Village Buildings

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Village Buildings: patterns for affordable housing from Oregon

A proposal for book and web publishing project, initially developed for entry to the Meyer Memorial Trust's spring 2019 Advocacy RFP or general funding. 
Alternate titles: Revillaging the World; A Pattern Language for Affordable Housing: Models from Oregon.

Author: Tim McCormick
Short link to Google Doc version: - last updated 29 Aug 2019
Latest PDF version (11 March 2019). 

Project history & possibilities


1. Notes 
 A. Book/project name ideas
 B. Book/publishing design concepts: "Living book" form
 C. Sponsor / collaborator roles & opportunities 
 D. "Revillaging the Book" concept: co-op funding and profit sharing
 E. Potential integration with A Pattern Language for Growing Regions book / pattern repository

2. Draft Book Outline

I. Intro/Background
Oregon land-use innovation, Meyer Cost Efficiencies program, etc
II. A Pattern Language of Approaches, illustrated by projects in Oregon & elsewhere.
A. Oregon's rich history of housing/land-use innovation for housing

1. Regional / statewide land-use management and Upzoning - 1970s-present

2. Mixed-income housing - public or private developed, e.g. Vanport, Headwaters, Aloha Park.

3. Accessory Dwellings - self-, startup-, or public-financed. "Backdoor revolution"

4. Pocket Neighborhoods, Cohousing, Villages: Ross Chapin, Cully Grove, SquareOne.

5. Private affordable housing: built w/out subsidy. Guerrilla Development, Justus / Home First.

6. Lot division / 'condominiumization': Eli Spevak / Orange Splot projects.

7. Interim/redeployable housing: POD, PAD Initiatives, Oppty Village, OR Tiny House Code.

8. Alternative technologies: modular, manufactured, pre-fab, etc. 

9. Inclusionary housing: mandated, incented, or purchased. Example of Pearl District. 

10. Community Land Trusts & deed restrictions. Cully Land Trust, Emerald Village. 

11. Vouchers:  local, state, and/or Federal - a 'choice' strategy.  

12. Statewide rent control: Oregon passes nation's 1st, in 2019.             

13. Bond and General funding - local/state. i.e., just tax ourselves more. (the "public option")

14. Abundant, or "Naturally occurring affordable" housing. Housing for all. 

B. Meyer Cost Efficiencies program pilots
 1. modular building: 
   - NW Housing Alternatives - Oregon City project
   - Transition Projects Inc - modular housing  
 2. manufactured housing - Innovative Housing.
 3. "Lean" manufacturing": REACH CDC - SE PDX project
 4. Tiny-house Co-op Village: 
   SquareOne Villages - Cottage Grove Village
C. Million Month Challenge program proposals Fall 2018
   - Movable / Anchorable Homes (Village Coalition "New Starter Homes" proposal). 
    III. Key recurring concepts/issues.
    or, "Problem/Objection Patterns"  (i.e., responses to commonly raised objections). 
    IV.  Appendix 1: Cost Efficiencies program report, 2015
    V. Bibliography / Works Cited
    VI. Acknowledgements     


1. Notes
A. Project/Book name ideas: 

Revillaging the World1: new models for affordable housing from Oregon
This expression is used and I think was possibly coined by Mark Lakeman of Communitecture / Village Repair Project, Portland. Discuss use with him "Revillaging the city" was apparently used by Dan Yashinsky as far back as 2011. 

Village Buildings: new affordable housing models from Oregon

The Oregon Housing Experiment

The Portland Experiment 

A Pattern Language for Affordable Housing: New Models from Oregon

(the above three titles allude to works of Christopher Alexander et al: The Oregon Experiment (1975), which "describes an experimental approach to campus community planning at the University of Oregon, in Eugene, Oregon which resulted in a theory of architecture and planning described in the group's later published and better-known volumes A Pattern Language (1977) and The Timeless Way of Building (1979)."
   "A pattern language is a method of describing good design practices or patterns of useful organization within a field of expertise. The term was coined by architect Christopher Alexander and popularized by his 1977 book A Pattern Language." (Wikipedia). 

