Today the Love Activists are due to be evicted from their occupation of the Castle Street Bank of England building. Whatever anyone’s impression of their tactics, they have provided shelter for 50 homeless people, making use of one of the city’s vacant buildings.
This morning I couldn’t help but notice this sign on the Hahnemann building on Hope St, the latest site to be mooted for the city’s explosion of student accommodation, the fashionable ‘fast-buck’ for developers at this time. According to the sign, as a hotel the building can accommodate 50 rooms, yet as student accommodation we can jam 100 units in. Given each student unit will need more facilities than a hotel room this is bordering on the absurd for 2 reasons:
1) What makes it appropriate to expect students to be incarcerated in this way?
2) More importantly, how about when the city’s student population implodes in the future? (mark my words, this will come, as young people and their families find alternative affordable and sustainable means of gaining skills) We will be left with empty towering ghettoes across the city carved up into tiny portions, making conversion to other uses unviable.
Back to the Love activists campaign, the same day we heard about their occupation we discovered this fabulous self-built village of tiny living units for the homeless in Oregon. It responds to the issue that moving from the street straight into a regular home often becomes overwhelming and fails. These tiny houses afford personal space and a firmer footing to readjust from, with a central base of social provision and peer support.
Across our city tiny (student accommodation) units are being thrown up in their thousands and there are already reports of over-supply. We know that developers need to make profit, however this latest fad is particularly absurd and short-termist. Can we work together build a handful of tiny units for the right reasons and deal with housing issues that really do need our support?