Scalable Affordable Housing

For any housing solution to sustainably address the inequality faced by marginalized and vulnerable populations, that solution must be scalable. It’s “easy” to house one family. It’s “easy” to include a small handful of affordable housing units in a large residential development project. But a large-scale problem like that of housing inequality requires solutions that are just as feasible for one family as they are for a thousand.

It’s estimated that 3,300 people were experiencing homelessness in Spokane, Washington, last fall–1.5% of the city’s population. At PEER Homes, we want to make sure everyone gets home.

Scalable designs like the The PEER Homes 2×2 Affordable Home make that possible. This ultra-efficient, compact 625ft2 rectangular floor-plan accommodates four adults safely, comfortably, healthfully, and sustainably; and it does so whether it’s built as a single-family residence on its own lot, clustered in a community of cottages, or stacked and staggered into duplexes, triplexes, or high-rises.

Cleverly designed to be inexpensive to build and to use materials and space efficiently, The PEER Homes 2×2 utilizes a single “wet wall” for all plumbing, HVAC, power, and telecommunications. Not only can units be sandwiched together to share utility access, but their long-term maintenance is made simpler and cheaper.

This design delivers scalable density. Using just 0.04 acres–that’s 32’x44′–of land, pairs of sandwiched 2x2s can be stacked as high as desired. A 12-unit, 6-story configuration houses 48 people on just 1,400ft2 of property, all while staying under the 55-foot height limit for zoning areas like Spokane’s Centers and Corridors.

PEER Homes is committed to ensuring all residences can withstand feasibility analysis and produce a reasonable rate of return while collecting only Fair Market Rents (FMR), as defined by HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research.

Rented at the 2021 FMR of $1,007, these 2-bedroom units are ideal for Spokane Housing Authority Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and other forms of housing assistance. Even with a 5% vacancy rate this 12 unit building generates nearly $138,000 per year in rent revenue while remaining affordable and accessible for all.

PEER Homes doesn’t see affordable housing as charity or a write-off. Housing can be both profitable for builders and developers AND affordable and accessible to everyone.

Pandemic-Informed Housing

PEER Homes is learning lessons from the novel coronavirus pandemic to design and build housing that can slow the spread of pathogens.

We should all be thoroughly washing our hands more often, and scrubbing as soon as we walk in the door is a proven method for keeping our homes free from the pathogens we picked up while out and about.

Residents and guests stop to remove outwear and wash their hands before entering the home.

By situating washrooms at both entries, everyone is reminded to wash well before entering the home. The vestibule at the front entry provides seating for you and your guests to remove shoes, masks, and outerwear and then store them in this transitional space away from the rest of the home.

Ultraviolet sterilization kills microbes on masks and other belongings.

Automatic ultraviolet sterilization lamps mounted above mask hooks and shoe storage kill pathogens on your belongings while you’re not wearing them. (We deploy the same technology at the kitchen sink to kill the microbes that live in your dish scrubber, so you can use it safely for much longer–and it doesn’t stink!)

Touch-less light switches and faucets cut down on fomite contamination. High-touch surfaces that can’t be made touch-less can be made safer with antimicrobial materials, including copper.

HVAC registers are HEPA filtered to improve air quality and safety. As a bonus, this filtration keeps indoor air healthy even when the outdoor Air Quality Index climbs into the Hazardous PM2.5 concentrations that are becoming more common during the autumn fire season.

We at PEER Homes believe everyone deserves a healthy home, and we’re applying the lessons of the global COVID-19 pandemic to make sure everyone gets home safe.

Placemaking in Spokane

PEER Homes is committed to “placemaking”–deliberately designing public spaces where friends and families gather, social and economic exchanges occur, and cultures mix. The Project for Public Spaces has found that the best spots have activities, are accessible, are comfortable, and are sociable. They are the kinds of places that locals might bring visitors from out of town.

What Makes a Great Place?
What Makes a Great Place?

Each of PEER Homes residential housing projects incorporates ideas from the practice of placemaking. We believe that home is more than a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Home is the community in which we live. Home is a place. PEER Homes creates places that make us all feel at home.

