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Sonoma County Gazette

Neighbor to Neighbor: Do We Have a Housing Crisis or a Government Change Conundrum?

Oct 16, 2018
by Angela Conte


Our local government, if it wants to show it’s working for people, it needs to start with making a real impact on our most dire social issue and that is housing by taking it out of the hands of commercial developers, landlords, and real estate investors and making it affordable to everyone.

This can happen if we’re allowed to become the developers of our own housing, our own landlords, our own real estate investors, and creators of our own communities where the cost of living is lowered, and quality of life is higher.

The only way this can happen is if local officials 1) eliminate regulations and requirements that stand in the way; 2) make it a priority of their administrations to develop alternative affordable housing; 3) and not just work to meet the needs of business interests. What better legacy could any newly elected politician want than to meet the dire needs of the people who elect them?

How Do We Do It?

The absolute most efficient way to develop affordable housing is by a collective of regular people purchasing the land, sharing the infrastructure development costs, and the costs of housing construction, and the cost of ongoing maintenance together.

Even better is to use prefabricated factory-built parts, buy in bulk, and use recycled materials whenever possible. Add to this community shared solar systems, grey-water reuse, geothermal HVAC, and integrated permaculture practices that produces fresh garden food, fruit trees, and shade trees that improve air quality and alter climate change while improving health and happiness. Developers aren’t focused on these types of community benefit because they don’t make them money.

So, instead of paying high developer fees - which is 30% or more of a new home’s cost - their fee goes into developing intentional communities designed and built by the people who will live in them. The high initial installation costs of the green technology are shared, and their ongoing net zero costs offer returns on investment faster while maintaining decades of energy saving.

When you eliminate the middleman developer and share development costs with multiple households you create housing ownership affordability, economic stability, and beautiful natural communities where people work together and take care of each other.

People can spend time connecting with their environment, working in their gardens, sharing food and meals together, and socializing with others all of which have been proven by research to reduce health costs and improve longevity. Quality of life goes up while the cost of living goes down. What could be better than this?

So WHY aren’t more Intentional Communities being Developed?

Intentional communities are happening, but they are the anomaly and not the norm. They take time and patients to coordinate and have a steep learning curve, and most people today are too busy making a living to have time to even think about creating their own communities. Plus, the reality of community building can be full of consensus drama.

No, it’s not easy but today more than ever there are online resources available to expedite the group development process and there are many retired Baby-Boomers who have the time to do the bootstrapping of these types of projects but what would be really great would be the support of public services to make them easier to develop with changes in policy and regulations to support zoning and permitting accommodations, along with city and county department advisory services, and maybe even financial incentives given how much benefit they bring to people’s lives and reduction in city and county costs for health care, crime, social services, and unemployment.

This isn’t a miracle cure for our housing crisis but it’s an alternative that needs more focus and support from the powers that be if we want to find solutions that will have a real impact on our quality of life for years to come.


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