Dom-i-city is a response to the challenges that have stymied the production of housing for workforce and middle-income families. It is a solution grounded in the hard facts of costs, the discipline of the bottom line and the reality of San Francisco housing politics.
The solution is comprised of 3 parts.
- A product designed for families, neighborhoods and efficient use of land.
- A strategy to change the dynamic of neighborhood opposition.
- A program describing ways and means to address the challenges of land, affordability and delivery.
Dom-i-city is a new urban housing typology: a mid-rise building with 15 family-sized homes on five floors and a landscaped courtyard above a ground floor in which are amenities for residents and neighbors.
Unique, it is a multi-unit building in which the units are designed to live like townhouses. Each 3-bedroom, two bath home shares its floor with only two neighbors. Family-sized kitchens, ample storage, included appliances, control over utilities, a bonus space, front and rear facades, through ventilation, and sound-proofing are some of the features that distinguish Dom-i-city homes from apartment living.
Ground floor amenities to improve the quality of life include a unit for a concierge-building manager, a guest room for visiting friends or relatives, additional dedicated storage, and parking for cars, bicycles and strollers.
In addition a community space dedicated as a neighborhood benefit is included in every building. Local residents determine how the space is to be used. Another benefit is the enhanced streetscape which creates a lively, walkable neighborhood while enhancing property values.
Responsive to issues of environment and sustainability the building features a “green” roof” to improve air quality, a cistern to recycle rain and run-off water, and solar panels/wind turbines to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.
Land use efficiency is increased by a factor of five. Fifteen family-sized homes occupy standard sized lots for three single family houses.
Decades of neighborhood opposition to new housing are based on the strongly held belief that new housing brings problems for neighborhoods and local residents, never any benefits.
Dom-i-city, however, is unlike the exploitative housing that gave birth to NIMBYism. It delivers tangible benefits that improve the quality of neighborhood life such as community spaces and enhanced streetscapes. It offers seniors a means to age in place and opportunities for children to live near parents and grandparents. It provides affordable housing for teachers, health workers, and firefighters. It reclaims the street to serve purposes and pleasures for local residents.
To deliver this message convincingly, a pilot version of Dom-i-city is built. Neighbors need to see the actual product, confirm its benefits and “kick the tires”. Building a pilot is a strategy to turn advisaries into advocates, to divide the NIMBY community and to open the door for the acceptance of Dom-i-city.
Program describes ways and means to overcome the obstacles of land, affordability and delivery to achieve the goal of 10,000 new homes.
Converting 1% of the more than 175,000 sites with a single dwelling provides the necessary land to realize 10,000 Dom-i-city homes. Conversion is accomplished by a land exchange program in which homeowners voluntarily swap their old houses for new Dom-i-city homes.
There is an existing pool of candidates for whom a swap is advantageous or desirable. Among these are seniors and retirees who prefer a home without stairs in a building with an elevator; aging parents eager to increase their children’s chances of gaining an affordable home nearby; homeowners who value a new home without maintenance issues or costs; those for whom a lively, walkable neighborhood with conveniences is desirable; and others for whom the swap is an upgrade.
The availability of homes in the pilot means a homeowner chooses his new home and then moves in directly without delay.
Workforce and middle-income families caught in the bind of stagnant wages and rising home prices are no longer able to afford home based on conventionally financed mortgage programs. A gap exists between the price and the amount the mortgage and down payment are able to cover. (The dotted white box in the diagram).
The rapid appreciation of San Francisco home prices ironically provides a solution. A silent second financed with shared equity closes the affordability gap.
In this two-tier arrangement, homeowner takes out an affordable first mortgage based on 25-30% of wages. A second lender finances the gap with a silent loan in which no payment is due until the house is sold. At that time the second lender shares in the appreciated equity. The high rate of appreciation coupled with a low risk housing market makes this approach to financing feasible.
Dom-i-city is implemented with a public-private process that is able to deliver 1,000 or more homes per year compared to the 175 units per year which the current process delivers.
In this arrangement, the city’s role is to create land for development as well as to streamline the approval process. Land created from the pilot-land exchange process is awarded by the to developers.
The developer’s role is to transform the land into homes and to sell the completed homes. The developer pays the city for the land in the form completed homes deeded to the city.
In this specialization of roles, each party uses its special skills to maximum advantage and the delivery process gains efficiency and speed. For example, a developer cannot create land through the pilot-land exchange process. HIs process for obtaining land is slow and laborious, involving searching, optioning, bureaucratic approvals, and finally purchase.
Meanwhile, the city is not structured to deal efficiently with the varied and multiple tasks of development from the coordination of design professionals and contractors to the marketing and selling of completed product. Public housing and redevelopment have demonstrates the inefficiency of government undertaking the tasks of development.
Separation and specialization is a more effective and efficient delivery process.
To Learn More
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