Walking into town (well, city, but that doesn’t quite fit, yes?), I saw this amazing set of art works on panels, created by I Am Joy, and the panels cordoned off a housing area which has been abandoned at least for a few years. This is Chichester, where property is not cheap. I hope they got permission but I don’t care if they didn’t, as before the panels were just grey. Since they were emptied the houses have been used for police training, but otherwise, are a blot on the landscape.
It struck me, as I was heading to the Farmer’s Market, that empty housing has got to be a pretty high non green thing. First, you have a site which could be doing other things, like being a community veg garden, or just housing people who have nowhere to live. But more importantly, as we have this yearly target for building more houses, why do we allow so many to stay empty?
It isn’t just blocks like this, which was perhaps some kind of assisted housing group which has gone bust, it is so many big and small houses which are empty because people have bought only for investment, or it is elderly people who have gone to live elsewhere, to maybe assisted accommodation and no-none wants to take charge of selling or letting it out, or people who have gone abroad and are not sure if they will stay, so they want to keep options open, and so on.
Forget your airflights, your full carbon footprint for having somewhere to live has got to be pretty big. And if people abuse it by having 2 or 3 places to live, then that is multiply wounding the planet.
We seem to have got very casual about housing property, it is something owned not leased from Mother Earth. Maybe we could get creative about how to get the message out about your right to a planet footprint? Maybe a campaign, One House is Enough! Maybe more aggressive, Use it or Lose it?
And of course it was the abuse of the financing of housing that lead to the current Western Economy melt down. The economies of the developing and newly developed world are doing OK thank you.
Finally, do we really like Estate Agents taking up so many key city/town centre locations (it shows how much money they make from selling your house that the prices are affordable for them) when we could have Art Centres, Community Cafes, Open Music Venues, the City Centre is there for you, not there for profit?
I am Joy is like so many great community based ventures, they build capital, social capital, into the community, where other types of ‘business’ take it out.
If we like the idea of Zero Carbon, maybe we could add, Zero Empty. A programme of full occupation of ‘Our’ community space. If you like that idea, why not contact your local council, for Chichester it is here.