Durham Leads the Way for Housing Choice and Zoning Reform

The mayor of Durham acts on his promises and paves the way for city leadership.

“Zoning reform isn’t magical, but it’s crucial.” So said Mayor Steve Schewel of Durham, NC in a stirring speech given earlier this month before he voted to support Durham’s landmark zoning reform, Expanding Housing Choices (EHC). After a two-year long community process, the city has voted to approve updates to their Unified Development Ordinance that will enable more housing choices in their most walkable neighborhoods.

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10 Thoughts for Hulsey Yard

If you haven’t yet heard (you must live under a rock), CSX has officially vacated Hulsey Yard, a former intermodal freight terminal and our across-the-street neighbor. They have moved the operations of Hulsey to another yard in Fairburn, leaving the 70-acre site that divides four neighborhoods largely empty. Serendipitously, those same neighborhoods have recently kicked off a master planning process to develop a “cohesive, community-supported vision” for the future of this giant property.

We’ve attended the pop-up, we’ve submitted our comments online, but we also want to spread the word about what we think should be done with this site. We are proud residents of Reynoldstown, and our office sits right on the edge of Hulsey. What we want, more than anything, is MORE. More connectivity, more neighbors, more density. There are a few things we want less of, too. Namely, less parking. We’ve outlined some guiding principles below:

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Calling All Ideas For a Better Atlanta! Housing Choice Edition

Atlanta is changing demographically, but our housing stock isn’t keeping up.

Last Friday, the Atlanta City Studio asked us to present our ideas on housing choice at Design Over Donuts. Or, as Eric Kronberg preferred to call it, Design Over Missing Middle Pastries. Dad joke!

The conversation that ensued was passionate, and understandably so. We see concerns about change in our existing communities as legitimate. We also view passion as a legitimate emotion in these conversations, because we ourselves feel very passionately about it. We want the city that we live in and the neighborhoods where we work to be the best possible versions of themselves. This doesn’t just mean beautiful, this means equitable. And we firmly believe that it’s possible to have both in Atlanta. We are proud to live in a city that has a City Design Studio: that not only believes these conversations are important, but that has created a forum for them to take place.

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Unpacking the Pilot Project’s Prototype Pieces

In our previous post, we provided an example of how small-scale infill could work within a few house lots to provide a dynamic range of housing choices.  We are now going to break down the components parts of this design.

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When Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The Importance of Pilot Projects

 

Atlanta is facing an affordable housing crisis, as are most cities and towns around the state of Georgia, and the rest of the country. “Affordable housing” is a loaded term, as it means different things to different people. But one thing is evident: communities can’t grow if they can’t provide housing that is affordable to a variety of people, and they certainly can’t grow equitably. At KW, we believe that “housing choice” is a great start to combat the affordable housing crisis. What do we mean by housing choice? We mean that our communities should provide housing options that a variety of people – in all stages of life, of all sorts of family structures, in all income brackets – can afford. More importantly, communities need to provide housing choice in walkable (or transit accessible) places near goods and services. We’ve been saying this for a long time, but we’re tired of talking. We’re ready to do it already.

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ABCs of ADUs Recap + Presentation Download

A packed house at KWA HQ! photo credit: Terry Kearns

Last night’s ABCs of ADUs event was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who came out to learn more about ADUs and Tiny Homes, and a special thanks to Will and the Microlife Institute for co-hosting the event with us.

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Historic Tax Credits and Georgia

Kronberg Wall HQ in Reynoldstown, Atlanta, completed in 2015. We were able to renovate the historic Bearden Temple AME Church with the help of state and federal tax credits.

We’ve been working on multiple projects lately that are dependent on Historic Renovation Tax Credits (HTC) to help cover the increased cost of historically compatible renovations. Currently, there is a federal tax credit, and Georgia is one of the states that also offers a state tax credit.  Combining state and federal credits becomes a powerful financial tool to help make difficult projects possible. Through our experience with HTC’s over the years – and some recent changes – we’ve developed some thoughts on how the system could be adjusted to work for projects that have different scales and available resources.

