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Community development 💪 Coveny's Doomed City for the Homeless

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
Hello,

I'm new here but I’m looking for people with knowledge/experience/interest in helping me work through the details of creating a long-term (concrete/aircrete/foamcrete/hempcrete) low construction cost (balloon framing/3d printing) high value (Berms/rainwater collection/thermal loops) vehicle-less city/community for homeless people in the USA.

As when I ask for help invariable I get asked or responded to about this information so I'm just going to add it in before anyone asks.
  • I intend to fund the city myself, but I may use crowdfunding but I won't be attempting to convince a bank to loan me the money or investors
  • I intend to do this at least 10 years in the future, but I'm not looking to remove money, or restrict it to sustainable or anything else that dramatically increases the capital expense (CapEx)
  • I have done a lot of successful real estate investing and house flipping and have experience with building and repairing
  • I have zero experience building a city or professional city planning
  • This city will be within 10 miles of a major city but it will not be next to one so I will need to create all the required infrastructure
    • But no so close that the city will be annexed, have to deal with their zoning requirements, etc.
  • The city is specifically for homeless people, but I expect it may attract artists, retired, and remote workers.
    • I will provide free internet along with food and shelter
  • The city will have an influx of cash from an apartment complex worth roughly 1 million with a cap rate of 10% after expenses
  • Once the design is completed I intend to turn it over to the people who live there
  • Yes I'm aware most people feel this concept is doomed to fail, so I figured why not just put it in the title. :)
General design aspects that I'm currently looking it
  • No vehicles - I see roads as a waste of space and I'm looking to create a city where cars are not allowed within city limits (similar to what Paris has done)
    • There will be a parking lot on the outside of the city for vehicles and deliveries to the city
    • I'm not opposed to some form of public transport but I'd prefer everything to be walking/biking
  • Shared bathrooms and kitchens
    • Private bedrooms
  • The decentralized infrastructure where feasible
  • Low cost > high value
Specific design considerations
  1. Housing (long term concrete possibly aircrete, foamcrete, or even hempcrete though as I understand it doesn't do well underground)
    1. 3D Printing
    2. Balloon framing and shotcrete
    3. A combination of metal frames and simple concrete pours
    4. Prefab panels (Khrushchyovka like but no more 2 stories)
    5. IRC
  2. Food
    1. Meal replacement (around $1 per serving)
    2. Gardens/Aquaponics/Hydroponics on or next to each unit
  3. Water
    1. Wells
    2. Rain collection
    3. Gray water collection/reuse for plants
  4. Electricity
    1. Hydro if I can
    2. Solar
    3. Wind
  5. Temp Control
    1. Berms
    2. Geothermal loops
  6. Sewage
    1. Septic tanks
    2. Sorta stuck here I like the idea of an Aerobic bamboo grove–based waste treatment system, but I'm having a hard time running the cost numbers for this
  7. Garbage
    1. Dump/bury
    2. Clean burning like Amager Bakke (just at a much smaller scale)

I'm open to any location and I've seen land within 10 miles of major cities for as low as $250 an acre. The apartment complex will create an influx of 100k a year to cover expansion, repairs, internet, etc. for the city but I hope that over time the shop space will be rented and then the city could afford additional amenities like coving a doctor/dentist/etc. salary for free community service, medication costs, etc. With retirees, remote workers, artists, and the like the city could support businesses as it matures.

Again I'm looking for someone with information about construction costs, and city planning to help me define the pros and cons of various options. I hope that someone is here... it's not like I haven't looked elsewhere...
 

Dan

Dear Leader
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
19,248
Points
71
A quick note to say "Welcome to Cyburbia!"

Things slow down here over the weekends, so there might not be much discussion in this thread until Monday. Just giving you a heads up, so you don't think we're ignoring you.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
I just did a search keep in mind this is like 15 minutes worth of research nothing serious
58 acres in Montgomery AL for 116k. https://www.landflip.com/land/220101
41 units at around $630 each in the city for 1.9 million around a 12% cap rate. (or roughly 230k a year income) https://www.loopnet.com/Listing/2553-Lower-Wetumpka-Rd-Montgomery-AL/21972326/

So my investment is 2 million at this point before I build infrastructure

3D printed house for 10k - https://singularityhub.com/2018/03/18/this-3d-printed-house-goes-up-in-a-day-for-under-10000/
Septic tank for 7k - https://septic-systems.promatcher.com/cost/montgomery-al-septic-systems-costs-prices.aspx
6kw Solar system 12k - https://homeguide.com/costs/solar-panel-cost
Well water 8k - https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/landscape/drill-a-well/

