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Summary

Housing can create wealth for existing and new residents. It can also create opportunities for growing, improving, or preserving a neighborhood. House hacking is a powerful tool for Lean Urbanism. It helps overcome the barriers to entry, and accomplishes individual and community goals.

We created this House Hacking Catalog to show how it’s possible and to provide inspiration, information, and ideas to make it happen. It contains descriptions of the types of buildings, rentals, and construction that make good options for house hacking, plus issues to consider including financing and finding the right property, as well as additional resources.

 

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Introduction

A primary goal of the Project for Lean Urbanism is to enable more people to participate in building their homes, businesses, and communities. We focus on the following approaches:

  • community-building that requires fewer resources
  • economic development that recognizes the value of small-scale projects and businesses
  • redevelopment that enables local residents and businesspeople to take part in and benefit from a neighborhood’s revitalization
  • municipal governance that reduces the regulatory and bureaucratic barriers faced by small-scale projects and entrepreneurs.

And we’re developing tools and daylighting techniques to make this happen. That’s how we’re Making Small Possible.


House Hacking

Housing is a critical component of community-building. It’s the biggest expense for most households, and for most people who own their home, it’s their biggest asset. Housing can create wealth for existing and new residents. It can also create opportunities for growing, improving, or preserving a neighborhood.

But housing has become less and less affordable in recent years. Red tape, in the form of regulatory and bureaucratic barriers, has made it increasingly difficult to find or own suitable housing. (More info: www.leanurbanism.org/publications/ regulatory-barriers-to-home-construction- and-rehab.) The Project for Lean Urbanism is providing tools and technical assistance to municipalities that want to reduce those barriers. We’re helping cities create Pink Zones — areas where the red tape is lightened — to remove barriers in their zoning and building codes and streamline their processes to reduce the burdens that small-scale projects encounter.

We’re also providing tools for people to use in their communities. House hacking fits in perfectly with all of our key focus areas. It’s a powerful tool for Lean Urbanism. It helps overcome the barriers to entry, and accomplishes individual and community goals. We created this House Hacking Catalog to show how it’s possible and to provide inspiration, information and ideas to make it happen.

Missing Middle Housing

Missing Middle Housing is a term that refers to the types of residential buildings — those in the “middle” between single- family detached homes and large apartment buildings — that once were built in cities and towns across the country but are mostly outlawed today. They are typically excluded from many zoning districts, so they’re “missing” from the housing supply.

This catalog focuses on building types that provide one to four dwelling units. Many zoning districts prohibit small multi-family buildings, but most cities have neighborhoods where they still exist and are allowed. Existing Missing Middle Housing provides great potential for house hacking because they are often in walkable locations and because so many people — singles, young couples, teachers, professional women, and baby boomers among them — are looking to live without the cost of cars and the maintenance of a single-family home.


Overview

House hacking, put simply, means finding a way to create income with a home to offset the costs of the mortgage. The most common methods of house hacking have historically been renting out extra rooms, renting an apartment above a garage, or living in a duplex or triplex. This manual aims to document a variety of types of house hacking, for both existing buildings and new construction opportunities. It’s not a complete instruction manual, but rather is meant to share ideas, stories and to inspire.

The most obvious benefit from house hacking is to reduce expenses. Housing is the #1 expense for most people, and house hacking can significantly reduce that cost. In some cases, it can eliminate it entirely, or even turn it into a small profit. And when the house hack is in a walkable location, as discussed later, you might also be able to reduce or eliminate most people’s #2 cost, transportation.

House hacking can be especially useful for people in careers or lines of work with less-predictable, irregular income. For example, artists, architects and people in creative fields that have routine up and down cycles benefit tremendously from a vastly reduced cost of housing that is owned.

In addition, house hacking is an excellent method for trying out real estate as a personal or professional investment. It allows an owner to learn all of the skills he/ she will need in owning rental property, with a low entry cost and while living on- site. For young people especially, it’s a great way to get started in real estate and small-scale development.

Even for those not looking strictly to make money, house hacking can provide flexibility for their lifestyles and their families. An extra unit or room on your property can be rented to a family member, for example. An aging parent or grandparent can live on-site. A nanny or caregiver can do so as well. Any of these can save money for the whole family unit, while not necessarily providing direct cash income to the owner. They all can be examples of “aging in place.” The possibilities are too numerous to list, which is why this was a traditional housing approach for many generations (and still is in many parts of the world).


Download

Download the House Hacking Catalog at the link above. It contains descriptions of the types of buildings, rentals, and construction that make good options for house hacking, plus issues to consider including financing and finding the right property, as well as additional resources.

