Housing Vision 2016

The current homelessness situation needs resolving by actually doing something instead of just talking about it. In essence the situation can be solved by providing low cost and cost effective permanent homes for the homeless.

Homes need to be provided and provided sooner rather than later. The easiest and possibly the most cost effective way would be to employ the use of pre-fab / modular type homes but not the sort that were used in the 1950’s.

There is absolutely no reason why modern “pre-fabs” couldn’t be build that are energy efficient, provide surplus energy to the grid and even have bio-toilets / nano membrame toilets that produce energy and give re-usable human waste as fertilizer for growing crops. These modern pre-fabs would recycle rain and grey water and ultimately would be the catalyst to replace old housing which is not energy efficient.

These modern “hi-Tech” pre-fab homes would be the homes that most people would want and would hopefully not be the object of derision and would hopefully also re-kindle the self build mentality and get rid of the housing for profit mentality. There would still be room for the housing for profit for those that want to be burdened by a mortgage!

The first hurdle is finding land for community self-builds. All towns with a homeless problem should have an area where the new modern hi-tech low cost and energy efficient homes can be built to showcase and fit in with the community instead of creating a “shanty town” of “undesirables”.

The second hurdle is getting the money (Gov grant?) to build the homes. The current cost of providing “emergency housing” is astrnomical so it makes sense to reduce this to practically zero!

The third hurdle would be the restrictive planning regs. By necessity the new self build “pre-fab” type home would be modular and would all be pretty much “Little boxes with no character”. They need to be customisable and brightly coloured (if so desired), they need to be made so that they reflect the individuality of the occupier but some restrictions will need to be observed!

A possible fourth hurdle would be the “Land ownership” situation. In reality, no one has any legitimate claim to land ownership. The Earth has been here for billions of years before human parasites started inhabiting it and as far as I know the Earth does not have a sales office. I’m OK with people staking a claim to use a “parcel” of land for their own use to provide for the family needs but this claim would subside on the death of the claimant (offspring would have the claim transferred to them, provided that they are living there) Unfortunately, this is a first come first serve situation and is very difficult to get round unless using force or threat of force! A sensible approach would be to agree on a given plot size for a given number of people. In this case it maybe sensible to ignore land needed to grow crops to assist in self-sufficiency but include this in “communal allotments”.

I’m always an advocate of “problem + Solution = Profit” but housing is a basic need and should not be a profit exercise, except for those sufficiently affluent to take part! Modern homes should be “energy efficient” and have little or no impact on the environment. This would make the “pre-fab” type homes so much more suitable than having a pile of bricks and mortar. Pre-fab homes are by their very nature “temporary” and would have a finite life! At no time should the value of such homes be considered worth more as time progresses. It should be accepted that wear n tear will reduce the value of the properties and the rent charged should reflect this. Ideally a “life expectancy” should be agreed before major repairs / renewals are likely to be needed. Adequate maintenance to reduce the effects of wear n tear would extend the life but won’t enhance it to the point of it “being new”. Major repair and replacement of the fabric of the building could possibly “re-value” to almost new condition!

Homes for the Homeless would be a priority.

Town/ City councils would provide a suitable plot of land and with a government grant the site would be prepared to provide :-

  1. Electricity and/or Gas.
  2. Water
  3. Sewage disposal* but note the use of Bio-Toilets / Nano membrane Toilets.
  4. Telephony/ Internet connectivity.

Note. The land should not be of the “Gypsy site” (out of town) type of arrangement. The purpose of the homes is to make sure that the homeless are still a part of the community and every effort should be made to allow the homeless to become / maintain membership of the community.

The plot of land should provide a mix of dwellings suitable for :-

  1. “Bunk House” type dwellings for the the people currently sleeping rough.
  2. Single homeless – Maybe single bedroom with communal areas.
  3. Couple homeless – as above with potential to extend to 3 or 4 bedroom.
  4. Family Homeless – 3 or 4 bedroom homes.
  5. Starter homes for young couples / singles not actually homeless.
  6. Beyond the basic homes for the self-builders.

Note. There is a distinction between “sleeping rough” homeless and “not sleeping rough” homeless. The latter are also known as “Sofa surfers” who manage to find somewhere to sleep/ stay with family and friends but don’t actually have a home with their own key to the door, these people tend to escape being counted as homeless and may be actually greater in number that those actually sleeping rough. There are a lot of young people that are wanting to live as a couple and start a family but have to either stay with parents (as a couple) or try to find accommodation that is within their budget and end up in housing that is not much better than a slum.

The plot of land should have easy access to medical facilities, shops and Education. Many “Homeless people” don’t have the skills to manage basic finance and need help (education) to develop these skills.

The dwellings should be on a rental basis and the rent should be priced at a pay back period of say 15 / 20 years (or longer). The payback period would encompass the actual material cost of the dwelling and the cost of providing the “services” to the site. Labour costs for construction may also have to be considered.

A reduction in rent should be offered where people engage in the self-build program. Initially,“temporary” accommodation would need to be be provided until the “self-build” contribution is achieved.

Homes for the future.

Ideally a plan should be put in place to demolish and replace housing that is not “energy efficient”, the priority being given to sub-standard housing. This may mean getting rid of thousands of homes but these would be replaced by modern energy efficient homes. Overall, having a home that costs very little to keep warm and has the potential of providing surplus energy to the grid has got to be a win win situation.

