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Re: [carfree_cities] Status Anxiety

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  • T. J. Binkley
    ... How would this make obtaining construction financing less difficult or less expensive? ... I m missing something here. Some developers (right here in
    Message 1 of 14 , Jun 30, 2004
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      Joel replied:

      > Construction financing for an unconventional project will be more expensive
      > > and difficult to obtain.
      >
      >Unless we can find an insurance company that believes in the need
      >for this....

      How would this make obtaining construction financing less difficult or less
      expensive?

      > > Most sites that have the desired proximity to shops, services and public
      > > transit, will be relatively expensive. High land costs will completely
      > > wipe out any potential savings from less car infrastructure, as
      > compared to
      > > suburban development.
      >
      >In California, I'm not so sure this equation would hold. Buildable
      >land is now so expensive that the costs of building, say, 4 houses
      >on one acre as compared to building, say, 40 apartments would almost
      >certainly yield a lower per-unit cost for the carfree project.

      I'm missing something here. Some developers (right here in Ventura,
      California) continue to build detached houses at 4 units per acre, others
      build apartments and condos at 40 dua+. The land for both project types is
      "expensive", but the land being considered for higher density projects, is
      much more expensive than land proposed for suburban development. Are you
      suggesting building a carfree project in the 'burbs? ....or praying for
      cheap land in a city?

      > > If "it's possible to have a car around somewhere" in these projects, and
      > > they are as beautiful and desirable as we envision, then demand for them
      > > will be substantial, and they will command high prices.
      >
      >Well, let's not confuse price and cost. The cost to construct should
      be moderate, I think. The price in the market may be quite high.

      Yes, let's not. ;^]

      I was replying to your comment:

      > >I thus see lots of working and middle-class urbanites who would
      > >snap up carfree housing if it became available, especially at a
      > >lower price than sprawl (possibly half the price, given that
      > >rooms would be smaller than in the 'burbs).

      Honestly, where could you possibly imagine making carfree housing available
      at a lower price than sprawl?

      Best,

      -TJB
    • J.H. Crawford
      ... The insurance companies are freaking out about global warming. Swiss Re (one of the largest reinsurers) recently expressed its alarm (I think there s an
      Message 2 of 14 , Jul 1, 2004
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        Continuing, TJ said:

        > > Construction financing for an unconventional project will be more expensive
        >> > and difficult to obtain.
        >>
        >>Unless we can find an insurance company that believes in the need
        >>for this....
        >
        >How would this make obtaining construction financing less difficult or less
        >expensive?

        The insurance companies are freaking out about global warming.
        Swiss Re (one of the largest reinsurers) recently expressed its
        alarm (I think there's an article in Carfree Times). These folks
        will be looking for a way to invest their received premiums in
        projects that don't contribute to, or better yet, help reduce,
        global warming. It may not make it any/much less expensive to
        borrow, but it should make it easier.

        >> > Most sites that have the desired proximity to shops, services and public
        >> > transit, will be relatively expensive. High land costs will completely
        >> > wipe out any potential savings from less car infrastructure, as
        >> compared to
        >> > suburban development.
        >>
        >>In California, I'm not so sure this equation would hold. Buildable
        >>land is now so expensive that the costs of building, say, 4 houses
        >>on one acre as compared to building, say, 40 apartments would almost
        >>certainly yield a lower per-unit cost for the carfree project.
        >
        >I'm missing something here. Some developers (right here in Ventura,
        >California) continue to build detached houses at 4 units per acre, others
        >build apartments and condos at 40 dua+. The land for both project types is
        >"expensive", but the land being considered for higher density projects, is
        >much more expensive than land proposed for suburban development. Are you
        >suggesting building a carfree project in the 'burbs? ....or praying for
        >cheap land in a city?

        I guess we need to talk numbers. Is the urban land ten times as
        expensive as rural (but developable) land in Ventura?

        > > >I thus see lots of working and middle-class urbanites who would
        > > >snap up carfree housing if it became available, especially at a
        > > >lower price than sprawl (possibly half the price, given that
        > > >rooms would be smaller than in the 'burbs).
        >
        >Honestly, where could you possibly imagine making carfree housing available
        >at a lower price than sprawl?

