Skip navigation
Share via:

Pitch

Rebuilding low income housing in existing desired locations by attracting private capital and requiring a sustainable and inclusive model.


Description

Summary

In many US cities some of the low income housing projects are located in attractive areas for real estate developers. 

In this proposal I will review the Newtowne Court in Cambridge, MA as a possibility for providing improved housing for the existing residents while attracting market buyers for condos currently in high demand in Cambridge, MA.

The site is located in the Kendall Sq area which houses many high tech and pharma companies as well as MIT. The land where the pubic housing is located can accommodate comfortably about 10 times the number of the existing population. This enables a financial model where  the current residents can become buyers at affordable prices. 

From interviews with some of the residents there is a strong  demand  for ownership. One interviewee said he was strongly in favor of being able to own his home and said that they currently pay over $1000/month for a three bedroom and have nothing after some 20 years.

The new project would be able to accommodate ten percent of buyers at affordable prices with mortgages around the price they are currently paying for rent. Others, with disabilities can be accommodated on the same costs they are currently paying, or at no cost.

Having the pride of ownership would provide greater motivation for the existing residents for accomplishments than in the current environment. Some mentioned that they feel unmotivated in working in minimum wage jobs but if it was for owning their own homes it would make a difference. Many feel insecure and said they prefer not to let their children play outside.

The new development which might be called Trans Project as it is meant to transform the projects, would provide

- a greater quality of life for the residents

- meet housing demand for additional residents

- benefit the city

The sustainable model becomes more feasible in a Trans Project as the city can place conditions to developers for FULLY GREEN BUILDINGS, and even demanding that all residents use electric cars only.


Is this proposal for a practice or a project?

Project


What actions do you propose?

The city of Cambridge can create a request for proposal from architects and developers for a mixed use development with fully green buildings the can provide high quality of life for its residents.

The optimal design would be to provide a generous green space by surrounding the area with new buildings and keeping a park in the inner area.

The current design of Newtowne Court is rather desolate and does not inspire a sense of belonging, meaning, connection er even safety and comfort. Interviewee complained about the stairway feeling unpleasant and the railing becoming very hot in the summer, often burning when used, especially by children and the elderly.

 

No children were seen playing outside even though the image below was take on a Sunday afternoon at the end of September.

One of the many adverse effects of low income housing neighborhoods is that by concentrating poorer residence in an area the system essentially exacerbates the negative impact on the surrounding areas, especially on the  buildings directly across the public housing – causing further neglect and general avoidance for higher income families to purchase real estate in the area. In the image below, the neglected home is one example of neglected real estate, even at a time when real estate in Cambridge and in the Boston area is going through an extensive boom, where a house of the size such as the one in the image below would be worth more than one million dollars - anywhere in Cambridge, even a few blocks away, in its current state and over two million dollars if replaced by new construction. 

In the image below the design shows a rectangular park with mixed use buildings in the outer area where the ground floor is used for commercial spaces and the rest for apartments. 

In order to provide the best quality of life the city of Cambridge would need to require a number of conditions such as:

1. Sufficient daycare space, and playgrounds within the complex to meet demand - to save the parents the need for commuting as well as provide a more connected relationship with the other residents.

2. Swimming pool - also serving as a water fountain for added quality to the park.

3. Sporting facilities such as basketball and tennis courts  

4. Abundant benches and walking path to accommodate large numbers of residents.

5. All apartments to have ample balconies - which are known to contribute ti human health as outdoor space, and a better quality of life

6. All heating and cooling to be fully electric. If the Universal Ceiling Fan model in my proposal Universal Ceiling Fan- Heating, Cooling, Superior Ambiance Without Fossil Fuels turns out to be successful then the project sponsor (City of Cambridge) may require to have this model in the entire complex.

7) All apartments must have a generous size in order to make them attractive to buyers as well as in order to meet human health needs. For example a one bedroom at a minimum of 800 SF plus a balcony; two bedroom 1100 SF plus balcony.  A three bedroom 1500 SF etc. 

