Monday, April 18, 2011

A Plan For the Micro Home - Micro Apartment Industry and The Struggling Cities by Walt Barrett

Dear Mr. Mayor,   
   This is a very flexible framework of an idea to help the cities and the citizens. There is a growing movement in the world today towards building and living in smaller homes which are often referred to as micro homes, or micro apartments.  The idea being that smaller homes are less expensive to build, to heat, and to cool.  Smaller homes also require less space which is an ideal situation for any crowded city with a housing problem.  Micro homes are very green in design and take a lot less material and labor which keeps the prices down and enables people who may never have had the opportunity to purchase their own home, or to rent a decent home to do so.  
Now if you take into consideration that most cities need tax revenue, and that we have such a high rate of unemployment, I think that my suggestion has merit and everyone concerned should give it careful thought.
   Basically I am suggesting that the cities and towns that are experiencing revenue and housing problems amend their zoning laws and building codes just enough to allow the judicious building of these micro homes and micro apartments.  For example if there is a home located on a decent size lot, and the home owner wishes to invest in a rental unit to be placed in the rear of the building, and if there is room for a proper parking space etc. then he, or she should be allowed to file for a permit.  Let's take a large three family dwelling that needs rehabbing for example. The investor who purchases it should be able to either gut it, or tear it down, and turn the property into perhaps as many as twelve micro apartments.  This part of my plan is not rocket science and should be doable with some minor zoning changes.
   Now, the second part of my plan is that through building an experimental model, our company has realized that these smaller homes (128 sq ft to 800 sq ft)  are highly mass producible and simple to build either in kit form or in certain sizes fully assembled and delivered to the site.  It is also interesting to note that many people are  powering these homes  either fully, or partially off the power grid with solar and small wind power. We also find this inexpensive if you stick mostly to lighting systems and hot water. Being one hundred percent off the power grid is still pricey, but partial systems still save money, and there may be tax credits available. Here is where we create the jobs. I suggest that in a city like Providence RI for example, where there appear to be many abandoned factories and other buildings, that they take one of those buildings in a partnership with private industry and set up an assembly plant to produce these homes and prefabbed apartment walls sections etc.  A precondition of such an agreement could be that the workers would be hired and trained only if they were residents of the city of Providence only if it is legal.  A program like this would add additional tax revenue to the city, and it would also provide some decent jobs.  Also all of the building materials would be purchased locally as part of the agreement.  The cost of the homes should be limited to approximately one hundred dollars a square foot or adjusted as necessary to local conditions. Another idea is to have local businesses that would benefit to the program could contribute in some way to the program either financially or by providing free training in various skills.  My own personal philosophy in business is that there does not always have to be a huge profit in every business deal. There are times when we all have to give something back.  I pray that idea has not died in this new day and age.  When I was a young man everyone pitched in and pulled together to solve the problems in the cities and towns.  We can still fix things if we all pull together.  I can tell you this.  If we don't fix things soon, we are going down.  This is a serious problem.
 This is the spine of my idea, and basically it is pretty simple idea and can be tested on a small scale.  I'm sure that there are some rough edges that need to be trimmed, but like I said, "It isn't rocket science", and sooner, or later is is going to have to be done anyway.  Why not take the lead in the race to the future of our cities.
Our Governor has recently publicly asked Rhode Island business people for their suggestions to help make up for the huge deficit in our budget.  This is one of my suggestions which I think is more for a city project like Providence than for the State of RI.  I believe it needs to be run mostly by the private sector with the cities role being to strictly enforce the building codes,  rules, and regulations, and benefit from the fees, permits, and taxes. We realize our cities need money to operate.
Walt Barrett President
A to Z Global Marketing Inc.

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