The septic, solar, and well could be split between several houses. As I don't have to provide AC with Berm Concrete construction I'll have low electricity on the housing units. So if we assume 6 houses per it puts my cost per house at:

14,500

Keep in mind the house is my biggest price and the above price is with kitchen/bath no shared walls, and this isn't taking advantage of the economy of scale. I can also put more than one person per house increasing my capacity. If I assume due to the economy of scale I can cut that price is half, and have 4 people per house that means I could house a homeless person for around:

$1,800

Assuming I put another 2 million in to build housing that gives me a capacity of a little over 1k for a total of 4 million, and with my income of 230k a year moving forward I could add an additional 100 a year of operation.

Now I understand there are other costs a play here such as common areas, shops, travel expenses, internet, etc., but I'm just trying to show that I can do this for a few million not a few billion.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,501
Points
53
Always remember that every city and county will have different regulations. If you're in a county like mine outside of Phoenix you have lower odds of meeting regulations. When I worked in Kansas, not all counties were zoned so some let you do more than others. I'm not sure what the Montgomery area is like, but I'm sure it has fewer regulations. Same thing goes for state regulations if any of them apply to you.

If you haven't done it already, talk to some of the shelters in the area. Homeless populations need a lot of services and if you're out of the city you're beyond a lot of the services they might want or need.

For the septic system, consider alternatives to traditional septic systems. They get expensive. Think out wetlands treatment, giant leech fields, or more likely a lagoon system. You might also consider package sewer plants. They tend to be a healthier alternative, but they do cost a little. It all depends on the number of units you're putting on the property. The $7k in the quote you posted is most likely for a single home system.

The water system may or may not be a problem depending on your state regulations. At a certain point most states will require your well to become a certified water provider of some kind which means you need treatment attached to the well and regular maintenance.

Housing construction will depend on the county regulations. If there are no building codes then it's really up to you to provide decent housing. If there are building codes you may need what most places call a special inspection. That would usually mean an engineer certifies the building design and approves the construction. Also consider shipping container housing. There are a lot of companies that have ready to go designs and even do the construction at their factories. It might be a cost effective method of housing.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
Always remember that every city and county will have different regulations. If you're in a county like mine outside of Phoenix you have lower odds of meeting regulations. When I worked in Kansas, not all counties were zoned so some let you do more than others. I'm not sure what the Montgomery area is like, but I'm sure it has fewer regulations. Same thing goes for state regulations if any of them apply to you.

Yes, part of the reason I posted this was to find areas where the regulations are more relaxed and allow for more flexible building. So if you have any information on that aspect I'd be interested in hearing it.

If you haven't done it already, talk to some of the shelters in the area. Homeless populations need a lot of services and if you're out of the city you're beyond a lot of the services they might want or need.

Initially, I'm not looking at providing them. If the city works out and can afford to support additional services then I'll provide them, but starting out all I'm looking to do is provide food, shelter, internet, and a mailing address.

For the septic system, consider alternatives to traditional septic systems. They get expensive. Think out wetlands treatment, giant leech fields, or more likely a lagoon system. You might also consider package sewer plants. They tend to be a healthier alternative, but they do cost a little. It all depends on the number of units you're putting on the property. The $7k in the quote you posted is most likely for a single home system.

The water system may or may not be a problem depending on your state regulations. At a certain point most states will require your well to become a certified water provider of some kind which means you need treatment attached to the well and regular maintenance.

Housing construction will depend on the county regulations. If there are no building codes then it's really up to you to provide decent housing. If there are building codes you may need what most places call a special inspection. That would usually mean an engineer certifies the building design and approves the construction. Also consider shipping container housing. There are a lot of companies that have ready to go designs and even do the construction at their factories. It might be a cost effective method of housing.

Sewage - I've looked at various waste treatment facilities and most of them seem pretty expensive. The best I've seen for the cost is the wetland treatment with a bamboo drain field. I have not looked into a lagoon system, do you have a link for that perchance?

Water - That's an option if I want to have two big wells service the whole city. I'm not sure I want to go that route though. In some locations, I can have 10 or so units on one residential well in a mico-district and keep everything decentralized. While the price per unit is very important to me I'm trying to stay away from centralized infrastructure if I can.