Kevin Klinkenberg

Kevin Klinkenberg

Kevin Klinkenberg is an urban designer, architect, planner, zoning wonk, redeveloper, and wannabe musician. He has returned to Kansas City from Savannah, Georgia, where he served for four years as Executive Director of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. In 2018, Kevin & SDRA led the first new master plan for downtown Savannah in decades, timed to coincide with the city’s tricentennial in 2033. While in Savannah, he also published his first book, “Why I Walk: Taking a Step in the Right Direction.” Kevin currently operates K2 Urban Design. He’s worked with clients in nearly all of the continental 48 states, in the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Kevin has been a regular speaker on design and planning issues for more than two decades, and stays focused on place-making through his blog “The Messy City – Embracing change, unpredictability and local initiative.”

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  Publications

September 11th, 2019

House Hacking Catalog

Summary

Housing can create wealth for existing and new residents. It can also create opportunities for growing, improving, or preserving a neighborhood. House hacking is a powerful tool for Lean Urbanism. It helps overcome the barriers to entry, and accomplishes individual and community goals.

We created this House Hacking Catalog to show how it’s possible and to provide inspiration, information, and ideas to make it happen. It contains descriptions of the types of buildings, rentals, and construction that make good options for house hacking, plus issues to consider including financing and finding the right property, as well as additional resources.

 

July 16th, 2018

Lean Code Tool

Summary

Writing a new zoning code is time-consuming, politically fraught with landmines, and therefore unlikely to happen in most places. But with a limited number of strategic adjustments, many zoning codes can be repaired to allow Lean Urbanism and improve or create walkable, livable environments.

 

 

October 31st, 2017

Savannah Pilot Project – Pink Zone Workshop

Summary

Savannah is hosting one of the national pilots by the Project for Lean Urbanism. The project sponsor is the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority, with support from elected officials, municipal staff, nonprofits, and neighborhood leaders. In Phase 1 of the pilot, a team from the Project for Lean Urbanism visited Savannah multiple times to identify obstacles to small-scale economic development. In Phase 2, a week-long workshop was held to establish an Action Plan and Lean projects in two Pink Zones within the city. This is the final presentation from the workshop.

November 23rd, 2016

Tool Survey – Existing and Proposed

Summary

Lean Urbanism is a way to restore common sense to the processes of development, building, starting small businesses, community engagement, and acquiring the necessary skills. The Project for Lean Urbanism is collecting and developing tools and daylighting techniques to enable and encourage those activities. This collection is the result of a survey to identify tools developed elsewhere and to track ideas for those that are needed. As tools are developed by the Project for Lean Urbanism, they will be made freely available on this website.

November 4th, 2016

The Pink Zone – Where Small Is Possible

Summary

The Pink Zone is a powerful tool for concentrating resources on the task of enabling small-scale, community-centered development and revitalization. It defines an area of focus, leverages a suite of available tools, and provides a platform for the community to gather resources, make commitments, and work together on projects that enhance community character and allow existing businesses and residents to remain and profit from the improved quality of life. The Pink Zone tool will be developed and refined in a series of pilot projects, and then released to the public.

August 18th, 2015

Lessons from PHX – Embracing Lean Urbanism

Summary

The City of Phoenix has become a model of Lean Governing, demonstrating the benefits of community revitalization when a municipality enables and encourages the work of creative entrepreneurs, small developers, neighborhood leaders, and community organizations. Along the way, it has employed and refined a number of principles and techniques that other cities can use to revitalize their neighborhoods. Phoenix is demonstrating that small projects can lead to big results.

August 13th, 2015

The Lexicon of Lean Urbanism

Summary

The Lexicon of Lean Urbanism defines the “terms of art” and other useful words and phrases that have emerged from extended discussions on the online Lean Urbanism discussion group and at Lean Councils. The first section is dedicated to these terms, and the second presents a selection of helpful quotations.

July 29th, 2015

The Katrina Cottage Movement – A Case Study

Summary

Appealing, context-aware designs for small-scale homes in small-scale neighborhoods grabbed national attention during the 2005 Mississippi Renewal Forum after Hurricane Katrina. Though it took far longer for the ideas to find traction than anyone imagined, trial-and-error progress has produced models worth emulating, and just in time to address new realities in housing demand in post-recession America.

April 15th, 2015

Lean Urbanism and the Right to the City

Summary

The potential for a natural partnership between Lean Urbanism and social-justice groups is self-evident and should be explored. A growing movement of social-justice organizations across the world are coalescing behind the concept of “the right to the city” as a means to garner support for a wide range of social issues that can be characterized by a belief that everyone has a right to design and shape their community. These groups have the energy and determination to alter the status quo of financial and regulatory structures that prevent people who lack access to resources and capital, such as millennials and immigrants, from becoming active in small-scale development. But these groups often also lack the technical knowledge to achieve such goals. Lean Urbanism can provide tools and know-how that these groups need.

April 15th, 2015

Regulatory Barriers to Home Construction and Rehab

Summary

Regulatory barriers make housing less affordable to millions of households in the US and abroad. If regulatory barriers were reduced, small developers could provide housing at more affordable prices. This article assesses the current state of knowledge about the effects of federal, state, and local regulations on the supply and cost of housing.