For most people, a stable, comfortable home is not so much a question of bricks and mortar
It's economics and politics: Gentrification pushing people out of their communities; evictions as social housing is bulldozed to make way for upmarket redevelopment; housing shortages alongside empty homes and brownfield sites sat on by speculators who make more money from twiddling their thumbs than they could from building; “affordable” housing at eye watering prices; homelessness and second homes; land prices out of control. This is the self-inflicted crisis at the heart of our housing market.
We want to explore alternative models of housing ownership. Cooperatives, co-housing and land trusts, as well as resistance movements like the Focus E15 mums and Architects For Social Housing are emerging through the cracks in a crooked system. They give us hope.
Sustainable building puts people in control of their energy bills
Passivhaus providing the gold standard for new build and retrofit. Use of natural building materials not only reduces the impact of the construction industry, but it can improve indoor air quality and be a more inclusive way of building. Buildings can be designed for later disassembly, contributing to the circular economy. We're also interested in people who have taken other alternative paths with their living situations.
For 2017, theme of the festival is the idea of housing justice
Excitingly, there is a growing movement of people determined to reinvent our broken housing system. Our ambitious aim will be to forge a new understanding together of what ‘housing justice’ could mean, and how we imagine the kind of housing system — and more broadly the kind of world — we want to see. We’ll be bringing together perspectives across social justice, ecological design and building, economic and political transformation, and joining the dots in new ways.
In choosing this theme, we were also inspired by the concept of technology justice, which is a guiding principle of one of the festival’s partner organisations, Practical Action. Technology justice means ensuring the benefits of technology are shared equally and sustainably; it is also about control and making sure technology is empowering. And when it comes to housing, empowerment and ownership are key. We want to look at how we create a fair and sustainable housing system, where people feel like they are in control of their living situation. We're interested in ideas around self build – where people gain the skills to create their own living arrangements – as well as self modification, which could mean anything from retrofit to installing solar panels, to using open source technology to monitor energy use.
Housing justice is needed by the millions of people who live in poor quality, unsustainable housing
People are hamstrung by having to spend a disproportionate part of their income on energy bills. Whilst part of this is down to employers not paying a living or stable wage (a practice which is particularly acute in the construction industry, incidentally), it is also because poorly built and poorly insulated homes leave people at the mercy of privatised energy companies. It is a contributing factor to stark inequalities in mental and physical health. According to the Office for National Statistics, people living in the least deprived areas of England have a healthy life expectancy more than 16 years longer than those living in the most deprived areas.
A tiny house, boat or van for a home – could and should this ever be more than a fringe way of life?
Different countries have different challenges, but there is much we can learn from one another. In Calais, migrants live in temporary accommodation constantly under the threat of bulldozers. How can we create better temporary accommodation, and what are the root causes of this precarious living condition? In Spain, campaigner Ada Colau, who created a grassroots movement that used direct action to stop people being evicted from their homes, has become the mayor of Barcelona.
We want you to interpret our theme of Housing Justice in the broadest way possible, to come along and contribute to the discussions, challenge ideas and – crucially – learn the practical skills needed to take back control of the housing system.
With Zero Carbon Britain and other practical short courses taking place in the days running up to the festival, merging into a weighty programme of arts, music, workshops and ideas, we hope you can come and join the debate.