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Housing, Trees and Zoning Changes

The City of Atlanta is working hard on another update to our zoning ordinance. It’s another round of Quick Fixes to address smaller tweaks to areas that should not be overly controversial. However, you never know what is going to trigger resistance and outrage when discussing modifications to property rights.

One of the surprising areas of contention is a push to strike the provision allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs) in the R-4 zoning category. A lot of the resistance to this change is coming from various groups that think this new provision will result in the clear cutting of a lot of Atlanta’s amazing tree canopy.

We are going to break down some of these zoning terms to hopefully shed some light on things…

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When Not to ADU?

There are a lot of reasons to build an ADU, and a lot of reasons to do this sooner than later.  There is one time that is less than ideal though- when you don’t have an income.

This may seem obvious, but it matters for folks thinking through Aging in Place strategies.  An ADU is a great way to be able to afford to stay in your neighborhood as you consider retirement, offering several options.  The first stage could be having supplemental rental income while you stay in your house, helping to defray property taxes and other costs.  Later, it offers the chance for you to rent out your main house, while downsizing into your ADU.  This allows you to keep a foothold in your community, greatly reducing or eliminating your housing costs, and providing freedom to travel the world.

If you plan to finance your ADU, your bank or mortgage broker will have a much easier time getting the loan approved if you still have an income.  Loan appraisers often struggle to properly value a proposed ADU, which means they may significantly undervalue it, or give it no value at all.  An undervalued appraisal can easily sink a loan approval.

Getting your ADU financed and constructed before retiring is exceedingly important for folks that don’t have easy access to all the cash necessary to pay for their ADU out of pocket. Food for thought.

AARP, ADUs and You

We just had the chance to participate in an amazing roundtable discussing ADU policy in Washington, DC hosted by AARP.  Why is AARP bringing people to DC to talk about ADUs?  AARP has spent a solid 20 plus years advocating for housing choice as an important way for people to age in place in their communities, and realizes that ADU play a really important role in providing this choice.  Their website has a wealth of resources for folks interested in learning more.

What do we mean by housing choice?  Read more

Thoughts on Incremental Infill: How to Get More of What We Love

Recently, we have had the pleasure of presenting at a number of forums including the annual GPA conference, a ULI/CNU Small Summit, and the MicroLife Institute’s Innovative Housing Summit. We have used these great opportunities to dig into some concepts we’ve been contemplating for a long time, focusing specifically on the need for more housing in our most beloved communities. Read more

Our Top 10 Wishlist for Encouraging Small Development in Atlanta

We had the honor of being part of a symposium for Atlanta’s Historic Westside yesterday, which was put on by the Westside Future Fund, CNU and the Chick-fil-A Foundation. The symposium focused on bringing together an array of stakeholders involved in the Westside to have honest discussions around community wealth creation, equitable development and historic preservation.

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Cultivating Your Farm

One of many blighted homes returned to working order as part of the award-winning Renewal Homes project in New Orleans.

We spend a lot of time working with the Incremental Development Alliance training folks to be small developers. One of our many goals is to help build community wealth through infill housing at a scale compatible with traditional neighborhoods, also known as Missing Middle Housing. This is housing that fits within a single-family neighborhood, but with more units than a single family home. This might be a home with an accessory dwelling unit, a duplex, fourplex, maybe even a six or eight plex.

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Decatur Tiny House Festival

Curious about owning an ADU? Kronberg Wall Architects has partnered with local designers and builders to create the ATL ADU CO, a complete design/build/deliver service. The ATL ADU CO offers several ADU designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at info@atladuco.com.

We enjoyed the opportunity to share our thoughts on ADUs at the Decatur Tiny House Festival this past weekend. For those who couldn’t make it and are interested in learning more about why we give a hoot and what we’re doing about it, click below to download our presentation.

