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PMP Associates Blog

Townhouse Condominium Projects, are they still a good housing alternative?

Was it just a few years ago when small scale Townhouse Style condominium projects provided an alternative to single family houses?

What happened to this branch of the housing industry?

Let me first  tell you the story of the Cushing Mithcell Condominium, which is located on Central Street in East Bridgewater, MA.

The rambling, 6 bedroom dwelling at 90 Central Street was destroyed by fire and was too far gone to rebuild. Thankfully no one was hurt in the fire. The owner was not interested in replacing the building. A local developer, during his negotiations to purchase the property had P.M.P. Associates, LLC perform an initial due-diligence study to establish the various constraints to re-developing this property (Zoning set-back requirements, local groundwater protection requirements, need for new sanitary wastewater disposal “septic”  system, an existing driveway access  easement and the location within an historic area).

Since the property had a six bedroom dwelling, six bedrooms could be reconstructed on the property. However, only a single structure could be built and it needed to fit within the general footprint of the destroyed building.

After several concepts and alternatives that were developed by the project’s architect and civil engineer, three, two-bedroom townhouse units with a connecting two-car open front garage/carport were selected. To maintain the historical nature of the property, the front unit was rotated 90 degrees to face the street and the stone wall feature on the abutting property was extended along the front of this property.

Here is the final engineering site plan that was approved for the project.

Site Plan Drawing

Site Plan Drawing

This is a narrow lot that did not leave much room for the septic system. The right side of the property has a driveway easement for the abutting property, which had to be maintained. The site design took advantage of this requirement and combined it into the driveway access for the three units and guest parking.

Here is the engineering plan for the septic system.

Septic System Engineering Design Plan

Septic System Engineering Design Plan

The Town of East Bridgewater has a requirement to provide for groundwater recharge. To meet this requirement, the roof drainage was collected and directed to a recharge system that was designed specifically for the soil conditions at this property. The recharge system had to be located away from the septic system as well as the building foundation.

Here is what the completed complex looks like from the street.

Cushing Mitchell Comdominium - Front Unit

Cushing Mitchell Condominium - Front Unit

The other two units face the driveway and each unit is separated with an open garage / carport.

Cushing Mitchell Condominium - Units 2 & 3

Cushing Mitchell Condominium - Units 2 & 3

Before the first unit could be sold, P.M.P. Associates, LLC prepared, the condominium unit plans and condominium site plan for the Developer in conjunction with his attorney.

At the present time, one unit has been sold and is occupied.

These units are well built and located in a desirable location. The asking price appears to have been adjusted to the current real estate market conditions. So why are there two units still available?

Has the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and today’s banking institutions totally destroyed condominium sales?

Maybe I am an optimist, you know, the glass is have full kind of guy.  I firmly believe that the smaller condominium projects are going to play a  vital part in the recovery of the housing industry. These projects provide an affordable alternative to a single family home. As local agencies continue to increase the cost of land development through increased regulations and fees, developers need to have a more cost effective housing alternative.

The Cushing Mitchell Condominium is being marketed by:

Heritage Home Real Estate

36 North Bedford Street, East Bridgewater, MA02333

Telephone 508-378-8100

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11 Responses to “Townhouse Condominium Projects, are they still a good housing alternative?”

  1. admin Says:

    The Question, “Townhouse Condominium Projects, are they still a good housing alternative?” was posted on Fluther.COM

    Here are three responses:

    1) There’s condos up the ying-yang being built in NYC, still, but not townhouse-style except near the ocean in Brooklyn and Queens. Land is just too valuable closer to the city to build them that way. They’re all apartment buildings over by me.

    2) Way overbuilt and lost a lot of value in and around Atl GA area… Don’t know much about other markets.

    3) It’s alive and well, as are patio homes.

  2. admin Says:

    The Blog’s question was also posted on YELP.COM

    here is a response:

    Christopher M. said, “What makes you think something “happened” to them? Or rather, why do you think construction of this type of housing has been affected any more or less than the rest of the industry?

    New construction has been put on hold or cancelled and sales have slowed to a crawl, but that’s not surprising – credit is impossible to get, and anyone already in a house is having trouble selling or sitting underwater on their mortgage. The whole market is suffering – why would these types of home be any different than condos or single families?”

  3. admin Says:

    More of the responses posted on Yelp.com

    Blaz’n J. said, “I just would like to thank Buddy for defining optimist. My day is compleat, and it isn’t even 9:30!”

    Mary M. said, “”I define “affordable” as being lest than an equivalent single family home.”

    That’s just plain silly. For one thing, a townhouse isn’t “equivalent” to a single family home no matter how you slice it. For another, it’s absurd to define as “affordable” thousands of units of housing that sit on the market for months without being sold. If they were “affordable” — meaning people could afford them — they’d be selling.”

    Christopher M. said, “There’s actually a technical definition for “affordable,” which is a calculation based on what someone earning the town’s median income could afford paying a 30 year fixed mortgage with X percent of their income. Obviously there’s a lot more to that, but the calculation is used to regulate affordable housing programs.”