B. Book design concepts:

   1. developed incrementally by writing & disseminating articles, gathering feedback, soliciting suggestions for approaches/projects to include, and most usable ways to present.

   2. Graphically innovative, bold design emphasizing 
      a) "pattern language" approach of mapping very wide range of approaches, and analyzing how different projects may embody multiple patterns to various degrees. 
      b) Holistic / "overview" angle: e.g. provide estimates for how much housing and what affordability impact each approach might conceivably enable. 

   3. Potentially, "living book" approach where book-in-progress turns into web-hosted living version of book which can collaboratively evolve to include new projects, concepts, research, bibliography. Cross-referenced to e.g. Wikipedia, YIMBYwiki, etc to build completeness as a reference resource. 

   4. Key book contents such as project discussions and analyses of patterns may be adapted into Wikipedia, YIMBYwiki, and/or other open online resources, for maximum dissemination and impact. 

D. "Revillaging the Book" concept - co-op funding and profit sharing

A possible approach we're exploring is to offer part or all of the 'equity' in the project to initial donors and contributors, in proportion to their contribution towards the funding goal (say, $40,000) or project completion. Donors/contributors would be credited in the book, and offered a share of any future (post-publication) net profits, in proportion to equity stake. 

A more sophisticated version of this approach would allow for project equity to be resold under certain conditions, as in a housing cooperative. For example, equity stakes or 'tokens' can have a planned or demand-set price change over time while fundraising, incenting early contributions. Project contributors who receive equity stake for work, can potentially have a way to get income for their work.

In either of the cases above, of equity having resale value or not, there is potential for the mechanism to be viewed by the US governmentas a 'security' subject to securities regulations. Compliance would probably be untenable, so the project would need to be designed to avoid risk of this classification. 

The interest here is probably not so much in anyone making notable money, but in exploring a new model for cooperative projects that share credit, resources, and rewards, in order to be more effective and fair. See more discussion in: "Cooperative Product Development" (notes / paper draft) by Tim McCormick, January 2016. 

E. Potential integration with A Pattern Language for Growing Regions

Michael Mehaffy, a student and collaborator of Christopher Alexander, and director of the Portland-based Sustasis Foundation, has been developing a new book to extend A Pattern Language, called A Pattern Language for Growing Regions. It is planned for publication on late 2019, with a public draft now open for comments, and extensible online repository. 
"56 new patterns will address new challenges, including rapid urbanization, declining public space, urban sustainability, new technology, economic tools and strategies, geometric patterns, and more.  This draft version will be finalized later in 2019, along with an on-line repository of these and other new patterns, based on Ward Cunningham's new federated wiki.  Ward was the inventor of Wiki, and a pioneer of "pattern languages of programming" -- for which he developed the first wiki.  His new "federated wiki" has exciting new capabilities which we hope to exploit in the new repository.  Ward is a board member of Sustasis Foundation and Sustasis Press. 

"Our goal is to exploit the powerful successes of wikis, pattern languages of programming, and other outgrowths of pattern languages, returning again to the challenges of cities, buildings, and public spaces. We are collaborating with many former students and colleagues of Christopher Alexander, as well as others who have used pattern languages effectively in other domains.  We are also working with people in many countries around the world. We want to make a tool that allows people in any part of the world to use, edit, add, revise and develop their own pattern languages for their own projects, contributing at the same time to a growing resource of patterns for others to share. 

I've been discussion with Michael and have suggested, could there be a section, supplement, or supplemental volume to #APLFGR for housing affordability patterns? Mehaffy talks about wikis and pattern-languages as tools for "consensus development." In that vein, I've been thinking with this book concept about how to show varied patterns - from public housing to 'abundant' market housing - as all being possible sources of or factors in affordability. As integrable, instead of conflicting, ideas/approaches.

