I propose something huge and interesting. By ‘huge and interesting’, I refer to the fact that it’s barely feasible at all, but with the right kind of support and such, could really go a long way, and make a lot of lives a lot better.
What I propose is that, where there’s a big furore about benefit caps, bedroom tax and high rent, perhaps what we really need here is a lot of affordable housing, privately owned, but managed in a non-profit, almost public way. I advocate voluntary everything, by the way. If it’s not worth doing for no cash, it’s not worth doing at all (as long as cash isn’t actually a massive barrier to doing it, which nine times out of ten is the case).
So umm… my plan. Someone, somewhere gets a big truckload of money from someone, somewhere. Vague, I know, but these are the specifics that generally tend to clear themselves up as more people get on board. Then, the exciting part starts. Lots of planning, architecture and engineering, to work out what wants to be built. I have the idea, but I don’t have the scale model of a soundly-designed real-world manifestation of the idea… that part goes to someone better qualified than I. In any case, the idea is to grab up a large plot of land and build a privately owned public housing estate with a massive difference. The estate would be as green and clean as possible…. and accept only new tenants who have housing benefit. Regardless whether they stop getting HB later or not, they’d have to claim for the properties to be allowed to live there. The reason for this is because the whole point of the estate would be to house people who are losing their homes and livelihoods to all the benefits problems. Makes no sense to also open up the properties to people who already have the means to rent.
The reason for wanting to go as green as possible would be to dramatically reduce costs that are usually high for the target tenants. Things such as energy bills can be hugely cut down if the housing is built with the right materials and is well insulated, as well as designed in ways that can make best use of what’s already there, such as sunlight and wind, and local nature.
To top it all off, rent rates should be kept in line with, or lower than, the rent for council properties local to the housing estate.
Of course, none of that is going to be possible to do at a profit. It would be a huge spend with very low returns. Not something any intelligent businessperson would want to pay for. Not something anyone would want to pay for, to be brutally honest. However, that said, with enough crowd-sourced funds, one could buy the land. Consultations with the right experts could result in the best possible design and concept. Not free, but at least the land part’s already out the way. Here’s where the volunteer part comes in. Volunteer builders, or people who just want to learn about building, or a combination of both, could be the ones turning a design into an estate. Though help would be sought from jobcentres, there’d be an interview for jobcentre clients, to make sure they’re not on some workfare thing.