Bo’s news clips: “tiny people, building their tiny houses.”

As the economy slowly improves, persons pressed into crowded households are relocating to new units, but some stay in extended families. The austere market has responded with mini-houses as small as 200 square feet and “bonus room” houses designed for extended families.

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New households sign economy is resurging

ECONOMY Creation of new households is near the pre-recession rate, an indicator of growing confidence

By Carolyn Said      San Francisco Chronicle      December 2, 2012

After graduating from UC Berkeley two years ago, Karen Rogers lived in a six-person group house in Berkeley while she stashed away cash to get her own place.

“I figured if I waited a while, I would be able to save more money and the housing market would become more affordable,” she said.

Now Rogers, 25, is in the midst of unpacking and supervising some kitchen renovations on a one-bedroom condo she recently bought in Oakland’s Adams Point neighborhood.

Rogers exemplifies what economists call “household formation” – an economic indicator that in recent months has shown the country climbing out of its recession doldrums.

When times are tough, people double up their living situations to save money. Boomerang kids return home after college; twentysomethings share with roommates; couples postpone tying the knot or starting a family; foreclosed-upon families move in with relatives. But when the economy is doing well, household formation rises, as people get the income – and the confidence – to commit to renting or buying their own place.

That’s happening now, according to the Census Bureau. Americans formed 1.15 million new households during the 12 months ended in September – a big jump from the annual average of 650,000 new households added during the prior four years. The current rate is still a bit shy of the typical average of 1.25 million household formations a year.

“It’s a signal that confidence is coming back,” said Robert Denk, senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders. “People are getting more secure in what they think the future will be. Young people are moving out of their parents’ homes or giving up their college roommates to set up their own houses.”

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Home, squeezed home: Living in a 200-square-foot space

By Emily Wax        Washington Post        November 27, 2012

Step into an alleyway in the Northeast Washington neighborhood known as Stronghold, and you will see a vegetable patch, a campfire, a view of the Capitol and a cluster of what neighbors call “those tiny people, building their tiny houses.”

The people aren’t really tiny, but their homes are — 150 to 200 square feet of living space, some with gabled roofs, others with bright cedar walls, compact bathrooms and cozy sleeping lofts that add up to living spaces that are smaller than the walk-in closets in a suburban McMansion.

“This is the dream,” says Rin Westcott, 28, who lives in Columbia and came out on a wintry Saturday afternoon bundled in a flower hat to help her friend Lee Pera with a tiny-house raising.

Pera, 35, wore safety goggles as she treated the cedar boards of her “little house in the alleyway,” one of three under construction in what is thought to be one of the country’s first tiny-house model communities.

If these affordable homes — which maximize every inch of interior space and look a little like well-constructed playhouses — are the dream, they represent a radically fresh version of what it takes to make Americans happy.

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Under One Roof, Building for Extended Families

By Pentalope Green      New York Times      Nov. 30, 2012

Tom and Kristin Moser’s new house — nearly 3,000 square feet in a development outside Tucson — has all the modern amenities, including solar panels and an open kitchen. But their house also has a feature that the builders are betting will be a hit, like the dog showers and craft rooms that beckoned during the boom. Tucked inside is a one-bedroom apartment with its own garage and a discrete entrance around the side.

The Mosers wanted the built-in apartment not to bring in a renter to help pay the mortgage, but rather as a home for Mr. Moser’s 82-year-old widowed father.

“More than weekly visits and phone calls, he really needs to be around family,” Mr. Moser, an investment manager, said of his father, Lee. “It’s the way he was raised. I think as a society it’s a way we have to step back into.”

Built by Lennar, one of the country’s largest homebuilders, it is the most extreme example of the sort of options, like 400-square-foot “bonus” rooms, that many of the big builders are now offering to accommodate the changing shape of the American family: boomer couples with boomerang children and aging parents, an increasingly multiethnic population with a tradition of housing three generations under one roof, and even singles who may need to double up with siblings or friends in this fraught economic climate.

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Galveston Housing Authority board OKs $72M budget for mixed-income projects

By Michael A. Smith       Galveston County Daily News        December  4, 2012

GALVESTON — Housing authority commissioners on Monday approved a $72.2 million budget for the controversial replacement of two demolished public-housing projects with mixed-income developments catering to both the poor and the general housing market.

The approved budget, which will be sent to the Texas General Land Office, increased about 4.2 percent from a $69.3 million budget master developer McCormack Baron Salazar presented last week, Chairman Irwin M. “Buddy” Herz said. The increase was in the amount the authority anticipates spending on “human capital” programs for residents of the developments and in developer fees, according to budget documents.

Human capital programs include such things as job training and child care aimed at helping people work themselves out of poverty.

The previous budget had anticipated spending slightly more than $1 million on those programs. The approved budget anticipates spending almost $2.6 million, according to budget documents.

Developer fees rose to $18.4 million from $17.1 million that was listed on the budget presented last week.

The amount the housing authority will contribute to construction also was amended from the earlier budget, Herz said.

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Isle’s mixed-income developments could pay more than some luxury apartments

By Michael A. Smith       Galveston County Daily News      December 2, 2012

GALVESTON — How much should property existing primarily to house the poor be expected to contribute to governments such as the city and school district, which serve people living in those developments?

It’s a complex question being negotiated between Galveston Housing Authority staff members and officials of McCormack Baron Salazar, the master developer on a project to replace some of the public housing units demolished after being flooded during Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Many fundamental issues remain unresolved, and neither McCormack Baron Salazar officials nor housing authority staff members are willing to talk much about the negotiations.

McCormack Baron Salazar, however, already is estimating the taxable part of developments will pay about $1,000 per living unit a year, Mike Duffy, senior vice president of Finance, said during a public meeting Monday.

At that rate, the mixed-income developments would be paying more per unit than island apartment complexes advertising themselves as “luxury” or “resort” properties, based on a review of appraisal district and county tax office records.

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Looming Over Linwood

Neighborhood loses fight against apartments.

By Wyatt Kanyer      Fort Worth Weekly      November 30, 2012

The latest evidence of pressure on Fort Worth’s Linwood enclave is a project that will cast a long shadow on the park named for a man who fought to preserve the modest but tight-knit neighborhood through floods, a major tornado, and — most recently — the incursions of developers.

The Fort Worth Zoning Commission recently approved zoning for a four-story apartment complex with a parking garage. The 384-unit project will cover five acres now occupied by a set of rental duplexes plus vacant lots.

Some longtime residents are unhappy about the decision but feel they have won as many concessions as they could in the zoning process. And some of them are also unhappy with what they see as a lack of help from their Fort Worth City Council representative, Joel Burns.

Linwood is made up of one-story homes and duplexes, and developers of the West 7th corridor have been trying to buy land there for years.

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