Housing - I intend to get the unit design certified and then iterate that design numerous times. I have considered shipping containers and my biggest issue with them is heating and cooling costs. With a concrete berm, I don't have to provide AC as the earth's temp will keep the unit moderately comfortable in temperate climates below the Mason Dixon line. I'll stay out of CA because of the high land costs AND high regulations/building codes the state has. (I expect to stay out of the northeast as well for the same reasons)

Thank you for the reply.
 

kjel

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
12,617
Points
44
If you haven't done it already, talk to some of the shelters in the area. Homeless populations need a lot of services and if you're out of the city you're beyond a lot of the services they might want or need.
I encourage you to do this as well. Homelessness is complicated and the intersection of a a lot to factors: mental health issues, addiction issues, physical disabilities, education/job skill deficiencies, family breakdown, etc. Homeless persons very often need more than a place to live, but that's a very good start.

I work on the funding side of affordable housing. The permanent homeless projects I have in my portfolio are often among the most challenged.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
I work on the funding side of affordable housing. The permanent homeless projects I have in my portfolio are often among the most challenged.

What sort of resistance (or help) have you run into from the community and government to provide housing for the homeless? I'm assuming you're doing something along the lines of habitat for humanity where you set a small number up with all the bells and whistles in a new house (or maybe a tiny house as that seems to get a lot of hype nowadays) inside a major city, but if you aren't, and you're building in a less restrictive building code area I'd in VERY interested in any alternative building projects you've been a part of.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,501
Points
53
I'm in a bigger city so people want homeless populations kept downtown away from the regular housing. Downtown wants the homeless a little farther out away from the businesses. So it's in a kind of industrial area. People have problems with the tent shelter communities that are outside the shelters. The big question for us comes down to needing zoning or not. If you need a special zoning entitlement then the public tends to get involved and no location is good enough. At the same time there are people coming out to support it. You just have to know your councilmen or commissioners or whatever the governing board is called.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
I'm in a bigger city so people want homeless populations kept downtown away from the regular housing. Downtown wants the homeless a little farther out away from the businesses. So it's in a kind of industrial area. People have problems with the tent shelter communities that are outside the shelters. The big question for us comes down to needing zoning or not. If you need a special zoning entitlement then the public tends to get involved and no location is good enough. At the same time there are people coming out to support it. You just have to know your councilmen or commissioners or whatever the governing board is called.

Getting away from those types of issues is one of the reasons I want to build in the county rather than inside city limits. How difficult is it to get industry zoning changed to a homeless shelter's multi-family living zone? I've dealt with trying to change zoning a little bit and it was always a pain of red tape and risk as you have to purchase the property and then hope they'll change the zoning to what you want it to be.
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,501
Points
53
It's up to each city or county. Some places will allow homeless shelters in industrial zones and no where else. It comes down to the zoning code. If the use is allowed by right, no rezoning is needed. Sometimes it will list a special permit or conditional use permit which is a lesser process, but still a public process. Sometimes you just need to do a rezoning. If you're in luck the county you decide to do this in won't have any zoning so you won't have to deal with it.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
If you're in luck the county you decide to do this in won't have any zoning so you won't have to deal with it.

I was hoping to bypass luck and find some people who were aware of places with relaxed county zoning/building laws. There are roughly three thousand counties in the US that I would need to go through, and many don't have their codes online or easily accessible. I mean I can eliminate some because of land costs, but even states with average high land costs have some areas where the land costs are under 5k an acre. Do you know anyone who might have that information?
 

DVD

Cyburbian
Messages
15,501
Points
53
There's no one place I know of that would have that. I can say avoid urbanized states and you can skip Arizona. Everything is zoned here. Kansas has several unzoned counties. I would imagine some of the southern states might be that way and I'm not sure about Texas. Basically, the more rural the place the less likely it has zoning. When in doubt just make sure you're not in a city limit or within 3 or so miles if they have extra territorial zoning then just google the county and see if it has zoning.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
There's no one place I know of that would have that. I can say avoid urbanized states and you can skip Arizona. Everything is zoned here. Kansas has several unzoned counties. I would imagine some of the southern states might be that way and I'm not sure about Texas. Basically, the more rural the place the less likely it has zoning. When in doubt just make sure you're not in a city limit or within 3 or so miles if they have extra territorial zoning then just google the county and see if it has zoning.