2. Intro/Background  

Meyer Trust, Cost Efficiencies Work Group

"Meyer Memorial Trust convened a Cost Efficiencies Work Group in 2014 to explore factors driving the cost of affordable housing development. Sixteen experts from development, construction, finance and related fields formed the Work Group and were charged with three major tasks:
— Creating a clear and concise summary of key factors affecting the cost of developing affordable housing;
— Identifying opportunities – whether policy and systems changes, or innovative approaches to design, construction and financing – to deliver affordable units at a lower cost; and
— Advising Meyer on pilot or demonstration projects to test new approaches to affordable housing development.
This report synthesizes the results of this work over the last year. Click to download the PDF report HERE: "

A Pattern Language of approaches, illustrated by projects in Oregon

1. Regional / Statewide land-use management and Upzoning:  

Oregon tradition of housing/land-use innovation

examples of globally known initiatives from 1970s -- urban growth boundary law, 1st freeway removal, SB100 --  and the current HB2001 bill from House Speaker, Tina Kotek (D, Portland). 
Right: Governor Tom McCall, creator of Oregon's pathbreaking state land-use law.

See history: 
"Re-legalizing Fourplexes is the Unfinished Business of Tom McCall"  ["For decades, Oregon has used state law to battle economic segregation. Fair-housing experts say HB 2001 is the next step"]. Michael Andersen, Sightline, January 23, 2019. 

examples of SB100 (from 1970s) and the current HB2001 bill from House Speaker, Tina Kotek (D, north Portland). Compare also to currently proposed Washington State legislation. 

2. Mixed-Income ('Social') Housing:

    a) integrated WWII wartime housing: Henry Kaiser's Vanport, the largest public housing development in nation. Privately built. (see picture at right). 
    a) Municipal: example of Headwaters Apartments/Village development -- current McCormick family apartment. 

    b) Privately developed: e.g. HUD Section 236 mixed-income housing in 1960s-70s, which sometimes achieved a wide income range and sustainable cross-subsidization. E.g. King Dishman Apartments (Albina, Portland) and Aloha Park Apartments (Hillsboro), both developed in early 1970s by John McCormick with Urban Associates.    
    c) discussion of income-diverse housing in the Portland Downtown Plan (1972).

3. Accessory Dwellings

  a. City of Portland ADU program
   b. Prefab & financing models: Dweller startup. 
   c. Accessory Dwelling initiative from PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions,  and component Small Backyard Homes Initiative from PSU CPID (Portland State University, School of Architecture, Center for Public Interest Design)  (image right: "Insert House," from Small Backyard Homes Initiative). 
  d. [Subsidized] Affordable ADUs - AADUs.
Multnomah Innovation Lab - Home For All program - subsidized ADUs for formerly homeless.
See also Los Angeles County Homeless Inititiative, Housing Innovation Challenge (Smith 2009). 

4. Pocket neighborhood, cohousing, villages

projects from Ross Chapin, Orange Splot & Communitecture, and SquareOne Villages.  

5. Private affordable housing 

- low income, low cost, built without subsidy
   a) Guerrilla Development / Kevin Cavenaugh, Portland -- Jolene's First Cousin project and model, for low-cost, private, SRO-type homes for formerly homeless, cross-subsidized by market-rate residences and commercial space. See: "Guerrilla Development's bold plan to end homelessness." by Eileen Park, KOIN-TV, Oct 18, 2018. 
   b) Rob Justus / Home First Development projects - building affordable housing (60% AMI and lower) without subsidies. See [Monahan 2017]. 

6. Lot division / Condominiumization for small housing

Eli Spevak / Orange Splot: creating dense infill with separate ownership.

7. Interim / redeployable housing

POD Initiative - interim use of affordable housing sites.  (right: "Portable Adaptive Unit, for POD Initiative, by SERA Architects, Portland). 
Opportunity Village, Eugene. 
PAD Initiative.

8. Alternative technologies:

modular, manufactured, pre-fab, etc.

9. Inclusionary housing 

- Pearl District example.
- new Portland mandatory inclusionary housing (2018- ). 

