?Does this translate to "can one dwell here" and/or "can one survive here"?
Even in an apartment, the question is still whether it is available for leasing or whether the local government has condemned it as unsafe.
What form of the word is "можно"? I am not familar with this and don't have a good sense of how it relates to words like "можете"/"мо́жешь" which seems to make sense to me as a verb. Is "можно" a form of this verb or just a related word?
It is related. Someone else can probably give a more grammatically rigorous explanation, but "можете" is "(you formal) may" and "мо́жешь" is "(you informal) may" (in the sense of may = allowed to). Then можно is a form of this word which is used in a different case (sorry! I'm terrible at remembering them, it's been too long since I learned them properly). You could say "можно мне здесь жить?" or "Вам/тебе/нам/мне/иму можно здесь жить." But to use the other forms/conjugations you mentioned, the sentence would be more along the lines of "Вы можете здесь жить" or "Ты можешь здесь жить". Different pronounce, different case.
I realise this is not the best explanation ever, but I hope it helped at least a little. :-/
In English, can has the same double-meaning as можно appears to have it Russian: 1. it is allowed/may one 2. it is possible.
Is it like... wow, planet Mars! здесь можно жить?
"Is living possible here?", "Is life possible here?"
Or is the sentence just for... apartments?
Is this different "ъ" than this "ь"? I was able to find only "ъ" on my russian keyboard.... My keyboard is: я ш е р т (any tips? :P :) )
The first is the hard sign (ъ), and the second is the soft sign (ь). Your keyboard sounds like Mac phonetic, which is what I'm using, in which case the hard sign should be on your US English += key when in Russian phonetic mode.
Since I/we isn't used in the Russian sentence, which is asking about the general habitability of the place, a direct translation should preserve the ambiguity. Without further context the sentence could range in meaning from "Is it possible to live here?" to asking whether you can stay or move in.
"Can one live here?" is the safer translation, because it includes both permission and possibility, which is what можно appears to mean.
You would be strongly stressing the "here". For example if pointing to places on a map. "Is it possible to live here? Здесь можно жить?" "No. Нет." "What about here? Можно жить здесь?"
What if a child was asking about a national park, would that not be one valid context -I am sure there are plenty we can think of; the point is to use an appropriate example to illustrate a valid grammatical point or to enhance our vocabulary in order to learn the language without any of the former being mutually exclusive: that is not always easy in short sentences in the beginning, especially, it seems, between Russian and English, yes?!
It's a pronoun, used for general statements (when you don't want to use "you" or "I". You can think of it as meaning "someone" in this case.
Depending on the level of abstraction, "Can we live here?" or "Can people live here?" would be more natural in English. While correct, your translation would never be used in modern spoken English and you would only find something like this in books hundreds of years old.