Retrofitting Community

Favorite quotations, etc.
white belt
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Jan 14, 2021 4:20 pm
In Detroit you could buy a whole block of decrepit houses each on its own .2 acre lot for $160,000. Of course, you might also have to spend 10x that to get them back up to code. Speaking of lead, Flint real estate is also quite affordable :(

Yeah the property I linked is overpriced but the layout is typical of rowhomes in the city (it is a corner lot which goes for a heftier price tag, but i think you could score a comparable property for $100-125k even in today's ridiculous bull market). In Philadelphia there is definitely a sweet spot between the ultra low end decrepit house that requires a complete tear down/rebuild to meet code and a house that may look aesthetically unpleasing but is structurally sound and easy to get up code. What also appeals to me about this style of house is all of the plumbing is along the back wall, which makes retrofitting alternative plumbing options a bit easier (not sure if city code addresses gray water, but I know rain water harvesting and cisterns are legal). The 2 story rowhomes were all designed for working class families in the early 20th century and are not very popular among contemporary home buyers because they are small with only 1 bathroom (the ones that sell have been re-done with modern decor/amenities and additional bathroom on the ground floor). They are also not large enough to split into multiple units, so real estate investors stay away from them unless they are going to do a complete demolition and build a shiny new multifamily house on the lot. That leaves a sweet spot of opportunity for me on properties that are outdated but not in bad enough shape to justify a full tear down (maybe you can find similar niches in your area?). The city has tax abatements for improvements so I don't have to worry about increasing taxes from appreciation for a few years.

Thanks for the book recommendation, I'll check it out. In terms of energy flow, the obvious easy solution is to tap into the urban waste stream, but of course that's more of a bridge solution as we've talked about in other threads (I'd probably just use it to feed my biogas digester and maybe BSF larvae if I have quite a large setup). In other posts (compost toilet thread), I've brainstormed some ideas of feeding humanure and quail manure to grow BSF larvae and then feeding the harvested larvae to the quail as a closed loop solution. In some ways the ERE homesteader has flexibility because he does not need to generate a large profit by selling his products like a typical farmer, so you can really focus on crops that provide the highest yields (small fish, quail eggs, etc) even if they have no market potential.

@Jacob

I suspect there are personality and political differences at play on bottom-up vs top-down approaches. As an INTJ, the puzzle of optimizing systems within my own boundaries is what appeals to me.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6908
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I think liking to solve puzzle of optimizing systems within own boundaries is generally true for NTs , because I am an eNTP and that’s what I like best too. However, it has been my experience that once you start tracking the flows of storm drain overflow, alley cats, and litter into and out of your system, it can very quickly become political. So, as the author of the article suggests, it’s likely best to go in with the recognition that you will need a pretty large stock of Patient Fortitude in order to deal with some nearby humans and/or City Hall.

white belt
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Fri Jan 15, 2021 6:04 am
However, it has been my experience that once you start tracking the flows of storm drain overflow, alley cats, and litter into and out of your system, it can very quickly become political. So, as the author of the article suggests, it’s likely best to go in with the recognition that you will need a pretty large stock of Patient Fortitude in order to deal with some nearby humans and/or City Hall.
Agreed. I’m no stranger to how terrible neighbors and people in general can be. Fortunately the city has a very progressive water management code because of storm water runoff issues (dumping raw sewage into the local watersheds during storms isn’t the best idea?). The fact that my main garden is on the roof should also minimize interference from alley cats, nosy neighbors, thieves, and vandals. Nevertheless, I’m constantly evaluating risk of code violating/neighbor interference in any solution I build. I’ve deliberately emphasized solutions that have worked well for others in urban densely populated areas, such as indoor livestock, microgreens, bees on the roof, etc.

Nearly all things I’ve talked about for my project are completely legal and can be done according to code (just need to pay extra for permits and a licensed person to do the work). Composting humanure and draining gray water to a garden are both illegal at this time. Perhaps I can use some of my surplus financial capital to lobby/bribe officials for certain eco modifications to existing codes. I’m unsure if this would qualify as a beneficial use of capital from a energy/environmental perspective.

