Sustainable affordable housing out of reach – Cindy Tang Unsplash

Does sustainable, affordable housing seem out of reach?

In Business and Environment, Ethical Investing and Social Enterprise, Sustainable Building, Development and Energy by Stina Kerans2 Comments

It’s estimated that more than 50% of today’s youth will never be able to know and feel the freedom and security of owning their own home.

If these slow changes had happened quickly, then I’m sure it would have caused a ‘revolution’. It’s outrageous that so many people are slipping into this state of powerlessness!

The COVID reset

It’s possible that this crisis holds the potential for opportunity. It could be that the pandemic has been a guiding hand, allowing us the opportunity to think, and research. Further, to choose to be a part of the next ‘evolutionary’ process; a voluntary and synergistic coming together of people. Many people have recognised that we need each other. We are tribal by nature, and we are not ‘thriving’ by relying on our institutionalised services.

Maybe things haven’t changed much for you? Perhaps your normal is a life full of beauty, gratitude, love, and caring for others. And maybe you’re in a position to be able to handle challenging situations including disease, loss of material possessions, and even death… But the challenge is to find a way for us ALL to thrive! Not just the few who have worked on their financial security and self-development.

Failing to thrive

According to the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing* almost half of the total population (45.5%) experienced a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime. In Western cultures, we have managed to supersede the judgement and control of our tribal nature, but we are failing to thrive. Furthermore, our planet is not flourishing. We are destroying our only home! And it’s beyond the capability of any minority movement to change our present trajectory without the co-operation of the majority.

Our current housing model contributes to the destruction of our social fabric, resulting in lost, lonely souls out to destroy themselves or others. We continue to be subjected to living in the ‘product’ of the developer who stamps out endless miles of energy-consuming and socially inappropriate housing onto the landscape.

Deficiencies of the developer-driven housing model

In the main, housing design input comes from data on what sold last year. We get a cookie-cutter repeat of the past, based on a few of the lowest common denominators. The faster a developer churns out homes, the more money is made. Sadly, this leave the people and the environment second in line. There’s little consideration for creating quality developments that reduce our cost of living. These bulk developments don’t consider our life cycles, our health, or our quality of life. This unsustainable model of housing has made every one of us a major contributor to the destruction of the environment.

Sadly, the subject of structuring society for security is simply skimmed over, along with the symptomatic social issues that concern us all. Few realise that our costs for basic needs of food and shelter have increased as a percentage of our income. The consequences of continuing on our present trajectory are dire.

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Wealth inequality

We’re living in a time of unprecedented economic injustice and instability that’s rapidly widening the wealth inequality chasm. The top 20% of Australian households are now 100 times richer than the bottom 20% of the population. We would once have found this reprehensible. Wealth is now being extracted from working people, the middle class, rural economies, mid-tier towns – from all of us.

Serving to increase this inequality gap is the pattern of housing price rises in Australia. For well over 100 years, there has been a predictable pattern that’s finally compounded to the point where it will be out of control this decade if it continues unchecked. To see where this pattern leads, we simply need to look to Europe, where renting has been the norm for several decades. Buying even a simple apartment is out of the price range for the majority of the people in many parts of Europe. Now that the capped rentals are being lifted, the people are protesting. 2019 saw 40,000 people out in the streets complaining about these rent rises.

Europe is potentially now heading in the same direction as China. Small investors are forced out of the landlord market because capped rents make little contribution to mortgage repayments. This results in only the elite and big corporations providing this basic need. Can we face handing this future on to our children – control of our housing by big corporations?

Why no-one is interested to solve this problem

Developers of our housing won’t surrender their ability to extract money from our shelter. Nor will the middlemen and banks. Why would we expect any voluntary reduction from all those who secure lucrative incomes, either directly or indirectly, from our housing?

Those aware of this issue have known that change can only come from the ground up. However, the main predicament has always been how to generate unified action.

Our united selves are the only ones who can save us from this ugly potential future.

It’s time to consider a new housing and funding model

When I was a child, I became a star of the first TV travel series, filmed by my father. The immersion in many different global cultures made deep impressions on my psyche. After our family returned home to Australia, a deep sadness grew inside of me at seeing how the lives of each one of my many beloved and childless great aunts ended. It was so different from what I had experienced when living with other cultures. These very tightly woven cultures, which had been relatively sustainable for hundreds of years, formed a kind foundational reference framework. They were not dependent on money or institutionalised care; I knew other ways were possible.

These early insights have grown into lifelong passions: social sustainability, and seeking happiness for those I love. With our strongly structured, yang-dominant society slipping further out of balance, my longing for the yin, or the intangible matriarchal qualities of love, caring and a self-empowered abundance, has led to a determined passion to find a way to bring these qualities back into our lives. The result is a new model of home ownership. A unique form of village development, incorporating the principles required for social sustainability. I believe it takes best of our present freedoms and combines it with the best of village life.

