Mercatus Center references Point Access Blocks for new solutions to housing shortages

The Mercatus Center at George Washington University recently released a policy brief on solutions to statewide housing shortages, referencing Eliason’s writing on Point Access Blocks.

The policy brief, written by Mercatus’s Salim Furth and Emily Hamilton, features sixteen options for housing reform. The last option, ‘Option 16: Allow Skinny Apartment Buildings‘ is a direct reference to the reason Point Access Blocks in low-rise and mid-rise buildings are rare in the U.S. outside of Seattle and New York City.

The International Building Code, which is used across much of the United States, requires that multifamily buildings over three stories include two staircases that are accessible from each unit. This requirement leads to multifamily buildings that generally have long corridors with units on each side, known as double-loaded corridors. Double-loaded corridor buildings cannot be built on small sites, and the requirements lead developers to build small units because each unit only has windows on one side. Like several European and Asian countries, New York City and Seattle’s building codes permit multifamily buildings up to six stories with a single staircase if they have other fire safety features including sprinklers and materials with slow burn times. This has opened up opportunities for lower-cost multifamily construction and units large enough to accommodate families. States can either revise statewide building codes to permit single-stair buildings or allow cities to permit them in local building codes.

The report references an article Larch Lab’s Eliason wrote for Treehugger in April 2021, The Case for More Single Stair Buildings in the US.’

There are numerous benefits to Point Access Blocks, but unlocking small-scale low-rise and mid-rise multifamily housing – that can better incorporate climate adaptive architecture and a mix of unit sizes and types over status quo construction almost exclusively double loaded corridors – is a big one. You can read more about Point Access Blocks in our report on the topic for the City of Vancouver.

We are very much interested in expanding the discourse on housing, livability, and qualities of urbanity that are severely lacking in North American multifamily buildings. If you’re interested in discussing or collaborating on this issue, or other issues around decarbonized and family-friendly housing, please contact us.

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