Link to KWA Tiny House Presentation

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So You’re Running for Office…

Dignified Missing Middle housing and single family housing coexisting peacefully in Candler Park, Atlanta, a stone’s throw from a thriving commercial node and a 10-minute walk from a heavy rail station.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a young, hopeful person who has decided to run for city council.  This candidate has focused on issues of inclusion and equity as cornerstone principles.  While I fully support these principles in the abstract, I want to know immediately what specific policies would be rolled out to promote these goals.   I treasure these opportunities to change minds and dismantle perceptions and expectations.  It also gives me a chance to work through theories bouncing around in my head in real time as well.

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ADU Update + Call to Action!

Curious about owning an ADU? Kronberg Wall Architects has partnered with local designers and builders to create the ATL ADU CO, a complete design/build/deliver service. The ATL ADU CO offers several ADU designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at info@atladuco.com.

If you’re wondering what happened to our ADU dreams, you’ll be happy to hear that we have been working diligently over the past few months to make them a reality. First, we are wrapping up construction document sets for our two ADU prototypes and hope to have final pricing on these in the next few weeks. Stay tuned! Second, we have been working with the city to revise the R-5 zoning legislation to allow ADUs as-of-right, in addition to the already allowed Guest Houses (check out the map or the City of Atlanta website to see where R-5 zoning exists). The proposed zoning changes passed ZRB last night and will now move on to the City Council Zoning Committee for review. Read on to find out the specifics of the zoning changes and how you can help make sure they happen! And if you’re still unclear on the benefits of ADUs / why we think this is important legislation, check out our previous post.

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ADU Math

Curious about owning an ADU? Kronberg Wall Architects has partnered with local designers and builders to create the ATL ADU CO, a complete design/build/deliver service. The ATL ADU CO offers several ADU designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at info@atladuco.com.

One of the things that gets us most excited about ADUs is the financial math.  Here’s why.  Cities across the nation are struggling to find ways to provide more affordable housing to meet growing demand, both little ‘a’ affordable housing and big ‘A’ Affordable Housing.  Little ‘a’ housing is often also called workforce housing.  This housing is intended to be accessible to people making up to 80% of the area median income (AMI in housing speak).  Housing for police, firefighters, teachers, recent college grads with a lot of student debt.  For Atlanta, this translates into monthly rents of $764 for an efficiency, $820 for a one bedroom, and $949 for a two bedroom.

Let’s talk about approximate costs for the ADUs we are designing.  While we are still working through costing with our builder, we are expecting that the one bedroom version should cost somewhere between $95,000-$115,000 depending on specific site conditions.  The two bedroom is expecting to cost somewhere between $125,000-$145,000.  These numbers are the all-in cost.  Design, permitting, construction, utility hookups, etc. etc. are included in these numbers.

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ADUs: Looking for Good Homes

UPDATE: The ATL ADU CO now has its own website! A complete design/build/deliver service, the ATL ADU CO offers several designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at info@atladuco.com.

If our last cliffhanger post didn’t get you pumped about ADUs, let’s hope this one can deliver. As mentioned in the previous post, we are excited to announce our very own ADU design / build /deliver service. We have designed two prototypes (floor plans and renderings shown above) and have done our due diligence on codes, constraints, financing and delivery methods. All of that to say, if you like what you see, you could have one of these in your backyard very soon!

Interested to know more?

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A Market Solution for Affordable Housing: ADUs

UPDATE: The ATL ADU CO now has its own website! A complete design/build/deliver service, the ATL ADU CO offers several designs that meet a variety of price points, space needs, and site conditions, and our team of experts provide step-by-step guidance to buyers. Learn more at www.atladuco.com, or email us at info@atladuco.com.

We have some exciting developments taking place at Kronberg Wall, and I mean that literally. We are flexing our development muscles as we aim to launch our newest branch of design expertise: Accessory Dwelling Units. What does it all mean? Well, the short of it is: we see a problem, and instead of waiting around for a solution, we are going to create one.

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IOR IN FULL SWING

KWA is back at it in New Orleans, with the latest Iberville Offsite Rehabilitation development underway. If you’re unfamiliar with the project, check out this previous post and this video for some background information.

