The only housing “best practice” that really works for every town:
Keep renewing your town’s core
No one likes a mushy core, in an apple or a small town. Build more in the center, less on the outside.
Grab a paper map of your town and a highlighter. Circle the oldest neighborhoods, the ones closest to your downtown or town center. Those are the areas to focus on.
There are two important reasons:
1. Make the most of your existing infrastructure.
You already have water and sewer and streets in the core. You’ll make more of your existing infrastructure investment when you replace and renew the existing housing close to it.
2. Draw your community closer together.
People who live close to the core can walk and bike more to run errands. They can go downtown for shopping and events more easily. Parking at downtown events is less of a problem when more people can walk from their homes in the core area close by.
How to renew your town’s core housing
Find the empty lots within your existing core residential areas. Highlight them on the map. Use different colors for privately owned lots, ones held by banks or other organizations, and ones currently owned by governments at any level. You’ll probably find several that ended up in municipal government ownership after an owner failed to pay taxes or failed to maintain an old house.
Pick another color for empty lots in the core housing area that are only used as parking or storage. (Look next to churches and businesses.) You might have to get extra creative to find ways to put them back into housing.
Then get together and brainstorm ways you can promote homebuilding in the core. Here are some starter ideas that might spur your thinking:
- Make people aware which lots in the core are available for building right now.
- Offer incentives, like waiving utility connection fees for close-in lots.
- Sell empty lots in the core at low prices.
- Remove zoning barriers to adding new structures or accessory dwelling units in your housing core.
Add your ideas in the comments or send us an email.
Send us pictures if you put up signs: “Fabulous homebuilding location! Close to downtown!”
Find more ideas for small town housing issues in our video, Improving Rural Housing: An Idea Friendly Approach
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