Message - Re: housing - personal and social responsibility

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Posted by  Kevin Matthews on March 25, 2003 at 10:10:42:

In Reply to:  Re: I have 2 great ideas - Responsibility - Habitat for Humanity posted by Richard Haut on March 25, 2003 at 09:35:34:

If everything is out of balance (e.g. very high property prices, or college fees, but very low wages) then the figures just do not match up. What happens is that those with family money get the advantage...

The balance, the level-playing field, is so fundamental.

And statistically speaking, in the U.S. currently those things are out of balance, and the balance is being tipped faster and faster, with reduction in social services, reduction in job security, rapid increases in real estate prices, huge tax cuts for the wealthy, and reduction or repeal of estate taxes to boot.

Such socio-economic changes don't just happen. Historically there is an essentially permanent struggle between those who would simply take as much personal advantage as they can get away with. Enron and Andersen are not just facts of life. They also represent the ideology in action of the current U.S. administration, which they were instrumental in electing, and which covered for them for as long as it was politcailly survivable.

If democracy is to work decently, then even people like architects who can understand these things need to take personal responsibility for their share of political involvement.

Personally, I find it hard to understand the logical/ethical construct of design professionals who are avowedly a-political, disinterested and uninvolved - or monotonically anti-government, anti-any-regulation - but who still believe themselves to act with concern about issues in their professional sphere, like affordable housing.

In housing my favourite scheme was one which involved some thirty young couples who were building their own houses together. It worked brilliantly; it was to everybody's advantage; it was healthy, positive, constructive.

Why aren't there more such schemes ?

Rhetorically speaking, of course. Because in practice it takes quite a bit of collective long-sightedness, and very significant organizing ability, for a group to pull off such co-housing approaches.

Yet there are quite a few positive examples out there, relatively unheralded. Publicly-held profit-driven capitalist media have a hard time getting excited about non-profit intrustions into the pastures of their owners' cash cows.

In short, housing problems are the symptom, not the disease.

Sad but true. People who love to solve structural/spatial design problems would like to see the world's troubles in such terms. There are real and important issues to be addressed with spatial/structural solutions. But there has to be some kind of economic or at least environmental foundation to support the creation and maintenance of spatial structures.

In affordable housing, spatial/structural solutions are necessary but not sufficient.

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