10. Community Land Trusts 

Cully Land Trust

Proud Ground program:

"Proud Ground creates permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers using the Community Land Trust model...Founded in 1999, Proud Ground became the first city-wide entity to provide permanently affordable homeownership opportunities and since has expanded to five counties – Clackamas, Clark, Lincoln, Multnomah, and Washington – to better meet the needs of working families.  Proud Ground has become one of the largest community land trusts in the country, having served over 350 families in a permanently affordable portfolio of over 280 homes."

11. Vouchers - local, state, and/or Federal 

2017 pilot from Home Forward (Portland city housing agency) for local vouchers.  Vouchers funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, administered through Home Forward. 
See also: "Income-based housing benefit" article on YIMBY Wiki for overview of related programs globally. 

12. Statewide rent control

Just passed by Oregon legislature, the first in the nation!

13. Bond and General funding - local & state

(the "public option"). 

14. Abundant, or "Naturally occurring affordable" housing. 

Analyze and estimate how much market housing -- historically and currently and potentially -- becomes available annually to, or is occupied by, lower-income households at an affordable price. 
  I.e. put in context to what degree new & filtered market housing has, does, or might 'supplyaffordable housing, compared to other means considered.

Meyer Trust - Cost Efficiency program pilots

‪The final report of the Cost Efficiencies Work Group, The Cost of Affordable Housing Development in Oregon, was completed in October 2015 ‬
Five innovative pilot projects last year (with predevelopment grants under a Request for Proposals that elicited 17 proposals overall)‬:

‪Northwest Housing Alternatives 

($400,000) — Building a replicable, efficient small project that is not reliant on 9 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits for funding‬
‪This project, underway in Oregon City, will draw on and develop lessons from several other NHA projects around the state at different stages of development (in Hermiston, Hillsboro and Florence). In addition to rigorously focusing on cost-efficiency in design, NHA (working closely with its contractor Walsh Construction) will compare the feasibility of using factory-built modular housing with the most cost-efficient approach to site-built housing.‬


($400,000) — Adapting “Lean” manufacturing to affordable housing on a large project in Southeast Portland.‬
Lean planning and coordination, typically associated with manufacturing processes, depends on an intensely collaborative and iterative approach to design and execution. The Lean approach taps into the collective expertise of the project team, identifies waste and inefficiencies, and focuses on continuous learning to improve workflow. By working closely from the outset of the design process with the general contractor (Walsh Construction), subcontractors, architect and other project partners, REACH hopes to achieve significant cost savings over a more typical affordable housing development.‬

‪SquareOne Villages 

($200,000) — Developing a new tiny-house village in Cottage Grove, with an emphasis on assisting other grass-roots efforts at low-cost housing.‬
SquareOne is building upon its recent successes in Lane County (with Opportunity Village Eugene and Emerald Village Eugene) in providing basic, extremely low-cost housing drawing on grass-roots support. As it begins work on its latest project in Cottage Grove, SquareOne will distill what it has learned to date into a Toolbox and training kit meant to help other small Oregon communities with fewer local housing resources replicate the approach.‬

‪Transition Projects Inc. 

($500,000) — Piloting efficient and flexible modular housing designs.‬
At the core of TPI’s proposal is an innovative modular approach to design and construction that can be combined and configured in a variety of ways, including some single-room occupancy units with shared bath and kitchen facilities. Like the NHA project, TPI will work closely with its partner on this project (Housing Development Center) to compare and evaluate whether factory-built modules can be cost competitive with site-built versions of the units. This “kit of parts” approach will be piloted on an unusually shaped property in North Portland that would be difficult to develop with a conventional apartment building. HDC hopes to then partner with Northwest Oregon Housing Authority (NOHA) to replicate this approach to pilot low-cost workforce housing on the north coast.‬

‪Innovative Housing Inc. 

