History reveals an affordable housing solution

Saturday’s report on the housing crisis shows battlers joining the homeless, caravan park residents and welfare recipients in the struggle to find shelter. Speculation in real estate has pushed house prices beyond the reach of everyone except the permanently employed.

Two features in Saturday’s report deserve special mention.

People now commute further to work because houses in town are more expensive. As petrol prices continue to rise, these dormitory suburbs will become ghettos of unemployed.

The proposed subdivision in McClean’s Ridges highlights the problem. We carve up precious agricultural land and create dormitory suburbs that depend on cheap fuel to survive. Then we wonder why the nuclear families with two working parents struggle to maintain the mortgage, motor car and consumer lifestyle that goes with the territory.

Over ten millennium a sustainable form of settlement emerged independently on every continent, in every civilisation. The traditional village consists of ten to thirty families clustered together for protection, surrounded by the fields that feed them. These villages are within walking distance of each other, and a day’s ride of a market town that offers medical, educational and cultural services.

The industrial revolution began the destruction of these communities, clearing land for large scale agriculture and herding workers into dormitory suburbs. The motor car completed the process, allowing us to live like kings, burning oil to get around, to grow food and produce cheap goods.

Within five years, petrol prices will render the private motor car practically obsolete and we will be forced to tear down our fences and work together to grow food we can afford.

If we start building small houses, integrated into communities that share resources we can solve the immediate housing crisis and future proof ourselves against the end of cheap energy and the food crisis that will follow.

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