitfalls I see:

1) Keeping the livability standards up, which most of you have touched on RE: flophouses. Wouldn't broader existing public-health/safety codes & the specific codes already in use for apartments be mostly sufficient in most places, just pared down to omit things not present in the boardinghouse, e.g. kitchen-related codes for units that lack a kitchen? Or tweaked so that the kitchen-related requirements only apply to the building's kitchen and not individual units that don't have their own.

2) Public/NIMBY opposition, a la the SRO/STR issue Whose Yur Planner and Chairman Meow brought up. No matter how boardinghouses or equivalent are packaged and presented, no matter what the standards devised, someone's sooner or later going to bring up flophouses, SRO's, and the specter of "those people", whether they mean it racially or poverty-wise, and you can guarantee someone's going to bring up either drug addicts/dealers or sex offenders. Which means a lot of communities that don't block boardinghouses entirely are going to at least try shunting them off to industrial or commercial areas, down by the highway interchange, or to poor/minority neighborhoods, just like any other proposal for affordable housing.
 

B'lieve

Cyburbian
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219
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9
:wave: Machete James, I second Chairman Meow's question: how are they classified in your town?

And did they just pop up under the radar before the community realized what they were and tried to catch up on regulating them, or was there some awareness and policy-work as they were being built?
 
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