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  • Michael Rogers

The Housing Standard




For me, the last couple of years have been a time of planning and transition.  Seeing where I need to be and making the moves necessary to be closer to a better path towards that purpose.  I am a dreamer that is obsessed with the details.  I ideally put community betterment over personal gain.  All while knowing that there isn’t enough time to do what I actually want to do.  It’s a grinding perspective where a successful day is simply one where you didn’t take a step backwards.  The last couple of years also had a theme as far as this blog is concerned… building community.  Consider the entries over the last year as an outline for the next steps.  In many ways, these have been a basic way of establishing the narrative for what is next.  I’m typically one that doesn’t mind saying the quiet part out loud.  So why would this blog be any different.

 

I want to address a perspective that continually seems to come up… the double standard of housing development.  The conversations I’ve had over the last several months have been with many well-intentioned people.  Their perspective and insight are valuable to the overall process of obtaining information, but many times people really miss out on the reasoning behind “community development”.   See the recent entry on this page entitled “The Bold Line Between Planned Development and Grassroots Movement” for the full context.  The point is… many times people have difficulty understanding needs that are not like their own.  That doesn’t make those individuals wrong in their perspective, but it does make them human.  I’ve heard plenty of the need for middle to high income housing.  I’ve heard of the need for large lots and private communities.  I’ve heard of what will sell quick and make plenty of money.  And then I’ve heard the confusion when I try to explain how I’m not interested in most of that…

 

Several years ago, I was asked to be a member of the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity.  At the time, some of the corporate donors had brought some criticism of each home being the same plan and style.  While few were ever built next to one another, we were told that for people to support the project the houses didn’t need to all look like “Habitat Houses”.  Part of my involvement included providing a few tweaks to give each home a little personality.  For context… these are 1,000 square foot homes filling a critical need in our community.  Those working toward these homes live in poverty and the opportunity provided through these homes changes their lives.  It changes their families.

 

Now for the double standard (and my soapbox).  I guess to gain support, we should have built them at 1,800 square feet, sold them for top dollar, and called them “Patio Homes”.  If there are six of the same homes in a row that are filling a need for affordable housing, that’s a bad thing where few people with a voice to be heard want anything to do with it.  If there are six homes in a row that are all the same filling a need for middle to high income housing, that’s called progress with some praising the efforts to provide the need.  Why?  Because it sells.  When there’s a profit to be made, the perspective changes.  The current reasoning against “Habitat Houses” is now the selling point for “Patio Homes”.  They’re efficient, functional, and fill a need.  The difference?  One has a realtor fee that goes along with it, a potential buyer able to pay top dollar, and a development strategy that worked 50 years ago.  And before I alienate most of the people reading this… there is a need for that type of development.  Just don’t try to convince me that it’s the best thing out there because it sells.  It sells because it’s the only option people have who are looking for new homes in our area.

 

Housing development is hard.  Writing a blog about it is easy.  The cost of land and infrastructure alone often deters potential investors.  Because of those costs, the development needs to have as many homes as possible, as close together as possible, with a build that is as efficient as possible… because the goal is return on investment.  Many of these “developers” don’t even live in these areas.  They live on a lake or golf course community somewhere.  They see a way to make another dollar and do it at the expense of the communities where they own property… because they can.  And again… there is a need for that type of development.  But to act as if that’s the best we can do is simply to ignore every community that is doing much more.  When it comes to this subject, South Arkansas is at least 20 years behind most growing communities in the style of development that is being provided.  Until we realize that and provide something different, we will lose in the long-term success of our communities.

 

At some point, the return on investment isn’t monetary.  Individuals shouldn’t be building communities.  Communities should build communities.  In all honestly, I wrote this entry four months ago.  The reason why has been repeated multiple times since that occasion.  It is what it is for most people.  I’m not most people.  The good news is for those who are tired of listening… I’m done talking about it.

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