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Posts Tagged ‘housing’

Attempts to improve housing for low-income people have often destroyed a sense of community. That’s eminently clear in Robert Kanigel’s new biography of Jane Jacobs, an activist who helped to end the construction of the large complexes known as the “projects.”

So there is some irony in a new Global Oneness film about a 70-year-old housing project that probably once destroyed a neighborhood but has since created its own sense of community. Today it is threatened with what sounds like very pleasant improvements.

Life is complicated.

The Global Oneness Project has interviewed Yesler Terrace residents and created a film to spark discussion of the pluses and minuses of revitalization.

Even the Walls is a short documentary about the multi-generational residents living within Yesler Terrrace, a public-housing neighborhood in downtown Seattle grappling with the forces of gentrification.

“For over 70 years, Yesler has been home to thousands of Asian, Asian American, African, African American, Native American, Hispanic, and Caucasian residents. The 30-acre property is being redeveloped quickly and the residents are being forced to make a decision — collect their memories and belongings and leave, or return to a place they know well, but do not recognize due to heavy reconstruction.

Even the Walls chronicles the intimate stories and experiences from the residents of Yessler and defines the human connection to home and community.”

The film is here. Lesson plans for teachers are here. And the good intentions of the City of Seattle are described here.

Photo: Seattle Housing
In an organic 70-year process, the residents of Seattle’s somewhat worn Yesler Terrace have made the “projects” into a real community. So not everyone is thrilled that improvements are afoot.

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Is the neighborhood of the future going to be on the water? A growing number of architects around the world seem to think so.

Eleanor Ross and Laura Paddison write at the Guardian about some pluses and minuses.

“Architects and city planners across the world are starting to look beyond the traditional confines of the city, towards building on water as one of the answers to reducing inner-city population density and also developing flood-resilient designs. Global damage to cities from flooding could amount to $1tn a year by 2050 if no action is taken, according to a World Bank report. …

“Building on water isn’t straightforward, however. The recent collapse of the Makoko Floating School in Lagos, one of the most famous examples of floating architecture, shows some of the complexities. …

“There are also environmental concerns. The need for foundations of many floating buildings to go deep into the river bed, for example, will have an impact on the environment, says Phillip Mills, director of the Policy Consulting Network, and a specialist in water construction.

“ ‘Foundations or structures within the river could also alter the river bed with silt erosion and deposition elsewhere in the river. The same thing already happens around bridge piers,’ he says. …

“However, Lucy Bullivant, adjunct professor of history and theory of urban design at Syracuse University, thinks there are greater environmental consequences building on land – such as the tendency to be more car focused – than on rivers. ‘Floating designs will create a good anchor point for plants to help foster biodiversity and create habitats for fish and birds.’

“Building on ‘bluefield’ sights can be environmentally friendly, according to Mark Junak, director of Floating Homes. He says floating structures such as those at Noorderhaven in the Netherlands have recently been subject to underwater drone surveys to observe whether their construction has negatively affected the ecosystem.

“According to the research project, the underwater footage ‘revealed the existence of a dynamic and diverse aquatic habitat in the vicinity of these structures, showing that floating structures can have a positive effect on the aquatic environment.’

“For London architect Carl Turner, who has designed a pre-fabricated, open-source amphibious house specifically designed to float on floodwater, called the Floating House, climate change means needing to work with water.

“ ‘You either protect the house or protect the land,’ he says. ‘Creating large-scale flood protection zones is expensive and in itself potentially harmful to the environment. Once breached, homes are left defenceless, as opposed to floating homes that can simply rise with flood waters.’ ”

More.

Photo: Mark Junak 
The Chichester prototype floating home designed by Baca Architects.

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Sam Lubbers, a veteran, was homeless off and on for many years. Today he is living in an efficiency apartment in a renovated mill and enjoying the stability and hope that comes with housing. I interviewed him for the 2015 Rhode Island Housing annual report. (Check out the pdf. I was the first writer on most of the other interviews, too.)

When Sam moved into his new quarters, G. Wayne Miller at the Providence Journal filed this report on Rhode Island’s long-term goal.

“Since Rhode Island was selected a year ago as one of just five states to participate in the Zero: 2016 program — a national initiative spearheaded by the New York-based non-profit Community Solutions — 163 homeless veterans have been housed, according to the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless. …

” ‘It’s really all about the collaboration, communication and advocacy for these men and women,’ said David Gendreau, a veterans’ case manager for The Providence Center, a partner in Zero: 2016 and operator of a comprehensive housing program for veterans.”

The goal unfortunately remains elusive. Sam told me how his heart hurts because whenever he walks into the city, he sees homeless people he recognizes as former military through their boots, hats or other identification. He always speaks to them, maybe buying a sandwich or suggesting where to get help or temporary housing. “I have a hole in my heart for the homeless,” he told me.

Fortunately, in Rhode Island at least, the passage this week of Question 7, means more funding for housing for veterans and low- and moderate-income families in the state. So three cheers for a state that is being both practical and caring.

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Upscale housing developers used to advertise tennis courts, pools, or golf courses as desirable amenities. Today they are increasingly likely to tout farmland.

Amy Hoak writes at MarketWatch about a family in suburban Chicago, where neighbors’ lawn chemicals have killed off pollinators. She reports that the Faheys are moving to a community that offers more opportunity for growing vegetables.

