Ends, means and social housing

Let us for a moment reduce people into two distinct philosophical categories.

1. A belief in social stratification. Inequality is either necessary or inevitable.

2. The rest of us.

For most people (in both categories) the desired ends for a healthy society (if there can even be such a thing) are constant. They go something like shelter, food, love, education etc embedded in a society that facilitates these basics for everyone. This is obvious to me and does not require much attention. It then becomes essential to examine how this can be achieved. What means will be employed as it is exactly those means that will determine the success of the desired ends (I prefer ‘ends’ as the ‘goal’ metaphor is a misleading concretized concept).

Let us take it out of the abstract and apply it to something in the real world.

Social Housing.

Now, those of us in number 2 group believe that a home is a basic human right for every single person. That is the assumed end of course! So we do not even need to discuss that, thus it becomes irrelevant. What is more important is the processes involved in achieving that in a socially and environmentally sustainable way. In order to do that one must assign primacy to the processes.

Just by taking a cursory look at previous ‘projects’ such as tenements, tower blocks and other urban housing developments we can see how the emphasis on the ends without much regard for the means has benefited (or not) those who have lived in them… (although I am aware that inner city tower blocks are being redeveloped and desired by the wealthy. Of course they have disposable incomes and all the social perks that brings and so cannot be compared to dwelling in them whilst in poverty).

And so back to the process or the ‘means’ and some fundamentals.

What materials are being used?

Where are those materials from; Are they sustainably sourced?

How are homes being designed in relation to one another and the wider geography?

Who is designing them? Is there a democratic forum to discuss these designs?

Will the design foster community?

Will these homes be built with renewable energy systems passing the savings directly to the people? Ideally they would be built with both solar and small independent wind turbines profoundly reducing their reliance upon the grid (and fossil fuels) further negating the need for methods such as fracking or nuclear.

Will there be any further consideration (alongside energy consumption) for community autonomy e.g. spaces for food growing?

To me these are some of the questions which are crucial when discussing the building of more social housing.