I’ve talked on this site.about SRO housing before, as well as co-housing. SRO stands for “Single Room Occupancy” and it’s illegal in Dayton- despite there being a few “grandfathered” examples- and some operated by social service agencies (the DePaul Center on St. Clair being an example). Of course, the other name for SRO and co-housing is the “negative one” – of which I’ve also written about: “Rooming houses.”
However we’ve seen little change in housing code to encourage it. The solution to saving some of the grand homes in Dayton View isn’t to tear them down- but, find ways to allow SRO- as opposed to the previous solution of chopping them up into small apartments and trying to adapt the architecture into something it wasn’t meant to be.
In NYC a new solution for the formerly homeless is SRO housing- which makes more sense than trying to move someone from sleeping in a car into a full blown home rental situation. SRO also makes more sense to many young urban professionals who barely cook at home- why be saddled with the overhead of a kitchen when all you need is a mini-fridge, microwave, toaster oven and a hotplate along with a sink?
The root problem here is the same as in NYC- as defined in the New York Times:
The problem? Partly, a collection of sometimes conflicting city and state laws that do things like dictate minimum room sizes, prohibit the construction of apartments without kitchens or bathrooms, and outlaw more than three or four unrelated people sharing an apartment. Other rules compel developers in many parts of town to construct a parking space for each new unit they build, a disincentive for designing many smaller, inexpensive apartments as opposed to just a few big ones, never mind what the rules imply for the environment.
And since I’m writing this from Paris- after being in London, I can also tell you that the idea of mandatory car ownership with its costs (purchase, maintenance, insurance and parking costs- there are always parking costs) is an idea we as Americans need to forget about. Bike-share systems in both cities are heavily used (more so in Paris where people drive on the right side of the streets :-) and bike lanes, parking, etc. are built in). The system in London is an advertising vehicle for Barclay’s bank, in Paris- no ads.
The other European observation that we should consider in making a conversion to SRO-friendly communities- is that we need to think in terms of smaller neighborhood grocery options. Instead of lusting for “supermarkets” we need to look to much smaller neighborhood grocery stores- with more frequent stocking. Fresher fruits, vegetables, meat, bread- is the norm in Europe, because of many factors- smaller refrigerators, smaller stores within walking distances and fresher foods required by consumers. If we started looking to build a network of small co-op groceries in densely packed neighborhoods, with membership fees- we might be able to speed the transformation. Imagine if the Wayne Avenue Kroger didn’t require 6 acres of parking spaces?
Let me introduce you to the 2 wheel machine, available in Paris for about 30 euros ($50) that changes everything: the “Rolser” shopping cart- pictured at right- available from Amazon for $125 (way too much).
Another interesting development in Co-Housing is that of Grandparent housing, for grandparents raising their children’s children- from a Marketplace story on a development in Kansas City:
It was an entire apartment complex designed exclusively for grandparents raising grandchildren… It has a central room with living and dining spaces that open into a kitchen with a big island in it…
Like senior housing, they’re handicap accessible — with wide doorways, rails in the bathrooms and low cabinets. Outside there’s a playground with a ramp for wheelchairs. And activity rooms and a computer lab, which 13-year-old Shawn Gassway appreciates. He’s making friends and he admits, it’s hard to get out of line here.
SEAN GASSWAY: It’s a lot, a lot of grandmas in these apartments….
a similar project in the Bronx — the nation’s first grandfamily apartments, which opened six years ago. He found out there are some 15,000 households in the Kansas City area headed by grandparents, and many are below poverty level. He held focus groups with grandparents to find out what their needs were.
COLLINS: Those households needed support with the children, especially after school, helping with their homework. Grandparents needed a place to get away from the kids.
Cougar Capital partnered with the city to receive tax credits from the state and federal government. The Kansas City project is one of a half-dozen around the country, which are all public housing of some sort. But with 2.7 million grandparents raising grandchildren around the country, other developers are paying attention.
Donna Butts heads the group Generations United, and has tracked the growth of grandfamily housing.
DONNA BUTTS: We’ve been approached in the last several years from for-profit developers who are realizing that communities of the future are not what the communities of the past look like. I think there’s a growing need for housing for multi-generational households.
Dayton already has some of the lowest housing and costs of living in the nation for a city of comparable size. We have incredible amenities and arts and culture but could use some help with community self-esteem and job creation. By moving forward with even more affordable housing options for all and working to create higher density communities in our urban core we could become a potential population growth magnet.
The key to transformation in Dayton isn’t doing what every other community has tried to do- with tax abatement “luring jobs.”
It’s creating reasons people want to live here- and helping them create their own jobs via more competitive cost of living. By changing the cost structures and increasing residential density, cutting the need for cars (zip cars are another option to add to the mix) via SRO/Bike Share/Small grocery solutions- we can have a combination only offered in places like NYC and Chicago at a much more competitive price.