“Set in Hampshire, Ill., about 50 miles from downtown Chicago, Serosun Farms is a new home-conservation development, restoring wetlands, woodlands and prairie, and preserving farmland throughout. Already, the frog population has grown exponentially from the conservation work done onsite, and monarch butterflies are also on the rebound, said Jane Stickland, who is working on the project with her brother, developer John DeWald. Their efforts also are boosting the bee population. …

“Serosun plans to incorporate about 160 acres of working farmland, making farm-to-table a way of life for residents through regular farmer’s markets. The community also offers eight miles of trails, an equestrian center and fishing ponds: 75% of the development will be reserved for farming and open space. …

“The concept isn’t new, but ‘agrihoods’ are gaining in popularity, said Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow for the Urban Land Institute, an organization that focuses on land-use issues. He tracks about 200 agrihoods, where residential development coexists with farmland. …

“ ‘We started to realize you could cluster houses on a small portion of a farm and keep the farm working,’ he said. People were often drawn to the open spaces. More recently, however, there has been a huge interest in locally grown food. ‘All of a sudden, agrihoods have become a hot commodity in residential development,’ McMahon said.” More here.

This concept is not only for upscale developments. In urban neighborhoods without access to a local grocery or healthful food, affordable housing combined with community gardens and sales outlets are moving along without much fanfare. In Providence, for example, West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation‘s new Sankofa Apartments partner with the Sankofa Initiative, an outlet for homegrown food and handmade crafts from many countries. The initiative is satisfying to residents on a personal-development level and as a way to meet neighbors and build community.

Photo: J. Ashley Photography
Serenbe farmers’ market.

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My childhood friend Caroline, now living in Colorado, writes, “As a person who has spent her life designing and building housing, I am pretty convinced that we need to figure out how to house more people closer to downtown areas rather than contributing to endless low density sprawl and destruction of open spaces.

“To this end Tom and I attended the first ever YIMBY (yes in my backyard) conference that was held here in Boulder in June. It is a movement driven primarily by millennials and I am forwarding this invitation to a lecture in Cambridge in case it piques your interest.”

It does pique my interest.

As anyone who has read the incredibly moving Evicted (by MacArthur award winner Matthew Desmond) knows, housing is one of the most critical issues, if not the most critical, for domestic policy today. Housing ties to everything else.

So here’s the opportunity for people in the Greater Boston area: Jesse Kanson-Benanav (chairman of A Better Cambridge) is giving a talk September 14 at 6:30 p.m. for the Cambridge Historical Society on the Yimby movement.

Click this EventBrite link to sign up.

This month we’re asking ‘What is a YIMBY?,’ with the help of Jesse Kanson-Benanav, Chair of A Better Cambridge.

What’s our goal?

The Cambridge Historical Society wants to facilitate dynamic conversations about the housing issues facing Cambridge residents today with a historical perspective.

Where and why?

We are heading out to meet you in the city. The historic Hong Kong in Harvard Square is the perfect setting to bring your friends (or make new ones), grab a drink, and settle in for some engaging conversation about our 2016 theme, “Are We Home?”

Tickets:

$5 members/ $10 non-members

Questions?

Email us at rprevite@cambridgehistory.org

or call 617-547-4252

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I liked this local story about a new approach to helping students who have special needs master independent-living skills while still connected with high school. It’s not hard to imagine the satisfaction students will gain from this volunteer-powered opportunity.

Brittany Ballantyne writes at the Valley Breeze, “Thanks to $15,000 donated from Lowe’s Home Improvement stores and the help of volunteers, students in the transition program at North Providence High School [NPHS] will start the school year in a new state-of-the-art transitional apartment space.

“Christopher Jones, special education director, said six Lowe’s stores donated $2,500 each to help build a studio apartment in the building at 1828 Mineral Spring Ave., where students will learn how to prepare and cook food, do laundry, type up resumes, make a bed and become [nursing assistant] certified if they choose.

“By the start of the academic year, Jones said, students ages 18 to 21 in the program will be able to get to work in the space …

“Jones envisioned giving the students an experience where they moved up not just in academics, but also in the NPHS building after receiving their diplomas. What were two in-school suspension classrooms [have been] transformed into the apartment after space was reconfigured in the high school, Jones explained. …

“He said the apartment space will be used anytime students aren’t out in the community getting hands-on work experience.”

More at the Valley Breeze, here.

Photo: The Valley Breeze
Students in the transition program at North Providence High School get apartment-style space to practice how to prepare food and cook, do laundry, make beds and write resumes.

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The first booth I encountered at the Art and Artisan fair Saturday was promoting a charity called Vision of Hope Zambia.

Co-founder Meg O’Brien had been a student at Berklee College of Music when a missionary friend in Zambia asked her to lend her musical talent to uplifting girls who lived on the streets.

When she visited Africa, Meg must have been shocked by what she saw: young girls, often orphaned, often HIV positive, who had no place to get a meal or even take a shower. She flew into action, co-founding Vision of Hope Zambia with Chitalu Chishimba.

Meg’s mother and aunt also flew into action, creating a craft initiative that donates 100 percent of proceeds to the cause.

The two artisans not only sew with skill — baby bibs, changing blankets, aprons and the like — they also are good at selling, promoting Meg’s charity while highlighting various features of their products.

Meg’s aunt saw me talking to my grandchildren and immediately pointed out the colorful array of child-size aprons. In the end, though, I bought an adult-sized apron for myself.

From humble beginnings in 2009 (“weekly meetings in the backyard of the Girl Scouts building underneath a tree”), the organization is now able to provide housing and education for many girls as it continues to grow.

Photo: Vision of Hope Zambia
Girls at Vision of Hope proudly show off their hard work in rug making.

 

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