Housing simply costs too much. In the 1960s, the median price for a house in the U.S. was $96,000 (adjusted for inflation). Now, it’s $226,000. Meanwhile, half of all renters are cost burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income towards housing. And the pathways to home ownership are scarce for those below the area median income.
It's clear that we must reimagine housing in order for things to change...
The Village Model offers a collaborative, community-based approach to building and sustaining stable places to call home. It creates resident-owned housing that ensures long-term affordability, eases displacement pressures, builds community wealth, and reduces the environmental footprint of housing.
SquareOne Villages' experience developing and stewarding permanently affordable housing co-ops in Lane County, Oregon led us to create the Village Model.
This page provides a framework to help other communities implement similar housing options. It seeks to inform and mobilize a broad range of stakeholders around a vision that is both actionable and transformative—meaning it can be accomplished in the world as it currently exists, yet it also points in a direction of broader change in how we think about housing.
To do this, we have broken housing development down into four sections: Ownership Structure, Physical Form, Finance Strategy, and Collaboration.
— OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE —
The Village Model provides financially accessible and sustainable housing by combining two forms of shared-equity homeownership—a Community Land Trust and a Limited Equity Cooperative—into what we call Cooperative Land Trust Housing.
In this arrangement, a Community Land Trust retains ownership of the underlying land, while residents form a Limited Equity Co-op that owns and manages the housing and improvements on the land. The result is a sustainable form of resident-owned housing accessible to people with very low-incomes. It includes strong affordability controls to ensure that the housing stock remains permanently affordable for future generations to come. This multi-layered ownership structure has proven to be a safer financial investment and a more prudent use of resources when compared to the conventional housing market.
— PHYSICAL FORM —
The Village Model clusters a variety of compact residential dwellings around shared community spaces and resources—including tiny house villages, cottage clusters, plexes, and other forms of community-oriented multi-family housing that provide significant economic, environmental, and social benefits compared to the traditional apartment building or single-family house.
These Compact Communities combine the privacy and autonomy of a single-family house with the greater density and economy associated with an apartment building. However, it replaces hallways and elevators with meandering pathways and common areas. The space between houses creates a medium for casual social interactions, fostering a strong sense of community and belonging among neighbors. Building small also reduces material and energy demand during construction, and offers lower maintenance and utility bills over the life of the home. Furthermore, it offers a more approachable scale for activating citizen involvement in all stages of housing development—including advocacy, planning, fundraising, and construction.
While these Village Building projects often require large, undeveloped sites that are in limited supply, this concept can also be adapted to reimagining our existing single-family neighborhoods. The Revillaging Project puts forth a model for building compact, infill housing on a typical residential lot.
— FINANCE STRATEGY —
The Village Model adopts a scalable financing strategy that includes a sustainable mix of public subsidies, charitable contributions, debt financing, and resident equity.
Public funding available for new affordable housing construction remains inadequate, and often adds unnecessary complexity and cost to new development. By diversifying our funding sources while keeping expenses low through a combination of affordability strategies, we believe our Village Model is uniquely positioned to maximize the social return on investment when compared to other forms of low-income housing. If debt financing can be kept at sustainable levels through one-time capital subsidies, housing co-ops enable low-income residents to cover the cost to operate their housing without dependence on ongoing subsidies. Furthermore, the ownership structure ensures that the housing developed will be retained at affordable rates in perpetuity, helping family after family access shared-equity homeownership. With the ability to operate at cost while also ensuring permanent affordability, the Village Model is an ideal vehicle for investments in affordable housing.
— COLLABORATION —
The Village Model is founded on building equity through diverse community collaborations for creating more affordable housing opportunities. In developing this framework plan we hope to collaborate with 1) other nonprofit housing developers that can help build more villages, 2) lending institutions and social investors that can help finance more villages, 3) public policy makers that can advocate for and guide new legislation and funding sources to support this model, and 4) prospective residents interested in this affordable housing option. In this section we take a look at each of these potential collaborators in more detail, along with opportunities for partnering in scaling the Village Model.