First off thank you very much. Your allowed me to find some really good information on the topic as it cascaded from me doing some searches on Kansas. (which seems to be the least restrictive state in the unzoned areas) If your curious this is the information that I found:

The article that kicked it all off - https://marketurbanism.com/2013/03/29/ranking-state-land-use-regulations/
Led to a project doing something very similar to what I want to do - http://www.piscataquisvillage.org/
It also led to this map - https://www.freedominthe50states.org/land/
While tweaking the map more to building laws - https://www.freedominthe50states.org/custom/relaxed-building-codes
It mentioned "The Wharton Zoning Regulation Index" which I found here - https://realestate.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/558.pdf

That doesn't match up but gives me a much smaller area to research. And your references led me to some great info. So thanks for that!
 
Last edited:

MD Planner

Cyburbian
Messages
3,059
Points
49
You got some good advice. My two cents is to make sure you call it a Domed City instead of a Doomed City. I'm almost certain that will help with marketing. :D
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
You got some good advice. My two cents is to make sure you call it a Domed City instead of a Doomed City. I'm almost certain that will help with marketing. :D

I haven't decided on what to name the city but it seems like whenever I bring it up people tell me how the idea of it is doomed. They say everything from belligerent mentally ill homeless people creating Thunderdome (Bumfights... like I was going to make them fight) to how I'm making a prison full of the abducted homeless I'll be using for slave labor. Just a day or two ago I was told that having two exits from the building, with a door and window in the bedroom was just me wanting to see handicapped people burn alive. I seem to catch flak from the conservatives who think I'm stupid for wasting my money on (not kidding I had a guy in another thread say this) "parasites" who don't deserve anything to the liberals who can't believe I wouldn't problem a mansion for every homeless person. (they advocated a "decent" solution and that solution was spending 400k per homeless person it got off the streets) No wonder this is such a growing problem people are SO divided on how to resolve the homeless issue. It's an extreme all-or-nothing mentality. I digress though.

Given how much fighting I'll likely have to do to make it happen I'll likely call it something aggressive like "The Independent Atheist" or "Live how you want" haha or maybe "No begging required" or "No Job, no Problem" haha I don't know I may just let the residents name it who knows, it's not like I have a few million to make it happen right now anyway...
 

Gedunker

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11,820
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47
I am a strong advocate for housing as the first step toward fixing our homelessness problem, because without housing it is very difficult to center yourself in order to access services (for something as simple as mail, for example). So, I applaud that aspect of your concept. What worries me, however, is the idea of concentrating large numbers of people needing services (housing/mental health/addiction/disability/dual diagnosed etc). It took a long time to learn in this country, but concentrating large numbers of very low income individuals in housing projects produced deleterious effects for everyone/everywhere involved. Many places are still struggling with de-concentrating public housing.

I would encourage you to discuss your ideas with sociologists and other homeless providers to evaluate the pros and cons. Good luck and keep us posted.
 

Coveny

Member
Messages
9
Points
0
What worries me, however, is the idea of concentrating large numbers of people needing services (housing/mental health/addiction/disability/dual diagnosed etc). It took a long time to learn in this country, but concentrating large numbers of very low income individuals in housing projects produced deleterious effects for everyone/everywhere involved. Many places are still struggling with de-concentrating public housing.

I would encourage you to discuss your ideas with sociologists and other homeless providers to evaluate the pros and cons. Good luck and keep us posted.

Slab city is the closest that I've seen that exists in the US to what I want to create. It's about 15 miles outside of Brawley with a population of 4,000 people living in RVs. They have RVs, but technically they are homeless, and I expect the people there would count as having mental health/addiction and disabilities. From what I've read about the place it doesn't have money, electricity, water, and definitely no internet, but there isn't much crime there. They're doing fine, and by all accounts seem very happy with the place having the title of "The freest place in America". That said I do have concerns about the place turning into crime-riddled warbands. (exaggerating as the state would shut the place down long before anything like that happened. To me, there is a core difference between housing projects and what I'm building. With housing projects, you have to prove you need the place, and when you start doing well they kick you out... which many times sends you right back into them. The incentive to get out is next to nill because in some cases getting a job will actually cost you money. Also unlike housing projects, I'm not going to be located in a major city, and while crime is always a concern crime generally happens where there is money. You'll notice that crime rates increase the denser a city is packed for the most part. When people are competing for resources, jobs, and whatnot it encourages strife between those individuals, and I'm looking to remove that aspect. Maybe these differences won't be enough, but I think if I get the right people in there initially I can create a culture that cares about the community, and the city that I'm looking to create. One of the problems with thinking outside of the box is that I don't have anything to compare it to...
 
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