Thinking outside the housing box!
Cities around the world are struggling with growing populations of homeless individuals and families. Also there is a large number of couch surfers, and young people moving back home, after having lived independently. In some cultures the tradition was to remain at home until marriage, but even that has begun to change in many countries. The challenge is providing a place where these people can live that is affordable.
Affordable housing is not emergency shelters, hostels or rooming houses in most countries. What is affordable housing defined as, depends on the country, Canada and the USA commonly defines it, as housing that does not exceed 30% of a families gross income. Australia defines it as a minimum of a 20% discount to the prevailing market rate for the area, for lower or middle income earners. The United Kingdom defines it as those households whose needs are not met by the market. India sets the definition at 40% or less of the household income.
Here in Vancouver Canada and indeed most of the major cities of Western Canada affordability comes at a high price. In February 2012 the Burn’s Block was renovated into micro lofts, of approximately 226 square feet each, which is considered small here in Canada, they were quickly snapped up at a price of $850/month utilities included for furnished suites. The median cost of a 1 bedroom apartment within Vancouver is $1350/month utilities not included.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC Hydro showcased a home of the future with energy saving ideas and efficient design features. This inspired Atira a social housing society in Vancouver to think outside the box, in providing social housing at a cost of $82,000/unit for hard construction costs. This compares to $220,000 for just slightly larger units built by Atira in Vancouver, using more traditional methods. How did they keep the costs down, well they used standard shipping containers as the basis. Yup those ones you see around businesses, on trucks, trains and ships around the world as the building blocks. They have been used as site offices on construction sites for years, so it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine them as a shell for a house.
Could this be a way to help those in the lower income brackets of our societies have safe, affordable accommodation, time will tell, however it is a step forward.
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