Over in the Chief Garry neighborhood Habitat for Humanity is putting the finishing touches on one of their recent "Blitz Build" projects. The idea is to construct a project in a rapid time frame (usually weeks). This project was a nine unit development. Habitat is one of our favorite charitable organizations and worthy of support. The question is, looking at this project can the goals of low income housing be achieved with innovative and compassionate design? Are they completely separate and unattainable outcomes?
Samuel Mockbee approached the same question in rural Hale County, Alabama starting back in 1993. As a professor of architecture his 'rural studio' brought architecture students to the county to design and build homes for needy residents in what is one of the poorest areas in the country. The designs are innovative, push the envelope, are built very cheaply, but they're also 'noble', as he put it.
This discussion is a fine line to be walking. But given that there is a tent city not four blocks from here, it's a timely topic. The need for low income housing is essential, but visiting the site yesterday and seeing how it turns it's back on the neighborhood, how it isolates rather than integrates into it, makes us wonder what the outcome will be in 5, 10, or 20 years from now.