        Well, practically anywhere. IIRC there's a cost reduction to
        the developer in the range of $10,000 per unit when moving
        from single-family sprawl to medium-density condos. (See
        Carfree Cities for the reference.) That ought to help. Then,
        you cut the cost of road building by a very large factor.
        No garages/carports (I guess people don't do carports any more?)
        So, sure, I think we can do this at lower prices in practically
        any market. It would be useful to be able to prove this with
        numbers, but I can't get to this for years. Any construction
        estimators out there who want to take this on?

        Regards,




        -- ### --

        J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
        mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
      • Richard Risemberg
        ... Also aidingthis will be the nascent but growing practice among municipalities & counties of no longer providing free roads and infrastrcuture to developers
        Message 3 of 14 , Jul 1, 2004
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          J.H. Crawford wrote:
          >
          > Well, practically anywhere. IIRC there's a cost reduction to
          > the developer in the range of $10,000 per unit when moving
          > from single-family sprawl to medium-density condos. (See
          > Carfree Cities for the reference.) That ought to help. Then,
          > you cut the cost of road building by a very large factor.
          > No garages/carports (I guess people don't do carports any more?)
          > So, sure, I think we can do this at lower prices in practically
          > any market. It would be useful to be able to prove this with
          > numbers, but I can't get to this for years. Any construction
          > estimators out there who want to take this on?
          >
          Also aidingthis will be the nascent but growing practice among
          municipalities & counties of no longer providing free roads and
          infrastrcuture to developers laying down tracts in the greenfields.
          I've seen mention of this even in the mainstream press occasionally,
          mostly in the last few months.

          On another point: yes, people will snap up carfree or carlight homes.
          Gilmore's loft projects downtown (here in LA) have all filled up
          instantly--they're not carfree, but they're in the carfree form, all
          being multistory buildings (rehabs of classic downtown apartments and
          commercial buildings) in extremely dense, mixed-use, transit-heavy
          areas. (One block from a subway stop and bus nexus.) Folks--not just
          artists but all sorts of folks--are paying good money to live there even
          though it's two blocks from Skid Row.

          In fact, I believe downtown has the lowest vacancy rate for residential
          of all LA.

          Richard

          --
          Richard Risemberg
          http://www.living-room.org
          http://www.newcolonist.com

          "Until you stop looking for simple answers, you will not be happy. You
          will not even be human."

          RR
        • T. J. Binkley
          ... Interesting. ... I don t know offhand the price of developable rural land, but yes, ten times is probably in the ballpark. A three-and-a-half acre (1.42
          Message 4 of 14 , Jul 1, 2004
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            Continuing, Joel said:

            >The insurance companies are freaking out about global warming.
            >Swiss Re (one of the largest reinsurers) recently expressed its
            >alarm (I think there's an article in Carfree Times). These folks
            >will be looking for a way to invest their received premiums in
            >projects that don't contribute to, or better yet, help reduce,
            >global warming. It may not make it any/much less expensive to
            >borrow, but it should make it easier.

            Interesting.

            >... the land being considered for higher density projects, is
            > >much more expensive than land proposed for suburban development. Are you
            > >suggesting building a carfree project in the 'burbs? ....or praying for
            > >cheap land in a city?
            >
            >I guess we need to talk numbers. Is the urban land ten times as
            >expensive as rural (but developable) land in Ventura?

            I don't know offhand the price of developable rural land, but yes, ten
            times is probably in the ballpark. A three-and-a-half acre (1.42 hectare)
            site downtown sold last year for $10.5 million ($3 million per acre). This
            is a site which still requires clearance of several (unsalvageable)
            structures, substantial infrastructure upgrades, possible groundwater
            intrusion and underground contamination issues. 206 units are planned for
            the site. The price of a small 2-bedroom condo here is about $500,000.

            > >Honestly, where could you possibly imagine making carfree housing available
            > >at a lower price than sprawl?
            >
            >Well, practically anywhere. ... Any construction
            >estimators out there who want to take this on?

            Sure, I'll do it. Pick a site, anywhere. Hey, Erik Rauch, what did that
            site in North Cambridge sell for? Anything built there yet?

            Rick mentioned that dense urban housing is selling well in Downtown LA, as
            is the case in many cities across the US. These condos, lofts and
            apartments are commanding HIGH prices. This type of development conserves
            resources, and is highly desirable for many reasons which are familiar to
            all of us here, but it ain't cheap to build, or purchase.