The fifth predevelopment project (creation of a new rental housing community using manufactured homes in East Portland, led by Innovative Housing Inc.) is not proceeding as originally proposed but has surfaced important lessons for when and where manufactured housing might be a good choice for affordable developers.‬


Million Month Challenge proposals

Fall 2018 grant program from Meyer Trust:

"Bring us your best ideas for guaranteeing 1 million months of affordability, using as little public subsidy as possible.
Program explanation: 
"This takes a bit of unpacking. There are many possible paths to 1 million months; here are some potential examples to illustrate the kinds of ideas this could include:
Piloting an approach to build, site and deliver new factory-built units meant to be affordable for 20 years that would aim for just under 4,200 units (240 months x 4,167 units = just over 1,000,000 months of affordability)
Creating affordable units for 60 years with lower rents through cross-subsidy from other income-producing uses in the same properties, aiming to scale up to about 1,400 total units (720 months x 1,389 units = over 1,000,000 months)
Maybe your best idea doesn't involve building any new housing? Exploring a sustainable approach to master-leasing new units in the private-market for five-year increments, staggered over time, to assist nearly 17,000 households five years at a time (60 x 16,667 = over 1,000,000)
"The key point is that we are leaving it up to people who know the most about these challenges to define how to reach the goal. We're framing the goal this way to emphasize flexibility and focus on the outcomes:
Flexibility: This is less about developing "projects" than creating a viable model or path; we are explicitly open to purely financial strategies that deliver on the outcome of creating more access to affordable housing.
Outcomes: We are not necessarily focused on production of units (although more housing is important, and some strategies will rightly focus on that), but rather on the end-goal of housing large numbers of people for an extended period of time.
"Finally, it's worth highlighting that we're pulling the focus away from the raw total development cost to focus on what really matters most: the amount of public subsidy required to achieve the goal.
"Unlike a typical Meyer RFP, we're not looking for affordable housing projects per se, but a model or path that changes the game. You could say we're trying to "get out of the way" of solving these problems, by putting as few limitations as possible on what counts as a solution. We're calling the question for those who insist that the current system doesn't deliver bang-for-the-buck and there are better ways to do things. Ultimately, the point of this RFP is to give you an opportunity (and some resources) to take an idea or a notion or intuition that you've been thinking about and build it out to a full-fledged plan, test it, improve it and share it.
"Sharing ideas, results and lessons learned will be a central part of participating in this experiment. Project teams funded under this RFP will be expected to participate in a learning cohort with each other, sharing and critiquing ideas, and helping each other refine and improve each model. Additionally, Meyer will create a variety of platforms and public events to highlight this work, to broaden the circle of folks around the state trying to think about these challenges in a different way and improve upon the ways we help people into housing they can afford, and ultimately to help public funders and other partners identify new models and approaches worth their support.

Movable / Anchorable Homes 
New Starter Homes aka PAD Initiative proposal for Million Month Challenge, submitted by Village Coalition & Tim McCormick.  See images below: 


Projects elsewhere 

[possibly, these are woven into sections above by theme, rather than in section by themselves. E.g. for interim housing, Vancouver's Temporary Modular Housing projects, London's Y-cube, etc.]

Key concepts / issues 

i.e., a "pattern language of objections / controversies": survey, anticipate, discuss in good faith the most commonly raised objections or controversies). 
- when/how do lower development costs result in lower housing costs? 
- affordability and housing standards 
- issues with government funding restrictions / mandates. 
- stigma on or deliberate demarcation (positive or negative) on social housing. 
 US case of restricted and differentiated style/materials, vs e.g. WPA, Vienna, UK examples of positive socialist and civic symbolism. 
- housing diversity - letting dwellers choose/adapt housing that matches their value priorities. 
- long-term cost issues
   -- maintainability, durability
   -- community and dweller acceptance. 

IV. Appendix 1: Cost Efficiencies Report, 2015 


Works Cited


See also: Acknowledgements on "New Starter Homes" proposal document.

Also thanks for feedback from:
Michael Andersen, Sightline Institute
Elise Aymer, Critical Diversity Solutions - Toronto / Berkeley
Andrew Heben - SquareOne Villages, Eugene
Sarah Iannarone - Portland State University
MIchael Mehaffy - Sustasis Foundation, Portland
John McCormick, AIA, AICP - Portland
Kol Peterson -, etc, Portland