fwd. Plymouth self build for low income and homeless

Keith Alasdair Mylchreest carrot at clara.net
Tue Oct 31 15:21:19 GMT 2000

----- Forwarded message from ANNA MARIE HIGGS <A.Higgs at plymouth.ac.uk> -----

From: "ANNA MARIE HIGGS" <A.Higgs at plymouth.ac.uk>
Organization: University of Plymouth
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 15:08:03 GMT
Subject: self build for low income and homeless

Anna Marie Higgs

5 winston Avenue,
PL4 6AZ.
Tel: 01752 303988

Preliminary Proposal

The project is a self-build housing scheme for those on low or no
incomes.  The houses would be very small, low cost and sustainable. 
They would be built for rent in Plymouth.  The participants would
design and build the scheme themselves in co-operation with a
post-graduate architecture student and the Youth Enquiry Service.

To enable a small group of people, who are presently inadequately
housed, to design and build homes for themselves.

Organisational Structure
This may take the form of a housing co-operative or a housing
association, which is comprised of the self builders.  This would
provide a means of self-regulation and shared responsibility. 

· Form - shared facilities
The project might take the form of a cluster of small homes around a
central community facility.  The community facility could provide a
communal kitchen, bathroom and laundry.  It would be desirable to
build this first.  The homes could initially be very basic living
spaces.  Additional or alternative facilities might include: q Work
units in order to set up small businesses, q Drop in centre for soup,
meals, information, advice, q Floor space for emergency sleeping
accommodation. · System A suitable building system will be developed
at Plymouth University and the project members will then design their
own homes with guidance from a post graduate architecture student. 
After planning permission and building control have been granted, the
participants, with help from the postgraduate student, can begin
building. · Ownership The subject of ownership will be worked out in
collaboration with the city council. · Sustainability A sustainable
strategy will be developed which takes into account the requirements
of the participants and the nature of the site. · Organisation The
self-build group may act as a building contractor.  Although this
involves a lot of responsibility, it gives a feeling of 'ownership' of
the houses. Funding · Land We are currently discussing a specific site
in a Plymouth City centre regeneration area with Plymouth City Council
planning department.  The outcome may be based on the Rosehaugh model.
 This involves the land being leased with no immediate payment. 
Instead the landowner receives a financial return if and when the
self-builder exercises the right to buy.  In the meantime, the
landowner receives a fixed ground rent, which is within the qualifying
level for housing benefit.  Initial meetings with the council have
been encouraging. · Labour As the project is self-build the labour
costs are zero.  However, homeless people are often not in receipt of
income support and therefore some form of payment would be necessary
for those involved in the project.  This means that there are some
labour costs. · Materials In order to keep the costs to a minimum the
buildings could be designed to use basic raw materials, earth, straw
and un-sawn timber.  Reclaimed materials bought in bulk and donations
of materials in exchange for good publicity are other options. 
Training and Employment The project may be directly linked to a
building training scheme leading to qualifications and potential
employment.  Alternatively, it may not be linked to any specific
training scheme although it would still provide general skills in
building and working within a group.  As not everyone wants to work in
the construction industry, such an approach may appeal to a wider
group. Why I would like to do this project I feel that this project is
necessary because if people are given the opportunity to create their
homes themselves, the time, effort and care that go into the building
will be apparent in the houses.  This would benefit those living in
the houses as well as the surrounding community.  The advantages would
go beyond providing accommodation.  Self-confidence, new skills and a
feeling of empowerment also result from participating in such a

Personally, I would like to do this project because I have been
specialising in very low cost, environmentally sound building
techniques.  These methods are also inherently appropriate for
self-build.  I am interested in social and economic problems,
especially homelessness.  I am aware that there are many people who
are in need of low cost housing.  Through talking with Shelter, The
Big Issue, the Youth Enquiry Service and the Foyer project, I believe
that there are people in this group who would be willing and able to
self-build their own homes.  As I feel that I am in a position to make
this possible I would like to try and undertake this project.


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