Spokane Housing Action Plan Working Group

PEER Homes is on the City of Spokane’s Housing Action Plan Working Group. The group is formulating a plan to help increase housing options that are affordable and accessible for people and families of all incomes. As Spokane grows, we are facing a gap in housing supply. The plan will provide a strategic approach to address current and future housing needs of the Spokane community. When completed, it will provide a coordinated vision that supports more people being able to find a home that meets their needs with access to opportunities, services and amenities. This process builds upon previous community discussions and initiatives around infill development, housing quality, and affordable housing funding.

Spokane’s Housing Action Plan will:

  • Encourage construction of additional affordable and market rate housing that are accessible to a variety of income levels. This includes options accessible to people and families with low and moderate incomes and cost-burdened households.
  • Examine population, workforce and housing trends.
  • Assess housing policies, development regulations, and other city programs that influence the development of housing.
  • Consider strategies to minimize displacement, particularly in neighborhoods with communities at high risk of displacement.

The City received a grant from the Washington Department of Commerce to complete the plan, which is expected to adopted by City Council in April 2021.

PEER Homes is part of the City’s conversation on housing regulation, land use and housing policy, and equity in housing. We’re speaking up on systemic racism, inaccessible spaces, and extractive economics.

Residential Property Design Contest

We’re looking for bold mixed-use urban site ideas. The projects should be a dense blend of affordable/accessible housing (1bd/1ba, 2bd/1ba), pedestrian/bicycle-friendly place-making, retail/dining, and a small food market. Our favorite designs will incorporate underground parking, green/passive/living-house building concepts, ADA/universal design and accessibility, solar/geothermal power and HVAC, xeriscaping, rainwater catchment, food gardening, flexible outdoor space that can handle snow, rain, and hot sun.

Let your imagination run wild, and create properties that will buzz with diversity and joy. Contact us for more design parameters and contest rules.

Housing as a Human Right?

The US government doesn’t think of housing as a right; but the UN does, along with other governments and NGOs.

We at PEER Homes subscribe to Kate Raworth’s concept of “Doughnut Economics“–meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet. We believe that each of us is born with the same rights–yes, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”–but also to so much more: shelter, nutrition, water, health, education, income and work, peace and justice, political voice, social justice, gender equality… and it’s within our means to provide for these rights for everyone, no matter the color of their skin or the place of their birth.

The Constitution doesn’t specifically list housing among those inalienable rights “endowed by our Creator,” but neither did it list suffrage for women or people of color. So, it’s not a right in the legal sense. Nonetheless, we do feel principled in the argument that housing is a basic human right. When we think of rights, we don’t think of laws. Constitutions and laws can be enacted to protect rights, but the rights themselves existed in each of us innately.

Housing Inequality

Housing inequality is a form of economic inequality marked by disparities in the quality of housing. Housing is recognized as a basic human right by the United Nations and by many national constitutions, as the lack of adequate housing has adverse consequences for individuals, families, communities, and societies.

Spokane, Washington, has a history of systemic residential discrimination which currently impacts residents who are marginalized for their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, nationality, disability, health, addiction, justice-system involvement, and more.

Northwest Fair Housing Alliance – The work that provided the basis for this public service announcement was supported by funding under a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. NWFHA is solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this video. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.

Social Purpose Corporation

A new type of corporate business model is established under the WBCA, the social purpose corporation–sometimes called a “B-Corp” or benefit corp. An SPC, while subject to all the provisions applicable to other corporations, must be organized to promote a general social purpose that is intended to positively affect certain constituencies. These constituencies must include one or more of:

  • the corporation’s employees, suppliers, or customers;
  • the local, state, national, or world community; or
  • the environment.

In addition, a social purpose corporation may set forth specific social purposes for which the corporation is organized.

PEER Homes was founded to provide residential housing in a manner which benefits all three of the the above constituencies, specifically by sustainably addressing housing inequality faced by marginalized and vulnerable populations.

B Lab Certification

Certifying as a B Corporation goes beyond product- or service-level certification. B Corp Certification is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates how your company’s operations and business model impact your workers, community, environment, and customers. From your supply chain and input materials to your charitable giving and employee benefits, B Corp Certification proves your business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance.

Positive impact is supported by transparency and accountability requirements. B Corp Certification doesn’t just prove where your company excels now—it commits you to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into your company’s legal structure.

PEER Homes is pursuing certification as a B Corporation.