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SquareOne Villages is a 501(c)3 non-profit  organization        |        Tax ID # 46-0801991        |        CCB # 224446        |        © 2019 SquareOne Villages

The Model is a collaborative, community-based approach to building and sustaining long-lasting, affordable housing. This page provides a high-level planning tool for strategically scaling the Village Model. 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 reimagined affordable housing is three keys ways: Ownership Structure, Physical Form, and Financing Strategy. Each of these innovative components is described in detail on the pages that follow. And since we can’t do this alone, we conclude with a section on Collaboration in which we outline opportunities for partnering to bring this vision to fruition on a larger scale.

Ownership Structure 

 

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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 (CLT-LEC).

 

In this arrangement, SquareOne acts as a community land trust and retains ownership of the underlying land, while the limited equity cooperative owns and manages the housing and improvements on the land. The result is a sustainable form of homeownership, accessible to people with very low-incomes. It includes strong affordability controls to ensure that the housing stock is retained at affordable rates for future generations to come. This multi-layered ownership structure has also proven to be a safer financial investment and a more prudent use of resources when compared to the conventional housing market.

Physical Form 

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The Village Model clusters compact residential dwellings around shared community spaces and resources—providing significant economic, environmental, and social benefits.

 

Known as a Tiny House Village, this physical form combines the privacy and autonomy of a single-family house with the greater density and economy associated with a multi-family 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.

Finance Strategy 

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The Village Model adopts a scalable financing strategy that includes a sustainable mix of public subsidies, charitable contributions, resident contributions, and debt financing.

 

Public funding available for new affordable housing construction remains inadequate, and often adds unnecessary complexity and cost to new development. And debt financing a project without subsidies leads to higher rents that are unaffordable to people with low-incomes. Consequently we avoided both of these with our first project, and instead relied entirely on charitable contributions. While this provided flexibility in developing cost-effective housing, it came with its own challenges adding significant time and uncertainty to the development timeline. In this section we lay out a more sustainable path for scaling the SquareOne Village model. By diversifying our funding sources while keeping expenses low through a combination of affordability strategies, we can provide more housing with the limited amount of public subsidy available.

Collaboration 

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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 that can provide low-interest loans to finance more villages, and 3) public policy makers that can advocate for and guide new legislation and funding sources to support this model. 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.

This work has been made possible thanks to a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust.