Clustered Neighborhood Home Offices (NHO)

 Between the Home and the Office
According to author and syndicated columnist, Ilyce Glink, today about 20 percent of Americans work from home and that number is expected to double very shortly. In fact, I think we are already there. With workplace transformations takes place all over America, millions of workers who are either laid off, retire or decide to create their own ‘4-hour work week’ now rely on home offices more than ever. Yet, home office aesthetics are coffee table book fodder and the dynamics of working from home have been dissected at length on demographics, productivity, efficiency, security, technology, travel time and even dress code. If we lifted the roofs off these homes, we would peer in to see aspiring entrepreneurs cramped onto kitchen counters and dining room tables, in spare bedrooms, backyard sheds and chilly garages.

And we are not connecting with our most valuable source of new business – our own neighborhood. Face to face business meetings are rarely held in one’s home, in fact they are avoided. Starbucks, FedEx, Kinko’s, local internet providers have become the binding infrastructure. CNN, Fox and C-Span are links to the global economy, news and events. We know this is a huge market. Politicians at all levels campaign on the importance of the small business entrepreneur, promising them tax breaks and incentives to keep going. Real estate developers, merchant home builders, architects, interior designers and retailers respond by making home office improvements a multi -billion dollar industry that continues to grow exponentially.

It Can All Be Yours - At No Extra Cost
One social, sustainable and physical planning strategy being discussed for new communities is the creation of detached neighborhood home offices (NHOs) that are clustered remotely from each individual’s property but are still privately owned as part of your home mortgage. Essentially you own your home along with a typical 250 square foot detached home office that is located within walking distance in a designated neighborhood business compound. By clustering NHOs a number of benefits arise immediately. Technology, services and resources can be shared and costs saved. Collectively, neighborhood business people and their families interact to form a unique collaborative environment, without compromising the spirit and individuality of why home offices exist in the first place.

Green design and business practices flourish through appropriate NHO structures that are solar oriented and clustered. Recycled construction materials, community gardens, greenhouses, alternative energy practices, renewable technologies and waste loop optimization reduce costs and foster community pride.

Local business support services found in town also find a new sources of revenue and a concentrated point of purchase by offering routine deliveries to NHOs that respond to the exact needs of each NHO cluster, while reducing vehicle trips.

Moving On
Homeowner deciding to sell their homes, they are obligated to leave the HNO to the next buyer as part of the sale. Subleasing is not allowed and design guidelines offer enough flexibility to foster innovate, but maintain the overall integrity of the NHO environment to eliminate creating storage units and vacancies.

By Rick Abelson, Director
Online Land Planning


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  • 12/29/2008 1:02 PM Brant Meyer wrote:

    Great Post. I've read some recent articles here in Charlottesville that focus around shared office spaces - where freelance writers, web designers and the like all pitch in for shared office space and a collaborative environment, even though they work independently.

    What's interesting about your post is changing that model and having it part of a neighborhood or mixed use area. I think a lot of innovation in affordable housing and mixed income areas will come from an evolving type of property ownership. The NHO touches on that briefly. Until we expand the scope of how a property can be owned, leased or rented - we get stuck in the same market dynamics that shape a separation in work, living and recreation areas. Hopefully the NHO has a chance to bring that closer together.

    In closing, do you have any information on neighborhoods where these types of offices actually exist? I'm just curious how they're structured in terms of governance and property management. Having spent too many years as a community association manager, I know that these types of communal situations ARE NOT cheaper to the individual unless people are volunteering their TIME AND MONEY. If people just want a building to be professionally managed, pay their dues, and have someone else fix the leaky toilets - your better off just renting an office. The key to these types of things is living in an actual community. And I've found that proximity, doesn't make community. The people do.

    Keep up the great posts!
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  • 1/14/2009 2:09 PM Caryn wrote:
    Hi Rick - this is a very interesting concept - do you have anything that would give a visual as to how this would be integrated into a community? I would have some of the same questions as the post above with regard to governance and management, although my assumption would be that as it is part of each individual's mortgage, that the HOA dues and responsibility for maintenance, would fall upon the individual as well, and would be an added cost center assessment to their monthly HOA dues.
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