How To address Affordable Housing Issues
The photo above shows factory built, specially designed, very cheaply made, housing units called Y-Cube, found in Kingston, West London.
They come from a project originating from the YMCA.
The YMCA has a hostel for homeless and other vulnerable people in the area, which is constantly full. There was nowhere for them to move people onto, who were ready for rehabilitation and training.
As a result, these people suffered with nowhere to go to remove themselves from the influences that keep people homeless. Continuing the vicious cycle.
Additionally, being full there was no room for other homeless people to come to the Hostel from the streets; there was a back log.
One of the local leaders of the YMCA was mulling over this and by chance had a conversation with an award winning architect. He boldly claimed he could go where few architects had been before, and design and build basic good quality starter units for less than £50,000: which seemed astonishing and too good to be true. The conversation continued and the architect’s vision proved itself and what you see in the picture is now a reality, funded by the YMCA and its partners. It is of course also an agreed low rent solution as well for the residents.
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This shows that there is potential for longer-term solutions people of good faith, and vision, can consider in order to tackle homelessness.
The aim of this how to is encourage this in follow up to previous How To’s which focused on theology and ideas around Homelessness, and the means for more immediate practical engaging with rough sleeping.
The concern is that these fantastic ideas can seem beyond the means of an ordinary person in the pews, or even council chamber. But as the example of Y cube shows, there are creative solutions that people can explore and adopt, if there is the collective will. It all starts with an idea and a conversation.
Hope in Action
More locally to the IBEX region is a project that is being rolled out nationally, with a local branch in Portsmouth: Hope in Action.
The idea here is that lots of people have relatively small sums of capital saved away that is ‘spare’, and they might consider investing into housing - although they may not have enough to fund a whole house themselves. Hope in Action can act as a broker to introduce people to fellow potential investors which provides the legal support to help these collected interested parties to "club together" and buy a property. The investors involved hold the deeds and would be able to get their money back through sale if they needed it. All the investors agree to lease and manage the property through Hope in Action to bodies like local Housing Associations or the local authority for use in housing vulnerable people.
It seems a win win for everyone involved. People make an investment in property, which is properly managed on their behalf. The Council and Housing Associations, who are otherwise financially limited, get access to property to address desperate social need. Homeless people, or people vulnerable to becoming homeless, have more supply of places they might find a home.
Investing details are here.
The great news in Portsmouth is that there are already two properties provided in this way so far - funded by a collection of people and Churches inspired by their faith and desire to address social issues and need.
It has reportedly made an impression on the local City Council as a creative way of addressing a real shortage of affordable housing in the City. It is a small start, but interest is growing. As the name suggests it aims to put Hope into Action.
These are just two examples of addressing what can be a complex and challenging area.
Collectively, church, partners and people of good faith within them can combine and pressure for effective regional action.
For instance, in the IBEX area some Churches have been involved in the planning process for new build communities, encouraging a good mix of affordable homes, sustainable transport infrastructure and good community building infrastructure. This can be a long process, as anyone familiar with the development outside of Fareham, for the new Wellbourne Garden village can attest. But is worthwhile for ultimately creating a balanced and sustainable community.
It has recently been announced that different Anglican Dioceses locally have facilitated the release of Church owned land, called Glebe land, in rural areas to enable development that will keep local people in the villages they grew up and ideally would like to be live and work in.
This can be controversial, especially with incomers from more wealthy parts of the country, who buy themselves an idyll, or dream, but then don’t like their view spoiled by the houses built on such land, or the traffic and so on. They are often unaware that local people who provide the services they rely on are being priced out.
Where Church bodies and community leaders stand on these developments and issues can be a real test, and their resolve can be stiffened by committed and informed action by local faith groups and their allies.
It is also interesting that local authorities in the area, of differing political persuasions, are seriously exploring recommencing the building of council/social housing again, which is one way affordable housing supply can be provided. The more local people of good faith that support the proposals and parties promoting them, the more likely it is they will progress beyond ‘being explored‘ to actually being built and lived in.
It would be wonderful for us to be able to post a picture of such housing in a future edition of this How To!
Addressing homelessness will mean finding multi-faceted creative ways of meeting the need, not necessarily going for the obvious means (giving cash), but contributing to building an affordable housing infrastructure. It can mean finding out what already is happening and joining in as one is able. Everything, large and small, can help.
For those with capital, even with modest sums, there are ways of pooling that and enabling incredible things to happen.
Volunteering time with the voluntary sector is always welcomed, and usually training and support will be given.
So, don’t feel daunted when you see the need in front of you. There is much that can be done, and who knows... maybe in a decade or so, we might achieve the end of Rough Sleeping as the Government hopes and be on our way towards reducing incidence of the hidden homelessness as well.
In preparing this post, a friend posted an article on Facebook about how Finland has eradicated homelessness apparently, or at least the rough sleeping part, something the Economist has even reported on.
If Finland, with its concerted effort over many years, can manage this, then could not a faithful community in Hampshire and Dorset rise to the challenge they give, and use all the tools at our disposal to eradicate it here?
Could that be a 2030 Vision?
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