It is difficult to “retro-fit” older housing to make it energy efficient but cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and the fitting of solar voltaic panels is a very good option. Recycling of grey water is more difficult but bio-toilets that produce energy from human waste might not be as difficult.

Homes for the future need to be energy efficient and have little or no impact on the environment. They need to provide the basic need and not be a “cash cow” for the few. Social housing needs re-branding as the progressive hi-tech energy efficient housing that is desired by everyone.

Charities and volunteer organisations for the Homeless.

There are a lot of magnificent and benelovent people trying their very best to find solutions, e.g. using old pubs and large unused houses to provide places to sleep but although their efforts are to be highly praised, they are only really “treating the symptoms”. Building (a lot) more low cost permanent homes is the cure!

Local Town Councils.

Town Councils have access to Birth, Marriage and Death records, they collect local taxes, they have everything they need to project the housing requirements for the future generations. It probably isn’t something that can be done with a high degree of accuracy but it isn’t difficult to anticipate the likely housing needs of the people. They have access to a lot of information and social housing needs shouldn’t come as a surprise!

Self-build and eco friendly home designers.

There are quite a few “experts” in these areas, some are TV celebrities. There are quite a few good examples of community self-build projects, which provide eco-friendly homes. Some examples

www.selfbuildportal.org.uk/

www.self-build.co.uk/

www.communityselfbuildagency.org.uk/

Summary

We need to see the big picture and collaborate resources and information.

We need to have positive plans for housing our future generations.

We need to remove the housing for profit mentality.

Construction of new eco friendly energy efficient homes.

There are several choices of construction but these are a suggestion :-

  1. Timber frame with cost effective insulation and easy build. This would include :-
    1. Frame only – to be “bolted” together.
    2. Frame including insulation to be “bolted” together.
    3. Frame that needs insulation, inc bales of straw!
  2. Concrete panel:-
    1. Lightweight/ aerated concrete with insulation and holes for windows etc.
    2. Hollow Lightweight concrete panels that need holes cutting out for windows and then in filled with insulation.
  3. Any other recycled material / plastic / metal / clay / crushed brick and stone etc

In all cases; the outer skin of the building, including the roof, should be able to be erected and made water tight within days. This would allow the internal works to be completed without being at the mercy of the weather. Pre-fab / modular outer skin would probably be the quickest in all cases but in some cases might not be the most cost effective, with regard to transport costs (of the pre-constructed frames.) To reduce transport costs, the outer skins could be produced on-site but the provision of this facility would need to be compared to the transport costs.

In all cases; foundations and services will need to be completed prior to the construction of the outer shell. This may be a bit of a planning nightmare but having a “big picture” view of the plot of land and the number (and type) of dwellings to be provided would make this easier.

In all cases; the use of self-build labour would be encouraged but there would need to be suitably qualified tradespeople to help and advise and someone would need to pay their wages!

In all cases; Min room sizes need to be agreed upon to avoid the building of “little boxes” that don’t have sufficient space. Bunk houses would perhaps use the minimum space requirements but a “family home” would use the maximum of space.

In all cases; the dwellings would make maximum use of the space, using the “mobile home / caravan” examples as a guide. This would avoid the wasted spaces that we often find in housing.

In all cases, the “modular design” would be based on the size of the smallest room, this maybe the Kitchen or perhaps the main living area. Smaller rooms would need internal partitions erecting. This would mean that “Skin partitions” could be built in number and just bolted/fastened together. The overal size of the dwelling would be based on the number of “skin partitions” and should be very economical to build.

Ideally, the outer skin of the dwellings would be self supporting which would allow the size of internal rooms to be amended buy moving internal partition walls.

In all cases, the idea would be to provide decent living spaces that are not cramped and are not squeezed in to maximise the number of dwellings. These will be the homes for the future that should encourage communities to live together in relative harmony, without being “communes”!

Where possible / needed, the homes should be at least 2 storey (maybe 3) to enable economical use of the plot of land but not to “squeeze in” more dwellings. This may mean some use of structural metalwork or “Structural plywood beams”. A recent visit to the “Winter Gardens” in Sheffield showed what can be achieved with timber, the structure of that building is awesome. It’s worth a visit just to see the structure, It has a combination of curved multi layered timber beams and some metalwork. The plants are brilliant too 🙂

Where possible, communal allotments/gardens should be easily accessed by each dwelling – probably based around the “Village green” model and occupants would be encouraged to use this space to help with regard to self-sufficiency. Maybe “vertical farming” could be incorporated.

It can be seen that I have given some thought to the homeless and housing situation and it maybe evident that I’m a “big picture” person. I haven’t got bogged with detail! Other more capable people will no doubt have other ideas but everyone that is of similar mind ought to come together and coordinate all the ideas and visions and lets make it happen, instead of just talking about it!

I’ve been in the employment arena for some 45+ years and started my working life as an apprentice (mech) engineer but for the past 15+ years have worked in IT as an analyst. Engineering, Science and Technology get me out of bed in the morning and keep me awake at night. Housing is a basic need and should never be an issue. The population is expanding, we need more houses. We need housing that is energy efficient and ideally eco friendly, it’s not rocket science! We need housing that isn’t a cash cow for a small minority of greedy individuals and the associated parasites.

We need to stop raping the planet of its resources and live in harmony with the planet. The planet has been here for a long time and in the grand scheme, we are only here for a blink of the eye and we need to be in concert with the planet.