8) Minimum recommended level natural light - by design standards -  which is essential for human health, (to a greater degree than the public is aware)  

9) Maximizing wind and solar energy produced on site to reduce the costs for the occupants. This may include the  Vertical Axis Windmill Tower for densely populated areas which I submitted as a separate proposal. 

The image below summarizes the synergy that exists between the available land and the possibilities if transitions to a reduced or even no-emission model.

 

"NEW CHIMNEYS" - VERTICAL AXIS WINDMILLS

 

Vertical Axis windmills on the roofs as one of the elements the that provide renewable power to bring the entire complex to be powered by renewable energy.

The above vertical xis windmill is enclosed with "vertical blinds" that adjust with the direction of the wind while providing safety for birds and reducing visual impact

The new project includes an extensive number of vertical axis windmills on the roofs designed in a way that minimizes visual impact resembling chimneys.

  


Who will take these actions?

The Cambridge Housing Authority would need to take the initiative. The vital factors for the success of the project are in bringing the best leadership and the ideal financial institutions, combined with architecture firms and developers.

 


Where will these actions be taken?

Any city that has public housing in an area that has a high enough demand for for profit housing to the extent that the private prices are sufficiently high to afford fully green development as well as to offer purchasing ability at lower prices for all existing occupants.

Not all public housing projects have the high level potential as the as the Newtowne Court in Cambridge where two favorable conditions are in place:

1) Large area with low density that enables to create housing for a much higher population while providing a large park and sporting and recreation facilities.

2) Strong market demand for housing - at high prices -> make it profitable for developers sufficiently to enable the existing occupants to purchase the new condos at low income prices. In other words the ratio of the existing occupants versus the additional number of units.

Usually public housing projects are not as large in land and at low density as the Newtowne Court in Cambridge. However there are way to resolve this challenge by "merging" multiple public housing locations. For example in the New York city area the land for some public housing projects can be sold and to purchase additional land next to an existing one. This will help accomplish the critical mass needed to accommodate a sufficiently large number of new occupants while providing wide open green spaces as part of the complex.  


In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

United States


Country 2

No country selected


Country 3

No country selected


Country 4

No country selected


Country 5

No country selected


Impact/Benefits


What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

EMISSIONS FREE LIVING

The model provides an emissions free living with all home needs as well as driving needs powered by electricity from renewable sources.

Transforming low income housing areas into SUSTAINABLE, INCLUSIVE and PROFITABLE projects by requiring the new construction to be entirely comprised net zero energy building, including the vehicle used by the owners to be full electric  will accelerate the demand for green housing housing and thus reduce the overall emissions.

Such projects will provide valuable experimentation on a large scale for sustainable housing bringing new technologies as well as lowering the prices for green buildings. 

REPLICATION OF THE MODEL

The second factor that will help lower emissions is the high quality of life in such projects will create valuable market demand for similar developments outside the public housing areas which would provide a catapult for the market place to move away from fossil fuels.  

SHORTER COMMUTES - LOWER EMISSIONS

In the case of this project it would provide some 3700 new housing units which would attract many employees that work in Kendall Sq. and drive from various distances as there is no sufficient housing in the area at this time.

 

 

ADVANTAGE TO EMPLOYERS

There are many large high-tech and biotech companies that are struggling to attract employees because many prefer to avoid the commute to Kendall Sq. which lacks quality housing on a large enough scale.


What are other key benefits?

HIGHER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR POPULATIONS CURRENTLY IN PUBLIC HOUSING - green spaces, swimming pools, sporting facilities, healthy social interactions and more

IMPROVED EQUITY - AND ULTIMATELY LOWER INCOME DISPARITY - in the new environment the low income earners will have both better conditions and greater motivation and purpose to seek higher incomes and better education

LOWER CRIME - The model provides for safer environments

LOWER COSTS TO GOVERNMENTS - reduced spending low income housing. Lower crime levels, and more tax revenue frees public expenditure for other projects (such as further reducing emissions for a city).

REDUCING URBAN SPRAWL 

The model brings a high quality of life with high density making it attractive for developments in the suburbs thus reducing urban sprawl. The wide green common spaces combined with large balconies and terraces will help compensate for the private yard of the suburban home.