            Best,

            TJB
          • Doug Salzmann
            I m losing track of the main idea here, at list a little, but... Why is it even relevant to compare (and contrast ;^) costs of construction for urban,
            Message 5 of 14 , Jul 1, 2004
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              I'm losing track of the main idea here, at list a little, but...

              Why is it even relevant to compare (and contrast ;^) costs of
              construction for urban, multi-use, carfree projects with those for
              carburban sprawl? After all, nobody's building ranchers on Broadway,
              and we know that carfree development isn't going to work in the land
              of endless snout houses. Shouldn't we, rather, compare our preferred
              style of development (vertical mixed-use sans auto accommodations)
              with projects and uses that are actually likely in the urban core?

              All that low-density sprawl is dinosaur-dead, anyway -- that is, it's
              already dead, but it's a long way from its tiny little brain to its
              gigantic, clumsy limbs, so the twitching lasts a long time.


              -Doug



              P.S. For those who want to do some estimating, here's a list of
              useful references. Excuse the non-standard listing format -- there
              should be plenty of info here to track down anything you find
              interesting.


              Basic Estimating for Construction (Second Edition) - by James A. S.
              Fatzinger

              Means Estimating Handbook (Second Edition) - by John Chiang (Editor),
              John Ferguson (Editor), Joe Macaluso (Editor), Mel Mossman (Editor),
              William D. Mahoney, RS Means Engineering

              Estimating in Building Construction - by Frank R. Dagostino, Leslie
              Feigenbaum

              Markup & Profit: A Contractor's Guide - by Michael C. Stone

              RS Means Residential Cost Data 2004: Square Foot Costs, Systems Cost,
              Unit Costs - by Howard M. Chandler (Editor) - Includes location
              factors to adjust material and labor costs to more than 930 U.S. zip
              codes and selected locations in Canada

              RS Means Residential Cost Data 2003: Square Foot Costs, Systems Cost,
              Unit Costs - by Howard M. Chandler (Editor) - Includes location
              factors to adjust material and labor costs to more than 930 U.S. zip
              codes and selected locations in Canada

              2004 National Building Cost Manual (28th Ed) - by Dave Ogershok
              (Editor), Craftsman Book Company

              2003 National Building Cost Manual (27th Ed) - by Dave Ogershok
              (Editor), Craftsman Book Company

              2003 National Construction Estimator - by Dave Ogershok, Craftsman
              Book Company (51st Edition - Book & CD-ROM)

              2003 National Repair and Remodeling Estimator - by Albert S. Paxton,
              Craftsman Book Company (Book & CD-ROM)

              2003 National Electrical Estimator - by Edward J. Tyler, Craftsman
              Book Company (Book & CD ROM)

              2003 National Painting Cost Estimator - by Dennis D. Gleason,
              Craftsman Book Company (Book & CD ROM)

              2003 National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator - by James A. Thomson (Book &
              CD ROM)

              2003 National Renovation & Insurance, Repair Estimator - by Jonathan
              Russell, Craftsman Book Company (Book & CD ROM)

              2004 CD Estimator - by Craftsman Book Company
              Note: This is not a book. It is a software program that includes six
              estimating costbooks for the year 2004, 40 estimating & bidding forms,
              85,000 construction costs for new construction, and a 70-minute
              interactive video that teaches you how to use this CD-ROM to estimate
              construction costs.

              * National Construction Estimator - Residential, industrial, and
              commercial new construction
              * National Repair & Remodeling Estimator - Remove and replace
              costs for residences
              * National Electrical Estimator - Electrical work in residential,
              industrial and commercial buildings
              * National Plumbing & HVAC Estimator - Plumbing, heating,
              ventilating & air conditioning
              * National Painting Cost Estimator - Painting, wallcovering and
              surface preparation costs
              * National Renovation & Insurance Repair Estimator - Costs for
              adjusting casualty losses


              Square Foot Costs 2004 (25th Edition) - by R. S. Means, Barbara
              Balboni (Editor)

              Square Foot Costs 2003 (24th Edition) - by R. S. Means, Barbara
              Balboni (Editor)

              Building Construction Cost Data, 2003 (61st Edition) - by R. S. Means

              Mechanical Cost Data 2003 (26th Edition) - by R. S. Means, Melville J.
              Mossman (Editor)

