Topics: Affordable Housing, Micro Real Estate, Zoning for Mixed Use, Adobe
On this episode of Solutions News, we explore some solutions to the housing crisis in California. Namely, we discuss approaches that create more accessible, more affordable housing and how local zoning can either encourage or inhibit the density we need for more resilient, sustainable and vibrant urban cores. Our guest, environmental systems designer Art Ludwig, takes a systems approach to this topic as well, and proposes the use of alternative building materials, along with future thinking to design homes and communities that address the affordable housing crunch at the same time as the new dangers of changing environmental conditions. All of the solutions have one thing in common - the move away from large single family suburban houses - those ever larger McMansions that have been attached to the “American Dream” since 1946. We end the show with some great “didyaknows” and 12 reasons why choosing to live in a smaller home might actually lead to better things.
Story #1: Micro-Real Estate – The secret is out - California has a housing crisis. While the country’s homelessness level as decreased by 13 percent, California’s has increased by 9 percent. The cause? Unaffordable housing. Insufficient wages to keep up with rising rents. California must take creative steps to address this crisis. ADUs, or Accessory Dwelling Units, are one option. They are affordable living spaces with a breakoff room that can be rented out. It is time that people shift their mindsets from looking for new building space to working with the space that we already have. Instead of building fully new structures, we can start to renovate already developed, vacant spaces, and if they are managed properly, everyone will benefit.
Story #2: Affordable Mixed-Use Projects – Mixed-use affordable housing is a green solution that California can use to solve its housing crisis and promote a sustainable future. More people are choosing to live in urban areas, and now people are more likely to favor a location close to their workplace over a personal vehicle. We also need efficient public transit to work alongside this new desired housing trend.
Story #3: Smaller and Less… But in a Good Way – In 1973, the average newly built house was about 1,500 square feet. In 2015, it was 2,500. And the average family size has shrunk. Clearly there is a problem here. More space doesn’t mean more happiness, a recent study shows. People may actually be happier in smaller homes, but people keep buying bigger homes because, well, who’s stopping them? Soon, California will be stopping all of us. There are genuine benefits of smaller homes, including ease of maintenance, financial incentives, less risks, less environmental impacts, more family bonding in closer spaces, and a wider resale market.
Art Ludwig is a top-selling author and international design consultant. Optimal, integrated design has been Art's day job for 37 years. His specialty is complex, deep green, integrated "systems of systems" for water, wastewater, energy, shelter, and transportation. Building these systems involves coordinating multiple specialties as well as original innovations to fill gaps.
As a student at UC Berkeley, his research led to the development of the first laundry detergent biocompatible with plants and soil. He went on to found a successful manufacturing business to distribute it. Decades after publication, Art's books Create an Oasis with Greywater and Water Storage still tops Amazon's list of best-selling plumbing books. His 500-page website, oasisdesign.net, is top-ranked by Google for a wide range of topics, from search engine optimization to integrated design for fire to understanding fecal coliform bacteria counts.
Art has developed numerous original innovations that he has published, unpatented, into the public domain for the common good. These include the Branched Drain and Laundry to Landscape greywater systems. The latter is a best practice that has propagated worldwide. More than 20 agencies in California offer rebates for this system, which also received federal job training stimulus funds. He has worked professionally on building codes in three states. His quantitative analysis of the health risks of greywater cleared the way for more rational regulation of greywater in California, and he played a major role in the crafting of new greywater standards. Art also spearheaded the introduction of a bill legalizing research on sustainable building in California.
In 2012, Art hosted a landmark sustainability policy colloquium that brought leaders in natural building, permaculture, and public interest activism together with heads of building and health departments. He was a keynote speaker at the California Association of Building Officials' annual conference later that year. His quantitative analysis of historical and emerging hazards attributable to the built environment helps regulators and policymakers take the dramatic rise in emerging hazards into account.
Oasis is located by a beautiful creek in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, California. The site exemplifies Art's goal of living better with less use of resources: it utilizes about $5 a month of electricity and gas per person and 14 gallons of water a day per person indoors. Thanks to supplementation with rainwater and reused water, just 20 gallons of metered water a day for irrigation outdoors produces 150 pounds of fresh fruit per year per person—at least four different kinds any day of the year. The quarter-acre property infiltrates more water to the underlying aquifer than it consumes.