Ty Albright, a developer and commercial real estate agent in the Dallas area for many years, has completed the first low-cost house in East Side Bluff, a planned pocket neighborhood of eight houses in Sulphur, Oklahoma.
Designing Shelterforce began in 1975 as a “how-to” publication for tenant activists. Over the years our focus expanded and we began to examine a wider range of place-based community-building issues. But we’ve always kept the goal of empowering people to make real change in their communities. We have a quarterly print magazine and a weekly newsletter. Shelterforce is the only independent, non-academic publication covering the worlds of community development, affordable housing, and neighborhood stabilization. Dedicated from the beginning to everyone working to empower and support low-income communities, Shelterforce provides a venue for conversations that need to be had—on topics from community planning... More that works is not easy. A tiny square box, inside and out, only works for a one or two-person household in a neighborhood of tiny square boxes. Otherwise, the neighbors make fun of yours. But each added feature, even windows, raises the cost.
With the land secured in Sulphur OK, Ty Albright’s target in 2020 was completing the first house. He partnered with an experienced builder so both were equally invested in the house being well-built and completed on schedule. The design, choice of materials, and construction techniques must balance quality with low-cost. One way of accomplishing this would require the economical use of materials and leaving the second floor partially unfinished. But the low cost was not the sole aim; the house also had to be solid. It had to be ready for the challenging Oklahoma weather. No shortcuts to lower costs or conceal weaknesses. The house also had to meet the accepted minimum house size of 1,200 SF and a minimum mortgage amount of $100,000.
A number of requirements were raised in consultations with the city and the bank, however, required new solutions. Fortunately, each objection led to two good ideas, and Ty and his partner ended up with a much better home. The first house is now completed above the standard of new construction with several new safety and cost-saving features.
Overcoming requirements without increasing costs
As an experienced real estate professional, Ty was painfully aware of the requirements of conventional financing and market forces. And he accepted it as a given that low-income buyers would have to be able to obtain financing. To make a bank happy, the house had to be as conventional in size, materials, and appearance as possible. But it to meet the cohousing expectations of better infrastructure than average. Fewer frills, more structure. It couldn’t be prestigiously green because avant-garde materials are costly, some are untested, and they make banks nervous anyway. The property had to appeal to more than a niche market to attract buyers and had to have resale value. The bank’s investment and owner’s equity would be at risk if the owner couldn’t sell the house when necessary.
While Ty missed his hopeful pre-construction price of $100,000, he more than doubled the value with larger, nicely finished living areas and some long-term cost-saving features. The floor plan is more interesting, more flexible, and more livable but is still conventional enough to satisfy the bank, the city, and the neighbors. It is built for a single household but skillfully designed so it can be used by two households. The final listed price is $269,000 with a ball-park estimate of a $926 monthly mortgage payment and a rental value of $600 for the second floor. The whole house is beautifully finished.
At almost twice the initially planned size, the 2,100 SF two-floor house has three-bedrooms, three baths, a shared laundry room, two HVAC systems (one for each floor), and a two-car carport. The downstairs kitchen has all appliances and the upper kitchen ready for installation—plumbing and wiring complete.
The shared laundry room is deftly designed so it can be reached from the first floor and from the outside. This means the second floor has full access without having to go through the first-floor living space. It is also a very nice mudroom.
Features beyond expectations
The house is “smart wired” with both CAT 5 and RG 6 wires connected to multiple wall connections. The 2″ x 6″ studs allow superior insulation. The roof is metal. Metal roofs are now insulated against heat transfer and to reduce noise in the rain—and hail storms, which are more common in Oklahoma than in some other states. As the first of eight, the house will surround a common area. Each house will have an eight-foot deep porch for visiting with neighbors.
Wonderful features that save space and lower furnishing costs are the extensive built-in storage units in the bedrooms and two box windows. These include shelving and drawers; they are not just empty closets. The baths and laundry room also have numerous buildouts and shelves and the mudroom has storage under the stairs. All kitchen appliances and blinds on all the windows are included. The interior bathroom is reinforced as a storm shelter. In addition to wind and hail storms, Oklahoma has tornados. It has more warnings than actual events but the feeling of security that comes with having a storm shelter is constant.
The built-in storage and shelving are advantages that may not be immediately obvious. If you have been looking at manufactured homes (caravans or mobile homes) and Tiny Houses, you will notice how much space is saved when cabinets and closets are fitted and have drawers. They also convey a feeling of solidity that moveable storage units do not. A built-in bookcase can feel like an extra wall.
This looks like a good place to live, and a good model for cohousing communities for residents with
1st Floor: 1, 400 SF, open floor plan, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, accessible with wide doors and no steps.
2nd Floor: 700 SF, open floor plan, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, plumbed and wired for a kitchen. The second floor could be used as a game room, office, 3rd bedroom with a bath, or rental.
Laundry and mudroom accessible to both floors from inside and outside
East Side Bluff is a community neighborhood where you know your neighbors. All homes are privately owned. Each home will overlook its own backyard as well as a community common area that can be used as the owners choose — play areas, gardens, grilling, open space, etc.
East Side Bluff is a few minutes from downtown Sulphur with the Artesian Hotel, Casino, and Spa, shops, winery, sports bar, restaurants, and the Chickasaw Nation visitor’s center. A few minutes from the Chickasaw National Recreation area with streams, lakes, and hiking trails. Two hours from the large resort and recreation area surrounding the Lake of the Arbuckles.
Sulpher is 90 miles from the center of Oklahoma City. And less than 150 miles from Ft Worth and Dallas.
Location on Google Maps. The satellite view shows the open landscape with the town nearby but not densely populated.
Listing on Realtor.com with 28 photos, very detailed views of the inside.
Sales Flyer with extensive information and many photographs.