Big box affordable housing – RFI

vacant walmart

Walmart Realty lists 583 properties for sale or lease. There are 9,300 big box properties set to be closed in 2019.

This is a Request for Ideas (RFI).

The main beef I hear about cohousing is about the price of the homes. I agree and have been talking to anyone who’ll listen to me about how to lower the cost of cohousing through retrofit options.

My latest push is this Request for Ideas around converting big-box stores into affordable housing units that may or may not include cohousing, and co-op housing.

There are plenty of vacant buildings sitting empty around the country, now that storefronts of all sizes are becoming obsolete in favor of on-line retail and pop-up stores.

Do you want to get up off the couch and help solve the affordable housing issue? It doesn’t matter where you live, because housing affordability is an issue everywhere.

walmart rehabit

KTGY Architects + Planners in Los Angeles came up with some renderings about what their “ReHabit” places could look like.

What’s the project? The idea originally came from an article called “Re-habit: Transforming Big Box Retailers into Housing for Homeless.” While housing homeless people would still be an option, my general concept is broader for other housing configurations, meeting the needs of other demographics.

Site Location: While the project would fit anywhere there is a vacant big box store, some places are better suited for a pilot project than others:

  • Low Cost Areas: There are 9,300 big box stores slated to close in 2019. There are literally hundreds of big-box stores currently for sale around the country.
  • Existing Cohousing: There are some locales better suited to the cohousing concepts. Likely those would be places where intentional communities currently exist.
  • Zoning: Cities and towns with wider open zoning and land use regulations that allow mixed uses by right, or are silent on mixed use development.
  • Advocates: There should be at least one “burning soul” interested in the project. The Cohousing Association of the United States (CohoUS) can provide some technical assistance. Other helpful resources would be from the local housing authority.
  • pollard coliving profile

    A pedestrian-friendly coliving space is planned for the former Pollard car lot in Boulder, Colorado.

    Examples: Jim Leach from Wonderland Development; architect Bryan Bowen of Caddis Collaborative, and Alan O’Hashi, community development gadfly with ECOS, are planning a pedestrian-friendly and car-less co-living project consisting of co-op rental units and owner-occupied cohousing condos in Boulder, Colorado.

Ideally, this project will take place in a location that has an existing cohousing community.


This could be a pretty good activity that the community could Get Up Off the Couch and take on as a service project.