I've always wanted some basement shop space, and now I have it. The basement ceiling in our new house is low, but the only place I really hit my head is where the sewer pipe follows one of the floor joists. I only hit my head on that pipe if I am wearing a baseball cap, which obscures my view of said pipe. Then I wake up on the cold concrete, realizing that I should have some sort of WARNING:REMOVE HAT sign on the basement stairs.
The basement also provides storage space. Kate and I have lived in a combined 9-10 apartments since we've known each other, and of course, that generates a number of moves and a number of purges and reorganizations of stuff. So there's little redundancy in our lives and less stuff to store. Still, it's really nice to have it all on a couple of shelves along one wall of the basement, all easily accessible without moving any three things to get at one other thing, like in our last three apartments.
Another wall is dedicated to bicycles and outdoor gear. There are two unicycles and six (!) complete bicycles in our basement (my project bike adds one more), and they all fit side by side on hooks against the wall. Any one bike can be taken out without disturbing any of the others, and this is far superior to any system we've had before. Our outdoor gear is another story. I don't quite have that down to much more than a disorganized pile of skis, camping gear, helmets, goggles, etc, but we'll get there.
The last corner of the basement is dedicated to workout space. My road bike lives on the trainer for now, and various dumbbells and other implements of torture line the wall.
We all need "basements." In my brief time as a planner and my longer time of being interested in space and place type issues, the dearth of storage available at most rental properties, condominiums, and affordable housing developments has always bothered me. We toured an award winning project in Missoula once, and while the buildings were attractive and the common green between them was nice, the alleys were stuffed with junk. Not junk in the sense of trash, but junk in the sense that these homeowners had no place to put the utilitarian objects of life that everybody tends to accumulate (especially when one wishes to be self sufficient and do most of one's own property maintenance). The apartments we lived in were worse.
Our first place in Missoula was a typical multi-unit mass-managed complex. You know the type: four buildings, three stories each, lot lines ringed with single-story three-sided garage bays, pool, gym and rental office in the middle. There was a little storage space at the back of the garages, but not much. And for bicycles? Your choice was to "secure" your bike in a rack on the ground floor, try to cram it into the space behind your car, or flaunt the rules in your lease and bring the bike inside. Bikes were not allowed on the symbolic "decks" that protruded out of the units at the backs of the buildings. Gigantic explosive gas grills, elk heads, piles of beer cans and other detritus, however, was not covered by this provision in the lease. Our next place in Missoula had attic space, and our place in Burlington had an odd sort of separate room that I made into a combined shop/storage area, but none of these were really adequate.
I'd venture to guess that most renters and owners of affordable multifamily housing do not find that they have adequate space to store the things they need to be self-sufficient. Garden tools, hand tools and the like. The tools and space you need to fix the stuff you have so you don't need to go out and buy new stuff. Affordable housing in Vermont is no different. Decks and porches are full of tools, bikes, even furniture. I think about bike commuting as a matter or removing barriers. I think of self-sufficiency and getting off the treadmill of buying new plastic junk when the old plastic junk breaks in the same way. Not being able to fix your stuff is a barrier, not having the space to work in and the place to keep the tools to do the job are a barrier. We have community gardens, some places have tool libraries, there are communal bike shops (all three present in Missoula), but what about community wood shops- community space to fix and refinish furniture?
In the mean time, I'll be glad to have my basement and to be lucky enough not to have those barriers to self sufficiency, but there has to be a way to make what I have accessible to more people and to people who can't afford to buy a house.