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Saturday, 15 March 2014

how to better address housing needs.


 how to better address housing needs.

The world witnessed an exponential growth in demand for housing in the post-World War II era. This resulted from rapid population growth and urbanization, and the need to rebuild a large portion of the housing stock affected by the war in many countries. To achieve scale and speed, mass housing was the preferred option in the decades of the 1950 to the 1970s. Mass public or social housing is a housing development that is publicly funded and administered usually for low-income families. Over time, in some countries, the ownership of this housing stock has been given to residents. Mass housing has been produced in many configurations including low rise, single dwelling units but more often multi story walk-ups or high rise apartment blocks. Housing units are laid out in clusters around open spaces or in parallel rows as well as other configuration. In rare cases globally, public housing is integrated within the city urban texture. 


While mass housing is still policy in some countries today, the majority built earlier are at a historic milestone. The buildings are aging, in many cases in need of repair that is not being addressed due to limited resources. Frequently, this housing stock is now occupied by lo

lower income groups who are unable mobilize the resources or organize themselves to address the governance, management and maintenance needs. Furthermore, in the quest to build large numbers of housing, the focus was on producing monolithic housing estates. These were usually based on the dictates of modern planning’s strict zoning laws which segregated urban uses from each other resulting in large housing estates that necessitated a dependence on commuting to and from various urban uses. More and more, in recent times, with the rapid expansion of cities, such newly developed housing estates are being located farther and farther away from the urban centers. The rationale being that land is ‘cheap’ or publically owned. However, this has resulted in increasing the time needed to commute from residential zones to business and production zones. In some cases, 2-3 hours are spent by commuters tied up in traffic jams. Needless to say the environmental impact of such a city is reaching unsustainable levels.
In summary, mass, public or social housing estates today face some or all of the following challenges:
• Location is usually in isolated zones of housing in the periphery or away from city centers. In some cases, older housing is now located centrally and the land value is underutilized;
• Monolithic housing use following master plan zoning or planned in isolation as standalone estates;
• Residents commute to access daily needs; workplace, services, shopping, recreation, etc…;
• Urban sprawl, large environmental footprints, high carbon emissions, etc…;
• Inflexible prefabricated housing results do not respond to the changing needs of families sizes;
• Mass housing open spaces mostly neglected, underutilized and unsafe in some cases;
• Ownership when awarded to resident occupants results in poor management and maintenance;
• Aging housing stock dilapidation due to lack of maintenance and repair (aging water pipes, etc.);
• Aging inhabitants need more accessibility, have low incomes to address maintenance;
• Sometimes, mass housing attracts immigrants resulting in social segregation (ghettoization);
• Social ills such as drug trafficking, gangs, etc… tend to move into mass housing complexes;
• Environmentally, low-cost construction usually entails high heating/cooling energy consumption;
• Lack of tenure of occupants contributes to insecurity and a poor sense of belonging/responsibility;
• Lack of financial resources and poor maintenance have led to deteriorated living conditions;
Overall, the majority of mass housing in today's world does not conform to the norms of sustainable urban ism. Given the magnitude of the existing characteristics above and the continuation of mass housing trends in some places today, there is an urgent need to address these challenges. Lessons learn will also guide policy makers and decision makers on how to better address housing needs.


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