The model replaces banks and mortgages with small investors. The lucrative profits of development, along with the savings possible by the model itself, are returned to the pockets of the people. It also caters for a mix of people.SunVillages affordable housing model

Sustainability before it was a fashionable concept

It was in the mid-1970s that I went from being a single mum, building my solar house on my little farm, to seeking in earnest a responsive eco-social way of life along with my second husband, Garry.Our involvement with Bill Mollison and Permaculture, led us to obtain land for a village vision at the start of the 1980s.

Including the tangible environmental aspects and technologies – including providing water, recycling, and power to a village development – was so easy and obvious. However, expressing the intangible aspects into the built form was far harder. The intangibles included the changing needs of individuals throughout their life cycle, complementary currencies, and purpose-based mixing (giving the community reason to mix and socialise). These led me to recognise the design principles required for what I termed ‘social sustainability’, long before the sustainable word was fashionable.

Miracles and hardships assisted and directed us, and still do

When we hit our first failure, we learned to make the best of it by starting a company that used all of our ecological research. This led to winning numerous national and international awards for Garry’s practical physical projects.

As time went on, the need to express this village concept drove us to earn millions of dollars in the hope of building a demonstration village. In trying to justify my passion to continue exploring beyond the existing social and financial horizons, I’ve found inspiration in the possibility that I had inherited an impulse from my ancestor, Gregory Blaxland. He found a wagon track across the Blue Mountains from Sydney in 1813. He was seeking fertile land where new settlers could build for themselves a more prosperous future. Like my ancestor, I too am now determined to mark a way forward. For me it’s not to find fertile lands, but to trial my newly identified principles of social sustainability.

Redirecting the profits of the financial institutions

Banks make $30 billion a year from Australia’s small population of around 25 million. And yet many of our population are children with no loans. Presently one trillion dollars of our super funds are offshore and subject to the vagaries of the current international markets. These funds are potentially supporting big global corporations that prefer profit over people and the planet.

Some propose that individuals should be able to access their super money to assist in the purchase of a home. Unfortunately, this will not change our present trajectory, and will likely lead to retirement insecurity.

“Within the core of every problem, lies also the solution” – a notion espoused by Bill Mollison.

It’s the love of money that’s destroying our planet, and also our social structure. Instead, creating affordable, eco-friendly village developments not only leads to retirement security, it redirects the profits of the many financial institutions that manage our money back into the hands of the people – a good reason to put it to work in housing for our children and the many who desire to live in the village model.

One of the by-products of this new model of home ownership is that it makes obsolete the affordable housing issue. Further, it does this without harming the people who already have homes and investment properties. This village model is also a better alternative to retirement villages for the Baby Boomers, who are very reluctant to consider the present options available to them.

The profits of new village developments, along with the multi-layered saving in both the construction and soft costs, are redirected back to benefit investors and residents. Accordingly, this entices other investors. Residents not only gain from their share of the profit, but also benefit from a significant reduction in their weekly living costs.

Create a strong social fabric

The creation of this model has been 40 years of work and dedication. It has had contributions from lots of wonderful people who actually care for their fellow human. The socially sustainable design principles embedded into this model are like a loom, upon which the strong and upright yang warp threads of our society are threaded. We, the people – the weft threads – can then weave the yin qualities back into our society. Through this we can create a beautifully strong, new social fabric, in which to wrap our loved ones and ourselves.

When the patriarchal and matriarchal are in balance (our immediate social, financial, and environmental aspects of life), we can then create clean air, clean water, thriving communities, food networks, and sustainable urban villages that exist more in harmony with our environment. We can create a society that values caring for our old, our young, and all those in need. Together we can foster a society that values art and relationships. A society where ‘people credits’ are more valuable than a full bank account. We then leave a kinder society for our children to inherit.

To financially empower people not only enhances unity, but has the potential to create the fractals of a more balanced societal structure. Like the healthy cells that create our extraordinary bodies, so too would the structure of a village be a microcosm of a healthy society. The majority may not have the majority of the money, but together we do have more than we could ever need.

Crisis or opportunity?

We now have a choice to make. Will we build on the foundations won for us by our ancestors? They were prepared to sacrifice their lives for what we presently have, and create a place in the world that we are proud of. Or will we sit and let ourselves slip into powerlessness caused by unaffordable housing? Are we wishing to retain our liberty and freedom? This decade is the turning point. United, we can pursue this opportunity to start building the foundations of a new civil society; a synergy of our unity and all that we have learned from our ancestors.


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Lead image: Cindy Tang, Unsplash.

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  1. Avatar

    A great read. Spend the time to enjoy Stina Kerans’ “Can’t buy Property”. You will be inspired and awed by her highly creative approach to life, finances and adventure. And you will learn how you can take charge of getting into the property market with other like-minded community-oriented people. Stina gives a very very enjoyable and readable account of her lifelong odyssey to bring social justice into access to housing. Stina’s housing model shows how you can spread the costs, risks and benefits of family housing amongst pools of willing small investors.

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    I know TRUTH when I hold it in my hands. The energy of it went through my body when I opened this book. I am reading it now AND purchased shares in Sun Village.

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