              Electrical Cost Data 2003 (26th Edition) - by R. S. Means, by John H.
              Chiang (Editor)

              Plumbing Cost Data 2003 (26th Edition) - by R. S. Means, by Melville
              J. Missman (Editor)

              Exterior Home Improvement Costs: The Practical Pricing Guide for
              Homeowners & Contractors (Updated Seventh Edition) - by R. S. Means
              Company

              Interior Home Improvement Costs: The Practical Pricing Guide for
              Homeowners & Contractors (Updated Seventh Edition) - by R. S. Means
              Company

              Historic Preservation: Project Planning & Estimating - by R. S. Means
              Company

              Walker's Building Estimator's Reference Book, 26th Edition - by Frank
              R. Walker Co.

              F.R. Walker's Remodeling Reference Book: A Guide for Accurate
              Remodeling Cost Estimates for Construction Professionals and
              Homeowners - by Frank R. Walker Co.

              Carpentry Estimating - by W. P. Jackson

              Contractors Pricing Guide: Residential Square Foot Costs 1999 - by
              Robert W. Mewis

              Contractor's Pricing Guide Residential Detailed Costs - by Robert W.
              Mewis

              Dodge Unit Cost Guide 2001 (Book & CD) - CD-ROM includes downloadable
              cost calculator plus Timberline Precision Estimating Basic trial
              version.

              Estimating Tables for Home Building - by Paul I. Thomas

              Estimating Excavation - by Deryl Burch

              RS Means Site Work and Landscape Cost Data 2003 - by Barbara Balboni
              (Editor)



              --

              "Is it not a strange blindness on our part
              to teach publicly the techniques of warfare
              and to reward with medals those who prove to
              be the most adroit killers?"

              -Donatien-Alphonse-Francois de Sade, 1740-1814



              ---
              Doug Salzmann
              Kalliergo
              Post Office Box 307
              Corte Madera, CA 94976 USA

              <doug@...>
            • J.H. Crawford
              ... Let s be sure not to confuse cost and price. At 206 units, the COST of the land is about $50,000 per unit. A small 2 BR condo ought to cost $200,000 or
              Message 6 of 14 , Jul 1, 2004
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                Continuing, TJ said:

                >I don't know offhand the price of developable rural land, but yes, ten
                >times is probably in the ballpark. A three-and-a-half acre (1.42 hectare)
                >site downtown sold last year for $10.5 million ($3 million per acre). This
                >is a site which still requires clearance of several (unsalvageable)
                >structures, substantial infrastructure upgrades, possible groundwater
                >intrusion and underground contamination issues. 206 units are planned for
                >the site. The price of a small 2-bedroom condo here is about $500,000.

                Let's be sure not to confuse cost and price. At 206 units,
                the COST of the land is about $50,000 per unit. A small 2 BR
                condo ought to cost $200,000 or less to build, so the cost
                would be only $250,000 per unit (plus clearance and infrastructure
                upgrade, which shouldn't affect the issue all that much). So,
                somebody is going to be putting nearly $250,000 per unit in his
                pocket. The only reason this is possible is the tremendous demand
                for urban housing in the area. (I wonder what the profit on
                sprawburbia is?) Even at $500,000 a unit, this is still fairly
                inexpensive by CA standards, no?

                >Rick mentioned that dense urban housing is selling well in Downtown LA, as
                >is the case in many cities across the US. These condos, lofts and
                >apartments are commanding HIGH prices. This type of development conserves
                >resources, and is highly desirable for many reasons which are familiar to
                >all of us here, but it ain't cheap to build, or purchase.

                Well, as I say, it shouldn't cost more to build than auto-centric
                construction. What it actually sells for may not have much to do
                with the cost. (I heard not long ago that you could buy a rancher
                in Brownsville TX for something like $5000 (not new, of course),
                because nobody wants to live there.) Cost can also be higher than
                price in some markets, which means, of course, that there is no
                new construction.

                Housing prices in California are so far off the map of "reasonable"
                that it might be better to focus our attention on other parts of
                the country.

