Affordable houses have little feet


In January 2006 this newspaper ran a double page spread on a proposal by visiting architect, George Stone about his solution to the affordable housing crisis, which he called agricultural based communities. George had risen to local prominence by publicly suggesting to Bob Brown the previous October that private investors might be a source of finance to save Tasmania’s Recherche Bay. A fortnight later, Dick Smith put more than $100,000 on the table and started the process that saved the international icon.

For personal reasons George was specifically focused on creating an environment that supported artists, single mothers and other displaced citizens, but the proposal was fundamentally a communal ownership of expensive assets, such as swimming pools, laundries and workshops combined with the private ownership of a minimalist house. In an interview with The Generator, available online, he said, “No single mother can afford a $400,000 mortgage but we can house ten single mothers on one acre of land, with the right design.”

Over the last two years, Britain has developed an approach to affordable housing that reduces the size of new homes built by the government to reduce both their environmental footprint and their price. The idea grew up under Gordon Brown’s eco-village announcement of 2007 and has been taken up by a number of regional housing associations. A key component of the approach is that “some resources, which citizens have become used to owning individually, may once more need to be viewed as common property.”

These type of approaches to reducing our impact on the planet through living more frugally are an important part of building a society that is capable of sustaining itself in the long term. The current obsession by governments to re-establish economic growth needs to be replaced with sensible approaches to building a society that we can currently afford and that does not steal the resources needed by future generations.

MLC Dr John Kaye will be talking about the transition to a green economy at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall on Saturday June 13. I’ll see you there.

Giovanni Ebono is publisher and presenter of The Generator

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