Affordable Streets

South Chapel Street

South Chapel Street, Fells Point, Baltimore. Image credit: Google Maps

Affordability is central to creating sustainable communities. As pressure mounts to build walkable communities, current land use policy and development practices focus on expensive high-rise infill in existing towns and cities. Small streets can create the same or higher densities on a more human scale for fewer up-front capital costs. Homes in the photo on the left are estimated to be valued between $80k and $180k, putting them within reach for many couples, young families, and seniors. Having the opportunity to buy a less expensive house early in life helps build equity and pride of home ownership. The small houses require less maintenance than larger homes and are within walking distance of amenities-both features appealing to seniors living on fixed incomes.

Butchers Hill

Butchers Hill, Baltimore. Image Credit: Google Maps.

Small streets help to create affordable housing in good urban neighborhoods. The homes on the main streets in the neighborhood pictured at right are very grand in both size and architectural detail. However, around the corner down the small street in this photo are smaller, more affordable houses. The two housing types co-exist harmoniously, complimenting each other to create an economically diverse neighborhood that is beautiful and stable.

Tumbleweed Tiny House

Tumbleweed Tiny House.
Image credit: Nicholas Boullosa

There is a growing consciousness in our culture that bigger is not always better, and that smaller is often more affordable and more practical too. The small house movement is an example of this. While these charming houses are often prohibited in existing walkable neighborhoods, changing the laws to allow these housing options in our cities and town will further enable the creation of sustainable communities. Another example is the call for small scale, or “urban acupuncture” projects, in contrast to the mega-urban renewal projects of the mid 20th century. Small streets allow for neighborhoods to grow and evolve slowly and sustainably, which cost less in a life-cycle analysis.

We are well aware that a diversity of housing types does not guarantee affordability in desirable neighborhoods. Therefore Small Streets strongly advocates for affordable housing policies to be tied to the legalization of small streets. We aim to work with other affordable housing advocates to ensure that our cities and towns are democratic spaces accessible to all.