The hard-at-work lady in the before and after photographs (yours truly) went from sweaty summer as-built visits in 2015 to mild winter construction administration visits in 2016/2017 (shout out to global warming). In the time period between these visits, the IOR team has dedicated their various skills to the rehabilitation of 16 historic single family homes in the Treme neighborhood into 30 new affordable housing units. The transformation that has taken place in these houses over the past year and a half is tremendous, and we are so excited to see them become homes very soon. We are very proud to be doing this important work in New Orleans, and we can’t wait to see these houses finished later this year!

Affordable Housing: Not If, but How

Affordable housing is now and will continue to be an exceedingly important and challenging need for cities across the nation, and Atlanta is no exception.   More and more people are looking to live closer to where they work, live, learn, and play.  We have a very limited amount of land that qualifies as walkable urban, and not even all of that has access to MARTA rail.  This scarce resource is rapidly becoming more expensive as a large and growing number of people compete for the limited amount of available housing.  The Beltline is sparking further demand, speculation, hope, and price appreciation as single-family homes and commercial properties become more desirable within this hoped-for walkability.

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Code Hack: Tiny Houses in Atlanta

 

Midtown Carriage House

There’s a lot of buzz about tiny houses right now, and as advocates for increased housing diversity and affordability, we thought it only right to jump into the conversation. Because we are based in Atlanta, and because tiny houses are not allowed under current zoning in Atlanta, we decided to search for a quick solution to get tiny houses in the mix right now. Why would we wait for our ordinances to be amended if we could find an interim code hack!?

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“Missing Middle” Housing is the Topic for July’s CNU T3 Event

An example of a cottage court in Berkeley, CA.

An example of a cottage court in Berkeley, CA.

The topic for this month’s CNU T3 event, happening Thursday, July 21, at 5:30pm in the KWA office, is “Tiny Houses & The Missing Middle: What’s the Big Deal?” With a host of other excellent speakers, our own Eric Kronberg will take an in-depth look at what Daniel Parolek calls America’s “missing middle” housing, the benefits of implementing this type of housing in urban areas like Atlanta, and the specific challenges to doing so in local neighborhoods. For now, take a look at the brief overview below, and get stoked for next week. Read more

KWA Wins Southface Fulcrum Award!

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Laura Daniel of KWA was on hand to accept the award, which is made from Forest Free wood from within the perimeter of Atlanta.

We’re happy to announce that KWA was recently selected as a recipient of a 2016 Fulcrum Award from Atlanta-based environmental advocacy and consultant group Southface! The Iberville Offsites in New Orleans were identified as a project that promotes Southface’s vision of a regenerative economy, responsible resource use, social equity and a healthy built environment for all. Read more

URBAN RETAIL DESIGN CAMP

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Airstream trailers used by food vendors in Seaside are a great example of successful lean urbanism tactics (photo: EK)

I had the absolute pleasure of spending a few days at the Seaside Institute taking a deep dive into what makes urban retail successful.  Two of the leaders in town center design, Bob Gibbs and Terry Shook, led the class.  An amazing amount of material was shared and much ground was covered. Here’s a quick recap.

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The Siren Call of the 203k Loan

I had the chance to listen to the Strong Towns podcast about a failed mixed use redevelopment attempt via a 203k loan with Ian Rasmussen. Listening to the story, I felt Ian’s pain.  I’ve made a few previous warning comments regarding 203k loans to folks in the Small Builder/Developer Facebook Group.  I’m going to take this opportunity to share as much as I can regarding this loan product so folks can make as educated a decision as possible regarding funding source for mixed-use projects.

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Popcorn Time: Placemaking 101

We spend a lot of time talking about the specifics of placemaking – parking regulations, zoning ordinances, code clauses – but these are all pieces of a bigger picture. We find that before diving into the details, it is critical to understand the macro concepts behind placemaking. If you’re interested in creating great urban places, grab some popcorn (or a turkey sandwich) and take a look the videos below, the first of which are from our friends at Strong Towns, who do an excellent job of summing up these big ideas behind successful placemaking endeavors.

