Build it… but can they come in?

Jul 5, 2016 | News

Build it… but can they come in?

There are now numerous schemes underway to address the apparent ‘housing crisis’ including new infrastructure funding, social housing projects, emergency housing developments, special housing areas, reviews on productivity, possible super development agencies, plans to free up surplus land, changes to laws to speed up and reduce compliance costs and taxation changes to curb speculators.

All of these practices assume that if it is built then they will come. Just like the movie “Field of dreams” where a baseball field was built in the middle of nowhere, the same assumptions are used for housing solutions. The answer we are told is simply more houses. Any type of home will do as long as it can be built quickly and affordably.

The problem with this thinking is that very few people are stopping to think about who needs these homes. What will the dwellings be used for, what types of people will live there, what will they want and what duty of care is there to provide homes that adapt to the physical, social and cognitive needs of the occupants?

Social and emergency housing is arguably for the more vulnerable in our society, whose voice is often not heard. Larger homes suit inter-generational living and smaller dwellings are also needed for our aging and changing population. All of these places would benefit from wider doorways, level entry bathrooms located on the ground floor and pathways that allow all people to enter. There are another 70 suggestions contained in the Lifemark™ Standards that would make living even easier and most can be added at little or no cost…yet will these factors be considered?

To do so would require a major shift away from just building anything, to building what people need, both now and in the future. Sadly, the focus is still on construction and not what is really needed – people centered construction. If this doesn’t happen then we may find many large fields in the future filled with houses that the intended occupants cannot even enter…but some will say…at least they are built.

Geoff Penrose is the General Manager of Lifemark.

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