7Wannabe5
Posts: 6908
Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@white belt:

Gotcha. My problems have usually resulted from being too frugal(cheap) to pay for professionals to do the work. I keep looking and looking for ways to get around what seems to be the minimum head tax necessary to live sheltered without hassle in the U.S. I may need to improve my optionality with bigger cash cache towards initial investment, although I find that kind of annoying too. Why can 5 people live in a dwelling that is X square ft, but 1 person can't live in a dwelling that is X/3 square ft?

mooretrees
Posts: 430
Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:21 pm

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by mooretrees »

That original articles was really fun and inspiring. I live on a block with two rental properties on either side. I've thought about trying to buy one of the properties because it has a lovely south facing yard and a small house. I'm not really ready to consider it yet, but I can see how this could stay on the plate. However, I feel like we're kinda trying to do something similar as we're looking to park it on a friends property. I really like the idea of sharing a property, but not a home. It's not a bad thing to share a home with others, it's just that I've done it a lot.

@Whitebelt are you doing all of the stuff you're writing about currently or do you need to find a home still? I can't remember if you have a journal? A lot of what you're doing/thinking of doing is awesome. I watched most of the youtube video you shared and it was really neat to see how they dealt with water.

white belt
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

@mooretrees

Only in my dreams for now. I’m still locked into full time employment for another 3 years in a different area. In the meantime I’m experimenting with what’s possible in a small apartment and so far have done microgreens, worm composting, and urine harvesting. I’ve posted some stuff in the Apartment Homesteading thread.

I do have a journal that I occasionally update. I’m in the midst of a transition from salary man to Renaissance man, so many of my older journal posts are more in the realm of traditional FIRE.

Papers of Indenture
Posts: 184
Joined: Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:40 am
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by Papers of Indenture »

Partial shade tolerant berry bushes like black currant, honeyberry, goumi might offer more utility than a dwarf fruit tree on a micro urban lot in Philly. Especially if your postage stamp yard backs up to a shady alley. There are no common fruit trees that will give you a substantial harvest with only 4 hours of sun in that climate. Berries though? You've got options. A rooftop deck would certainly open up your options. We have a fair number of those in Baltimore....not sure how common they are in Philly. I know the housing stock is extremely similar.

I'm in zone 7A down the road in Baltimore currently experimenting with all sorts of berry production on a shady suburban lot. If you ever make your Philly dream come true let me know I would be down to collaborate.

white belt
Posts: 431
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by white belt »

@Papers of Indenture

Thanks for the tip! I hadn’t looked into berries that can be grown in the shade.

I’m still a couple of years away from implementing my urban homestead, so I have time to refine my ideas. My plan as of now would be to convert the entire row home roof into a garden which gets full sun (risk being that the area gentrifies around me and someone blocks my sun with a new 5 story apartment building). I’d put some dwarf fruit trees up there if the roof can support the weight of containers. I anticipate the shaded backyard to be more of a rain garden (potentially removing the concrete) with non-edible trees, habitat for pollinators, and space for an outdoor kitchen/processing area in warm weather. I’m trying to model based off of the house features that David Holmgren recommends in RetroSuburbia.

7Wannabe5
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Joined: Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

white belt wrote:Check out David Holmgren's Retrosuburbia. It's a 600+ page book on exactly the topic of retrofitting as a permaculture solution. His focus is on Australia, but I find that most of his ideas are applicable anywhere. It's available as an ebook for free (donation only).
Thanks for this recommendation. Great book! Also highly related to topic of this thread. Also super book to integrate with ERE concepts. Here's just one of the many excellent concepts explored:

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The other set of basic quadrants Holmgren introduces is Work vs Play and Market Norms vs Social Norms. So, for instance, if you are over towards Social rather than Market Norms, and your time is pretty evenly divided between Work and Play, your lifestyle might be described as Frugal Hedonism. OTOH, if your lifestyle is Working for the Man then your majority of time will be spent way up and over in Work/Market Norms quadrant.

The book also offers a great deal of advice on shopping for a property that would be well-suited for low energy future retrofit and specifics on achieving such a retrofit. Luckily, the property I am hopefully closing on next week did pretty well on his checklist of factors to consider :D

tsch
Posts: 41
Joined: Thu Feb 25, 2016 8:47 pm
Location: Sonoma County, CA

Re: Retrofitting Community

Post by tsch »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Sat Jan 30, 2021 12:36 pm
The book also offers a great deal of advice on shopping for a property that would be well-suited for low energy future retrofit and specifics on achieving such a retrofit. Luckily, the property I am hopefully closing on next week did pretty well on his checklist of factors to consider :D
Thanks for mentioning the property shopping/energy retrofit advice specifically...exactly what is on my mind at the moment.

And good luck with the property, 7W5! I am rooting for you!

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