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Big Picture Zoning Thoughts

The City of Atlanta has engaged consultants to tackle a re-writing of our zoning ordinance.  This is a highly political process for any city.  Most current zoning ordinances are a combination of good intentions producing bad outcomes for most places, and Atlanta’s ordinance is no exception.  It is important to think about positive examples of places that we love, and work backwards to allow those places to be legally built without special hurdles.  It is also important to be aware that there are a range of these seemingly innocent under the hood items that result in bad outcomes for our neighborhoods.  In an effort of transparency and sharing information, we’ve put together this blog post to outline our current thinking on a range of issues.  This will be somewhat policy heavy, so you’ve been warned.

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ICYMI: Eric Kronberg Interview in Curbed Atlanta

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Eric Kronberg (left) and Adam Wall of Kronberg Wall architects during the open house event celebrating the opening of KWA’s new office in a renovated church in Reynoldstown.

In a profile published last week by Curbed Atlanta, KWA’s Eric Kronberg discussed where he got his start as a designer, his thoughts on the creation of enjoyable urban spaces, and how he sees Atlanta’s urban evolution. Great read for anyone concerned about Atlanta’s design future, adaptive reuse architecture, or the development of walkable, bikeable, affordable and enjoyable urban spaces. You can find the article on the Curbed Atlanta site here.

LISTEN: Eric Kronberg Interviewed on Atlanta’s Business

Newstalk 1160 Logo

Over the weekend Eric Kronberg sat down with Jeff Davis, host of 1160 AM’s Atlanta’s Business, to discuss how parking regulations effect endeavors in placemaking by making it more difficult to foster walkability, bikeability, and affordability. For those who didn’t hear the original broadcast, the interview is available here.

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Read: Richard Willson, “Case against Minimum Parking Requirements”

In a recent post, we referenced Richard Willson’s book Parking Reform Made Easy, specifically the second chapter, “Case against Minimum Parking Requirements.” We have yet to find a more complete summary of the detrimental effects of legally-mandated parking, an issue that we and many other architects and planners believe is central to the pursuit of creating more enjoyable and sustainable urban environments. Willson and Island Press were kind enough to grant us permission to share this chapter, in the hopes that access to these ideas might increase understanding of how parking requirements undermine nearly every positive aspect of urban space. We encourage you to read Willson’s book in its entirety; it can be found at http://www.islandpress.org/parking-reform-made-easy.

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SMALL HOUSES NEED LOVE TOO

Small House

A major part of maintaining and promoting healthy communities is finding ways to maximize the existing housing stock. Many neighborhoods in Atlanta have an abundance of post-WWII housing. These houses tend to be small, and efficient. Often they have two bedrooms and only a single bathroom. There is nothing inherently wrong with this layout, but progress demands that the housing stock be upgraded to keep up with contemporary society. We have helped many families brainstorm how to re-configure these houses over the years. One couple wanted to stay in their neighborhood and start a family, another owner wanted to expand so that he and his partner could stay in a neighborhood they love, while increasing their overall level of comfort.

Recently, some close friends approached us about downsizing. They no longer need their 5 bedroom house in Decatur. They cashed out and purchased one of these post-war houses. It’s an admirable exercise in “right-sizing,” as they try to determine the best way to alter their new home to fit their family of four.

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WE WON A NATIONAL TRUST AWARD!

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We are truly honored to be the recipients of the National Trust/ HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation with Redmellon for our efforts restoring 46 blighted homes in New Orleans’ Treme and 7th Ward neighborhoods. This project provides low-income housing for historically under-served areas of the city, creating innovative solutions for sensible rehabilitation and social change.

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CONSCIOUS URBAN PLACEMAKING: NEW ORLEANS

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We believe in cities and we believe in neighborhoods that preserve their past and maintain their culture. New Orleans is at the stage of development where a conscious urban infill approach is essential in both preserving and promoting its neighborhood cultures. More than 200,000 residents have returned to the city after Katrina and have struggled with re-establishing their communities. Nonetheless, New Orleans is a resilient city. Architectural Record named New Orleans as one of their In-Demand Cities in their October issue.

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