REVITALIZING AN AREA

The area around the complex benefits from the new services and restaurants and improved quality of life bringing a revitalizing effect in an area such as Kendall Sq. which has been seeking for years to become more lively and attractive such as Harvard Sq. 

FUTURE STANDARDS FOR HUMAN HEALTH IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT & LOWER EMISSIONS 

For optimal mental and physical health a number of elements are essential yet often overlooked. The requirements for this project may become required standards or even laws for in the future.

1. Sufficient daycare space, and playgrounds within the complex to meet demand - saving parents the need for commuting as well as provide a more connected relationship with the other residents.

2. Minimal view of water such as a water fountain, preferably a  swimming pool also serving as a water fountain.

3. Sporting and recreation opportunities such as basketball and tennis courts  

4. Opportunities for social interaction, abundant benches and walking path to accommodate large numbers of residents - providing an attractive environment for community and social interaction which is no available in the typical suburban home. 

5. All apartments to have ample balconies - which are known to contribute to human health as outdoor space, and a better quality of life.

6. All heating and cooling to be fully electric. If the Universal Ceiling Fan model in my proposal Universal Ceiling Fan- Heating, Cooling, Superior Ambiance Without Fossil Fuels ensuring air quality.

7) All apartments must have a generous size in order to make them attractive to buyers as well as to meet human health needs. At least apartments should be required to have a minimal living space

8) Minimum recommended level natural light - by design standards -  which is essential for human health.

9) Minimal access to green spaces including trees, flowers and plants

10) Close access to essential services, shopping, & entertainment to minimize commuting needs - and energy use, while providing a high quality of life.

 


Costs/Challenges


What are the proposal’s projected costs?

For a project such as the Newtowne Court in Cambridge, MA we will assume that the current number of apartments is 400.

The development would build 4000 apartments.

the cost of an apartment according to the following website $86k on the higher end. 

For the building of an apartment building with twelve units, the typical costs include: With mid-range materials, a normal foundation with full basement, efficient doors and windows, all appliances, and "turnkey" finishing would run at an average of $64,575to $86,100 per unit to complete.https://www.fixr.com/costs/build-apartment

We will assume that the cost of building each apartment to be significantly higher at $250k given the requirements listed below:

-  net zero energy,

- more spacious than average plus balconies,

- ambient climate control,

- generous sporting facilities, recreation, swimming pool

- extensive parking,

- dedicated daycare spaces within the ownership of the complex

In the table below - assuming that the land is provided by the city - the projects is highly profitable even THREE  TIMES the average cost of building an apartment.   

From the above number it is clear that the City of Cambridge can profit immensely  from the sale of the land. In other words  the city would sell the land for $1b the developer would make a profit of $0.73b.

Even if the above calculations have a high degree of error the opportunity for the city, the developers, the current residents and for those seeking to buy apartments in Cambridge are tremendous. 


Timeline

Assuming that the project is completed within five years from the time of this proposal, the expectation is that within 15 years most, if not all new construction have the standards for the proposed model for net zero energy contributing to dramatic reductions in emissions.

It should be noted that with the extensive housing complex of mixed use and the requirement for daycare centers within the complex as well as commercial spaces meeting shopping needs as well as other services, the model will lower total energy usage by saving the typical driving time required for such services.

 (15-50 years) - such housing complexes can expected to become net producers of energy.

 

(50-100 years) - market demand will be geared towards the proposed model enabling movement away from urban sprawl and increasing density. Ultimately this will contribute to restoring natural environments.


About the author(s)

Emil Jacob, owner and founder of Jacob Innovations LLC, design firm in Cambridge, MA.


He had his undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Toronto and has worked extensively in IT as a Business Systems Analyst finding innovative ways to streamline and automate operations through software and optimized interfaces.

The proposal for  Transforming low income housing areas: SUSTAINABLE, INCLUSIVE, PROFITABLE  was a project in his Masters program in DESIGN FOR HUMAN HEALTH at the Boston Architectural College.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

I am a strong believer in simple solutions to overwhelming challenges, most importantly climate change. I am particularly concerned about the cataclysmic scenario of runaway global warming hence I believe that all efforts are vital. Especially concerted efforts by multiple entities and large numbers of contributors - hence my proposal for CoLab City.  

Below is a list of my seven interconnected submissions creating synergies that curb climate change.

The CoLab City proposal depends on the success of the Global Civic Center proposal which itself benefits from the MINI Elevated cTrains proposal. 

** 2 is based on **1 

*4 is based on *3  

Shifting Attitudes and Behaviors
**1. Global Civic Center & Capital - the road to a sustainable planet   --- CURRENT PROPOSAL

Adaptation
**2. CoLab City - a blueprint for resilient, green cities

Transportation
*3. Mini Elevated GreenTrains - complete transit solution - powered by green energy               

Adaptation 
*4. Mini Elevated GREEN TRAINS - preparing for flooded subways in coastal cities  

Buildings
5. Universal Ceiling Fan- Heating, Cooling, Superior Ambiance Without Fossil Fuels

Energy Supply
6. Vertical Axis Windmill Tower for densely populated areas

Buildings
7. Transforming low income housing areas: SUSTAINABLE, INCLUSIVE, PROFITABLE

 

A converging summary of the seven submissions

 


Related Proposals

Lathrop Homes Redevelopment

Brandis Friedman | February 6, 2014 11:45 am

The north side Chicago Housing project, Lathrop Homes, 

The above proposal, while it is a great improvement to the existing public housing it lacks the financial model in this proposal and in the interview in the above link there is a lot of opposition by current residents because the new construction does not improve their conditions significantly, while still having to "pay $900 a month."

Nor does the Chicago project spell out the essential standards listed below in my proposal.

FUTURE STANDARDS FOR HUMAN HEALTH IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT & LOWER EMISSIONS 

For optimal mental and physical health a number of elements are essential yet often overlooked. The requirements for this project may become required standards or even laws for in the future.

1. Sufficient daycare space, and playgrounds within the complex to meet demand - to save the parents the need for commuting as well as provide a more connected relationship with the other residents.

2. Minimal view of water such as a water fountain, preferably a  swimming pool also serving as a water fountain.

3. Sporting and recreation opportunities such as basketball and tennis courts  

4. Opportunities of for social interaction, abundant benches and walking path to accommodate large numbers of residents - providing an attractive environment for community and social interaction which is no available in the typical suburban home. 

5. All apartments to have ample balconies - which are known to contribute ti human health as outdoor space, and a better quality of life. The wide green common spaces combined with large balconies and terraces will help compensate for the private yard of the suburban home  to ensure demand for the model the suburbs.

6. All heating and cooling to be fully electric. If the Universal Ceiling Fan model in my proposal Universal Ceiling Fan- Heating, Cooling, Superior Ambiance Without Fossil Fuels ensuring air quality.

7) All apartments must have a generous size in order to make them attractive to buyers as well as to meet human health needs. At least apartments should be required to have a minimal living space

8) Minimum recommended level natural light - by design standards -  which is essential for human health.

9) Minimal access to green spaces including trees, flowers and plants

10) Close access to essential services, shopping, & entertainment to minimize commuting needs - and energy use, while providing a high quality of life.


References

Article by NCBI – NIH Neighborhood Characteristics and Depression one of the most significant statements is the following:

 

Most theories relating depression to stress focus on events that occur within peoples' immediate lives, such as relationship problems or work stressors. Recent research reveals that depression may be linked to characteristics of the neighborhoods in which people live. Research has only recently undertaken to understand the ways in which neighborhoods affect depression and other forms of mental illness. Much less has been written about how neighborhoods influence mental health compared to the large amount that has been written about how neighborhoods influence problem behaviors like delinquency, crime, drug use, and adolescent childbearing

 

US National Library of Medicine  National Institutes of Health (2006) Neighborhood Characteristics and Depression. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2186297

               

The Boston Globe (2014) Area Four’ residents live in the shadow of the future. Retrieved from 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/11/23/shadow-future/s1KhT91JlhyqSObVOb6GqL/story.html

 

The Boston Globe (2016). Police Say Cambridge Killing Wasn’t Random. Retrieved from

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/06/25/man-dies-after-shooting-cambridge/Qdxkk2mETP8a3kYivnCquJ/story.html