Mind-Altering Affordable Housing Ideas from Around the World

Within the context of an ongoing global affordable-housing crisis, communities across the world are looking at ways to contend with the issue. What can be done to provide affordable housing? The book “Emerging Ideas in Architecture & Design”, produced by Archhive Books in the U.K. includes case studies, interviews, and results from numerous design competitions focused on solutions to affordable housing. There are some many interesting, creative, and mind-altering ideas. Here are but a few.

Equity Crowd-funding for Socially Responsible Projects
Rabble, a New York City-based crowdfunding platform which performs as a venture capital firm, has created a crowdfunding investment platform for private investors from all income levels to invest in raising capital for socially or environmentally impactful projects. Their first investment was the revitalization of 32 homes in a blighted midtown Detroit neighborhood. Their investors weren’t looking for significant returns (only 10% at best) but they were looking to make an impact. Rn farm on the coast of Maine which will produce profitable seaweed and shellfish products that enhance the ocean ecosystem.

3-D Printed Houses
New Story Charity, based in San Francisco, is using 3D technology to create an entire community of affordable housing. The project, located in Tabasco, Mexico, is said to be the world’s first community of 3D printed homes.

24-Hour Buildings
Sophie Beagles, Design Advisor to the Royal Docks Team in London, U.K. has challenged the idea of space when thinking about affordable housing. Instead of looking for land, expanding urban growth boundaries, or making cities denser, she suggested that we could be looking at our existing urban spaces. When at work and school many of our living spaces are vacant and vise-versa. Can a school’s playground double as backyards for homes? Can corporate office breakrooms transform into dining and living rooms for a co-living facility? This idea challenges our social norms.

Transient Housing Movement
Hong Kong, one of the least affordable cities in the world, has launched the “Community Housing Movement”, an effort to facilitate public housing as fast as possible. The resulting governmental agency, Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS), conducts leasing, renovation, and then subletting existing housing units to non-governmental organizations and other social enterprises in order to implement their program. The project’s current target is to provide 500 units and to benefit 1,000 grassroots households. They have more housing facilitation planned in future phases.

Guardians of Vacant Property
The practice of property guardianship emerged in the UK in the late 1990s. People are granted accommodation within a property which is typically vacant in exchange for keeping the property under observation and in good condition. Wikipedia describes the concept as “an arrangement by which people are granted cheap accommodation in return for living flexibly, often in desirable locations and unusual properties such as former commercial buildings like pubs, offices, police stations and even historically important properties. By the guardians’ continued occupation these properties that would otherwise be vacant cannot be occupied by squatters. The guardians typically pay a license fee below market “rental” prices. Property guardianship is often provided on a month-to-month basis.

For Further Reading:
• The subject of equity crowd-funding for affordable housing projects is discussed at an article at The Urbanist: https://www.theurbanist.org/2019/06/20/for-the-first-time-ever-crowdfunding-will-help-build-affordable-housing-in-seattle/
• The “Transient Housing Movement” launched in Hong Kong is described at the government’s site: https://www.sie.gov.hk/en/what-we-do/community_housing.page
• The “guardians of vacant property” concept, implemented in the U.K., is described in an article at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Property_guardianship

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