Sep 14, 2007

Slow Home

In response to a comment on my Slow Home post I am answering here.

How does one afford it?

That is the problem isn’t it? A simple appeal to the consumer will yield little result. The current structure of development prevents affordable alternatives to the status quo. Consumers can’t wait for big developers to change and big developers have no motivation to change. A young family needing a house will purchase the house, out of those available, that best fits their needs. However, just because a consumer buys the best product they can doesn’t mean that it’s the best product for them or the one they really want. If all the cars you can afford are Fords and Chevys and you buy a Ford it doesn’t mean that Ford makes the best car for you. We need a Honda or Toyota in house production.

Look at Daybreak where just a few of the principles of New Urbanism are used – small lots, walkable tree lined streets, detached garages placed back from the street – and you see higher property values and extraordinary demand. All of these things would have been negatives to developers just ten years ago. People buying houses ten years ago might have been happy with a Daybreak style neighborhood but developers were telling them they wanted something different and no one was offering real alternatives. Daybreak is a weak example of what is possible. But zoning codes are still stuck in the 60’s, developers are notoriously conservative and contractors are frightened of change. If it worked in the past why change?

Worse yet if you want a modern house using unique materials in a walkable dynamic neighborhood you run into contractors that are scared to vary from long established routines without charging extra and developers who don't think people want modern homes (they also have no idea how to do them right).

To answer the question of how does one afford something like the Slow Home ethic is a complicated endeavor. Right now I am still figuring it all out. One thing however is sure - it involves a lot more than just the consumer.

I hope to revisit this topic again soon.

1 comment:

Hannah said...

I was talking with my sister about this. She had the idea that we need to return to crafts and trades. Trade craft for craft or services/goods. She used as an example an experience she had walking in her rural community. She saw a man alone unloading a truckload of hay. She stopped to help and afterwards he apologized for not being able to pay her. She, of course, told him it was not necessary and continued on her walk. She passed the man's house later and he was there waiting for her with his payment -- two large steaks. What a beautiful community!

Could such a community exist in our cities? I suppose, if the craft/trade is quality enough or in enough demand. Please permit another few examples: 1. My neighbor is an artist. Their family recently decided that they need a second vehicle. He was able to trade a painting for a car. 2. A friend of mine is a massage therapist. Her family does not have dental insurance. She trades massage for dental care. 3. A friend's husband is a chiropractor. They trade chiropractic care for dental care.

It's a wonderful solution for those who have something marketable to offer. Do you think anyone would be willing to help me build or remodel a home for home-grown tomatoes? Sigh.