IS HAECCITY’S ‘MISSING MIDDLE’ HOUSING MODEL THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION TO OUR HOUSING SHORTAGE?2018-05-25 16:54:53 Posted By Amir Hamzehali
Vancouver-based Haeccity Studio Architecture has come up with a way to gently densify neighbourhoods full of single-family houses without overwhelming them with condo towers.
Missing middle is the concept that there is more to housing than just houses or large condo developments. Architects, planners and the market specialists say the concept means tucking additional density into areas of single-family homes in a way that doesn’t dramatically change the feel of the neighbourhood.
Haeccity’s concept is a three-storey building of six or seven housing units that would fit onto a single-family home lot of about 33 feet by 122 feet without overwhelming adjacent single-family houses. It could be in two buildings, separated by a common courtyard, with the flexibility of a combination of one, two, and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 525 sq. ft. to 1,350-square feet.
The Haeccity’s design doesn’t reveal much information about the location of parking needed for all these units being built on a relatively small lot. The design of underground parking could be quite challenging on a lot with 33 feet frontage considering the minimum width of 20 feet required for the parking entrance, the ramp going down to the basement, and the driveways leading to the parking stalls.
If the City approves the zoning for this type of housing on single family lots, it could be a great way to make land available for higher density use without land assembly process being needed! This concept also stops single-family neighbourhoods from being destroyed by the construction of large multifamily buildings.
One of the areas that requires more feasibility study is the structure of the legal ownership of these units! The design company suggests that a group of six or seven households come together, buy one lot together, develop the lot, and lease back the units to themselves. The company assumes that the City will be lenient in terms of height, site, and density to people when putting in an application under a co-ownership model.
This type of joint venture by households may look very easy and interesting in theory, but in reality, the co-owners of these units will face many challenges in terms of development agreements, cost sharing, financing, occupying units, and exiting their investments.
As we know, units in the developments are different in terms of size, layout, location in the development, and many other aspects. Six or seven households getting together and agreeing with each other on who owns which unit in the development is not an easy task! Another problem would be how these co-owners would agree on sharing construction costs when the value of each co-owner’s unit when completed is not clear! Both arranging for construction loan and replacing the construction loan with a conventional mortgage when the project is completed would also be problematic!
The problem lies in the fact that if any of the co-owners stop his or her mortgage payments, the bank has to foreclose on all owners because the units are not individually subdivided and owned. For this reason, the financial institutes are usually reluctant to finance projects where ownership is un-divided. For the same reason, the re-sale of these co-op units is not easy, and the banks require buyers to put much higher down payments, sometimes as much as 35% or higher.
This problem could be solved if the government allows for stratifying these types of developments. We already have on the market strata concept duplexes, triplexes, or fourplexes being built on small lots.
As a result, having six or sevenplex multi-unit strata developments on small lots should not be so far fetched in future!