Fixing Up Old Small Homes in Cities

Photo by Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

There was an article in the New York Times on March 7, 2015, that mentioned that there are 800 or so abandoned homes in the Bay Area city of Richmond. I think that fixing up run-down homes in less than opulent cities is one of the most viable, practical, and economical things that people wishing to create their own shelter could do in these times.

In fact, I make a point of shooting photographs of small homes in cities like Richmond, San Leandro, Hayward, Vallejo — nearby places where (some) neighborhoods are run down, but hopefully not infested with drug dealers and crime. I guess it’s a balancing act — if you can find a neighborhood that is on its way up, instead of one that is dangerous and has no hope for the future.

Detroit, for example, has scores of well-built small homes in decaying neighborhoods.

I sort of have a fantasy about fixing up an old place and planting a garden and making friends with the neighbors, who will be pleased that someone is improving their neighborhood. Having a house party and inviting the neighbors. People respond to positive action. It could work.

This will be one of the main subjects in our forthcoming book, Small Homes.

4 Responses to Fixing Up Old Small Homes in Cities

  1. Jonni says:

    This is a great idea, Lloyd. In fact, there are also some wonderful tiny homes in small agricultural towns, too. You can often buy one, with the large lot they sit on, for less than the cost of building a tiny house on wheels. I’m in the process of buying one right now, as a matter of fact.

  2. Cats4510 says:

    This is a great topic to address. I am down sizing to semi retire and am buying a small house (660 square feet). I would like to incorporate some of the wonderful features I have seen in tiny homes but not sure where to start. I would like to see more about retrofitting existing housing to maximize use of space and energy efficiency, solar power, etc.

  3. Christine says:

    Love this story. Need some catalysts to come in, rabble rouse, figure out some of the process to get things going. A great adventure to add to a bucket list!

  4. Peter Robinson says:

    Detroit must have more than “scores” of well-built small homes. The city has tens of thousands of properties under tax foreclosure, and a lot of them must be in saveable condition and in reasonable neighborhoods. There was a recent tentative deal – since fallen through – where a developer was offering to buy over 6,000 of them from the city for around $3M, or $500 per house. The city was not actually expecting anyone to bid on them and was just going through the motions to get itself into a legal position where it could demolish them.

    It is interesting to use Google Street View to look at some of these houses. There are some real beauties there: 1920’s bungalows with rosewood doors, stained glass windows and lovely brickwork. Unfortunately, just down the road is a scary-looking burnt out ruin, that my suspicious mind says was a crack house or a meth lab.

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