                Regards,


                -- ### --

                J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities
                mailbox@... http://www.carfree.com
              • Matt Hohmeister
                In Tallahassee, population around 250,000, a 2000 sf, 3BR, single-family, 1960s sprawlburb house would sell for around $150,000, and would be pretty solidly
                Message 7 of 14 , Jul 2, 2004
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                  In Tallahassee, population around 250,000, a 2000 sf, 3BR, single-family, 1960s
                  sprawlburb house would sell for around $150,000, and would be pretty solidly built: brick
                  exterior, drywall interior.

                  At $200,000 for a 1000 sf, 2 BR condo, are we assuming a very high quality of building
                  here? I'd hope that we're talking about a 2-4 story buildings with fire sprinklers, masonry
                  exteriors (I don't care if it's brick, cinder block, or stucco--diverse sidings would actually
                  be nice), concrete separating all units (walls, floors, and ceilings), butcherblock wood
                  doors in steel frames, and mortise locks (as opposed to putting a new $15 Kwikset
                  deadbolt on the door every time it changes hands). I'd hope that any buildings in a carfree
                  area would be built to last 200 years or more. We should also make buildings easy to
                  remodel inside, so if someone wants to replace a shabby-looking 50-year-old bathroom
                  counter, it can be done with a miniimum of collateral damage. This would provide
                  disincentive to razing buildings after 25 years.

                  If we build carfree areas large enough to accomodate the demans, pricing should drop. I
                  feel that the reason "urban" property is so expensive is that, in many areas, it's illegal to
                  expand urban areas--the law requires sprawl. Thus, even if relatively few people WANT to
                  live downtown, they're still battling over a limited supply, since development code has put
                  the stop on any new development like it.

                  > Let's be sure not to confuse cost and price. At 206 units,
                  > the COST of the land is about $50,000 per unit. A small 2 BR
                  > condo ought to cost $200,000 or less to build, so the cost
                  > would be only $250,000 per unit (plus clearance and infrastructure
                  > upgrade, which shouldn't affect the issue all that much). So,
                  > somebody is going to be putting nearly $250,000 per unit in his
                  > pocket. The only reason this is possible is the tremendous demand
                  > for urban housing in the area. (I wonder what the profit on
                  > sprawburbia is?) Even at $500,000 a unit, this is still fairly
                  > inexpensive by CA standards, no?
                • T. J. Binkley
                  ... That would be nice. Fire sprinklers are required in all new construction here, and standards for energy conservation are high, but alas, there s a huge
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jul 2, 2004
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                    >At $200,000 for a 1000 sf, 2 BR condo, are we assuming a very high quality
                    >of building
                    >here? I'd hope that we're talking about a 2-4 story buildings with fire
                    >sprinklers, masonry
                    >exteriors (I don't care if it's brick, cinder block, or stucco--diverse
                    >sidings would actually
                    >be nice), concrete separating all units (walls, floors, and ceilings),
                    >butcherblock wood
                    >doors in steel frames, and mortise locks (as opposed to putting a new $15
                    >Kwikset
                    >deadbolt on the door every time it changes hands).

                    That would be nice. Fire sprinklers are required in all new construction
                    here, and standards for energy conservation are high, but alas, there's a
                    huge local disincentive to much masonry construction: earthquake
                    codes. These make even simple concrete block construction quite a bit more
                    expensive than wood. Nonetheless, when I acquire my own little patch of
                    dirt, I fully intend to build as you've described.

                    >I'd hope that any buildings in a carfree
                    >area would be built to last 200 years or more.

                    Yes. Here's a proven way to provide affordable, dense, urban
                    housing: build structures that are still habitable, serviceable, highly
                    desirable for several generations of users, long after the high costs of
                    new construction have been paid (Jane Jacobs covered this well).

                    In The Baltimore Rowhouse, an interesting review of nineteenth century land
                    lease laws describes how developers were more willing to spend money on
                    solid construction and elaborate ornamentation of some rowhouses there, in
                    order to maximize the ongoing land rents they could expect.

                    >If we build carfree areas large enough to accomodate the demans, pricing
                    >should drop. I
                    >feel that the reason "urban" property is so expensive is that, in many
                    >areas, it's illegal to
                    >expand urban areas--the law requires sprawl. Thus, even if relatively few
                    >people WANT to
                    >live downtown, they're still battling over a limited supply, since
                    >development code has put
                    >the stop on any new development like it.

                    Yep. It couldn't possibly be worse anywhere than here, where so-called
                    progressives conflate environmentalism with "no-growth".

                    Cheers,

                    TJB
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