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Affordable housing strategies in place are almost laughable

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POSTED October 5, 2012 1:22 a.m.

I have a carport.

I also have a one-car garage.

I park my car in the carport.

I’ve never parked my car in the garage though I could do so at any time if I simply clean up two piles of debris from my gardening escapades. In other words, I apparently don’t know what to use a garage for as I’m not using it as a massive mini-storage unit or parking a vehicle in it.

You won’t see any new subdivisions with carports instead of garages. That despite the fact it could reduce the cost of new homes by up to $10,000. That would be a big deal if you are talking about affordability.

Building smaller would help too.

That is why it is so laughable when policy wonks and bureaucrats start talking about affordable housing and housing stock variety as they are downright myopic.

Neither Manteca - nor does any other city in the region - have a true variety of housing types. Sure, there are apartments, detached single family homes, duplexes and even trailers. But they are fit a cookie cutter pattern.

You will be told that they are simply meeting the market. One little problem: Talk to builders who have tried to build homes with one car garages or even carports as part of a subdivision because they sense a need in the housing market that they can fulfill and make a profit . First of all, local development standards don’t allow carports in new subdivisions. And even if they did, banks aren’t likely to fund them.

That’s because banks go for “marketability”. Freely translated, if the majority of people buying homes want a four bedroom, three bathroom room with a two-car garage that is the type of project they are most likely to finance.

San Francisco is considering a plan to allow apartments to go as small as 220 to 300 square feet. If you don’t think that’s possible, drop by an IKEA and check out their apartment model displays.

The idea is to provide functional and affordable living.

Why not modern updates of turn-of -the-20th-century flophouses? Manteca during that period built teacher dorms that were essentially self-contained bedrooms with bathrooms plus a common space shared by everyone. And there are examples of modern “flophouses” in downtown Manteca. The Sycamore Arms essentially has one bedroom efficiency apartments with access to common bathrooms and a common space.

Of course, a true flophouse would have simply a bed or bunk with perhaps a lockable individual storage area.

The point is providing affordable options.

It also allows people to live within their means.

The idea of a 300-square-foot apartment is practical.

I live in a 960-square-foot home and can argue I could do fine with about half the space.

Housing choices shouldn’t be restricted to single family homes with garages. Nor should they have bathrooms big enough for dancing.

Granted, there are things that people want and there are things that people can afford to pay for. But the current housing choices we offer - either for purchase or renting - are very limited when it comes to serving basic needs and affordability.

There needs to be more options and not simply a watered down version of a modern free-standing single family housing structure.

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