Insights from Bill Ramsey
Housing Innovation Alliance
January 21, 2020
Over the next 5 years, the opportunity to provide new, attainable housing for middle income households is about 1 million homes per year. Together, we can make a difference.
How can we think differently and provide housing solutions for the missing middle? We recently discussed this with our community via think tanks and presentations at the 2019 live round table event in Denver. William Ramsey, principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning, spoke to the topic of Product.
Insights from Bill…
MIND THE EXCHANGE RATE
Homes built with less square footage means builders don’t have to scrimp elsewhere.
“It’s one thing to be attainable and cost efficient, but a home still has to be desirable. It’s not enough for someone to be able to afford to purchase the home, they also must want to purchase the home,” says William Ramsey, principal at KTGY Architecture + Planning, headquartered in Irvine, Calif.
One concept KTGY uses in its site planning and design is “exchange — You can’t just take things away to make a smaller home; you also have to give something back.”
Ramsey uses the guest or secondary bedroom as an example. “Everyone likes a space for guests, but for most of the year it’s wasted space. An 11 by 11 bedroom plus closet is square footage that rarely gets used.” Instead, KTGY designs spaces with flexible uses. For example, a small home office or nook off the living room easily converts with the use of a day bed and privacy enclosure. The idea is to get more than one use out of a space — and make a home “small and special.”
Small Space. Big Living.
Small and special starts outside the home with a structurally efficient design. You, the builder, want a buyer to see the money that’s being spent. You want the things buyers don’t see – structural, mechanical — to be durable and effective, but to do so without waste or ineffeciencies.
The good thing about smaller homes is that if you’re reducing square footage — exchange, again — you can provide nicer materials and finishes. For example, you can use more expensive cabinets because you’re using so much less. “People are okay with smaller; they are not okay with worse,” Ramsey says.
Inside, open floor plans and higher ceilings make a space feel big. Using the same number of windows, but with a smaller footprint, light can penetrate more deeply into the home. Plus, “making great rooms, bathrooms and secondary spaces brighter makes them feel larger,” Ramsey says.
Right People. Right Project.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the target market for smaller homes is often first-time buyers — many of whom are coming from apartments. In the past few years, the amenities’ war has heated up. Buyers are used to higher-end finishes and appliances as well as access to external amenities like hiking trails and bike paths, athletic facilities, and a walkable lifestyle in a great location.
Designing smaller homes may mean you’re removing some of the private spaces, but you should compensate when possible with communal space. “The drive for these smaller homes isn’t the size, it’s the livability. You’re providing ownership that’s similar to a condo,” Ramsey says. “Now [the buyer says] I have my own yard; a detached home, some private space.”
KTGY finds the sweet spot for smaller homes is 1,200 square feet to 1,600 square feet, but the firm has designed homes as small as 600 square feet. They are also working with Toll Brothers across the country and private builders such as Garbett Homes in Salt Lake City. “Public builders have been historically less progressive when it comes to design approaches,” Ramsey says, “But there’s a willingness on their part now to look at these smaller projects. They see this as a great solution to the growing problem of attainability, while still providing a home that they, and the buyer, can be proud of.”