    Mary M. said, “Technical definitions can also be ridiculous, Christopher — although I suspect that even using that definition, the standard of “affordable” would have changed somewhat in the past six months, IF anyone were to be honest enough to recalculate it, which I’m sure they’re not. Is there anything more ridiculous than gauging “affordability” based on outdated economic realities?”

  4. admin Says:

    More comments from YELP.COM

    Chloe B. said, “”Developers need to have a more cost effective housing alternative.”

    True. That’s more of a European/world-view than a US-view where bigger is always thought to be better.”

    Nivek O. said, “Mary, on the wikipedia article for ‘affordable housing’, they note:
    “Affordable housing is a term used to describe dwelling units whose total housing costs are deemed “affordable” to a group of people within a specified income range. ”

    They go on to note that in the US, “affordable housing” typically refers to housing which is no more than 30% of the owners’ gross income.

    It then says that according to the Federales:
    mid-income is 80-120% of area median income low income is 50-80% and very low income is less than 50%

    Chloe B. said, “I agree, things are bad. How could anyone say otherwise?

    Maybe we can use this trying time to find renewed value in the non-material things. Family and faith and …oh no, did I put you to sleep?

    But I really do believe that we can shift our thinking in a positive way. Oh no, I think I put you to sleep again.”

    Craig C. said, “Hey Mike, If you can sell my house then you can sell me a new one! Deal?”

    brian s. said, “What I personally considered affordable 2 or 3 years ago sure the hell isn’t affordable to me today. Hopefully in a few years it will be affordable once again.”

    all seeing E. said, “Affordable is a very vague term. What is affordable and to whom? Do you make too much by dollars? Who says what is affordable?”

  5. admin Says:

    This comment was posted on LINKEDIN.COM by

    Erica Brynes
    Attorney at Hughes Gill Cochrane, P.C.

    Sorry to say it, but it was never a good alternative, and I say this coming from the perspective of one who represents homeowners associations on a daily basis. The discussion really ought to be, how do we take these things apart?

  6. admin Says:

    This comment was posted in the Linkedin.com group “American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)” by

    Gwynne Pugh
    Principal at Pugh + Scarpa Architects Inc.

    Denser cities are essential for a sustainable future as they conserve agricultural land, make mass transit more feasible and generate complete neighborhoods that are walkable and have sufficient density to sustain the businesses. Additionally the number of people occupying dwellings is going down. Townhomes are essential and probably inevitable as part of the housing mix.

  7. admin Says:

    This comment was posted in the “Build It!” Group on LINKEDIN.COM by Patrick Healy

    Hi Erica, welcome to the group. Why do you say that? Is there too much paperwork involved for a small number of units? What would you put in their place? Townhouses make sense for many people who are not inclined, for whatever reason, to perform management or direct maintenance tasks on their own. They are also a more cost effective way to provide needed housing in some “closed” communities.

  8. admin Says:

    This comment was posted in the “Land Development” Group on LINKEDIN.COM”
    by David Johnson, PE

    “Michael – the market was unrealisic over the past 3-5 years and builders thought that the move-up market was the place to be and lower price points satisfied in part by townhouses was left out of the mic. Of course townhouses with condominium ownership has a market – especially if the price point is established for first time home buyers.”

    (Note: this is not the same David Johnson that previously worked for PMP Associates, LLC)

  9. admin Says:

    This follow-up comment was posted in the “Build It!” Group on LINKEDIN.COM by Patrick Healy

    “Wow, Erica. I never thought about some of those issues, since I do not live in a condominium myself! It is amazing to me that the association would or could have to spend money on miniscule items like that if they were not budgeted. Do you have zero lot line zoning where you are? That might allow a three townhouse project like the one described to be divided up. Have you actually been able to dissolve any small condos? I imagine you would have to get creative with easements and covenants. Here in Central Massachusetts there are scores of three-deckers, and there was a big push to condo-ize multifamily dwellings a few years ago so property owners could cash in and sell the upper floors as individual units. With the market fallout, I don’t see who would buy their product now, when they could buy a three family for the same price as one unit, with the added benefit of not having to pay the monthly fees. Massachusetts law affords considerable advantage to tenants, so many people are reluctant to buy multi family buildings.”

  10. admin Says:

    This comment was posted in the “Land Development” Group on LINKEDIN.COM”
    by Scott Stone

    “Michael, I have been involved in the Residential Real Estate Industry in California for more than 30 years. Condominium ownership runs in cycles and not always due to economic reasons. in the most recent cycle, with adequate laws in place to protect both the builder and homeowner from defect litigation, builders re-entered the attached for sale market with a fervor. Higher densities and low interest rates with minimum or no equity investment, got the market roaring since you could purchase for what it cost to rent. Then the high construction costs rapidly overtook the value inflation line and projects became infeasible. Land was extraordinarily high due to demand and drove prices out of reach. Now with credit tight and land values in negative values, unless the project is a short sale with negative value builders are hard pressed to move forward until there is a softening of the credit market and a clear-cut stimulus to incentivize would-be buyers. In metropolitan areas, condominiums satisfy many issues surrounding the clmate change/global warming mandates so inevitably condominiums will be a value play for sure.”

  11. Каталог статей Says:

    I apologise, but, in my opinion, you are mistaken. I can prove it.