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February article: Housing 2.0

It took a while for me to catch up with my own goal to blog about the articles I’ve posted to Scribd, but here (finally) is a quick pointer to Housing 2.0, the piece I published in the February 2009 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

It’s a funny title in some ways, but this brief introductory description, followed by the first paragraph, might clarify the intent:

Using the Wikipedia model, along with modular housing, to solve homelessness: As web 2.0 development has shown, people are able to unleash creativity and energy when they see how to move forward and get things done from the bottom up.

Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez wants to tackle Vancouver’s crisis of homelessness with temporary modular housing. Homelessness, he points out, is growing at a much faster rate than housing can be built, which basically means that housing production should speed up. The problem is that traditional housing construction can’t.

So, the gist is that it’s another attempt on my part to shift our thinking away from “let government do it” to “let the people do it.” If we have a group of people who’ve become systematically beaten down (sometimes through their own bad choices, sometimes through the bad choices others made for them), does it make sense to keep them passive and in a state of learned helplessness, or is it better to help people move – step by step – toward autonomy? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I know what my answer is.) Henriquez tried to make a case for what he called “Stop-Gap Housing,” and it makes a lot of sense in our housing market (which is both imploding in some ways, while still incredibly unaffordable at the same time).

I also, in this article, try to get a “2.0” kind of thinking focused on bricks and mortar (literally), which is something that’s badly, badly needed in land use and development. There have actually been some great historical precedents for that kind of fluid thinking, in particular Archigram’s DIY City concepts (I blogged about this and my ideas and responses around “housing 2.0” here).

I’m not sure the Victoria readership appreciated all the weirdo references I threw out in this piece, but everyone should get out of their comfort zone occasionally, right? 😉

Note: The March article, Victoria’s Urban Forest, is also up on Scribd, and I’ll blog a short post on that one tomorrow.


  1. By 2.0 I am assuming you mean that people contribute to that which they use. For certain projects, I think this can be a great model. For certain other projects, I think it is not such a great model. I will leave it at that for now, but if you ever want to grab a coffee and talk about this subject, I have a few opinions that I think are ripe for debate!

    Comment by Davin Greenwell — April 14, 2009 #

  2. I hear you, Davin, and I’m not suggesting that it should be an “anything goes” situation. I’m thinking of the Woodwyn Farm/ Creating Homefulness/ Richard LeBlanc example. The point isn’t to give people something (passive) so they do whatever with it, the point is to provide a platform (again, that’s very 2.0) on which to practice unlearning learned helplessness. In the Woodwyn Farm example, people learn skills on the farm (they won’t be living there, which is unfortunate, though – imo); in a “housing 2.0” example, the idea might be to get people back into the idea of housing, of having a sense of being stakeholders. It definitely would have to be time-limited – Henriquez’s idea of “stop-gap” housing doesn’t suggest making containers-as-homes permanent. But there has to be a faster way of getting people into housing, and there has to be some way of getting people out of dependency. That’s so important…

    Comment by Yule — April 14, 2009 #

  3. PS: I’ll take you up on coffee!

    Comment by Yule — April 14, 2009 #

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