February 27, 2008

Tenant-Safe Housing

Again, random thinking about problems/solutions. Today's problem: inadequate safe low-income housing in urban and close-in suburban areas. One of the problems you see when you shop for truly low-cost housing in the DC area is the predominance of real estate that has been trashed, destroyed and neglected. Anything costing less than $100,000 seems to be housing that has been destroyed by the previous tenants. However, there is still a need to provide housing at these low costs.

Today's Solution: Tenant-safe housing development. What needs to happen is that the housing, when constructed, needs to be built to be safe from abuse. The materials and construction methods that we use for housing today is not built to withstand abuse and neglect. We build walls out of a thin paper-board that is easy to punch through. Vinyl siding is easily punctured, written upon and destroyed. Plumbing is exposed and cabinetry is made of processed wood that is easily ripped from its moorings. Maintenance is required for indoor fixtures and appliances. Carpeting and wood flooring is easily destroyed.

What we need to have is a construction mechanism for creating living space in such a way that when a tenant leaves, it can be practically bulldozed clean. The landlord or owner should be able to completely wipe clean the previous resident's filth and neglect and be able to start with a working, functional and presentable empty space Building cost itself becomes less of a problem when maintenance costs are nullified because eventual recapture of capital is all but assured.

Imagine a cement box to which recessed electric outlets, plumbing and basic appliances (stove, refrigeration) were provided. The appliances are hardened against wear and tear, mold, filth build-up. The electric outlets are tamper-proof and safe from spillage, shorting and jimmying. If the home is lived in by someone who lives in a pig-sty fashion, the landlord comes in with a set of brooms, garbage bags and a large hose. The entire place is cleaned within a day. No new paint is needed, no new carpeting. Mold is treated, walls and floors are swept and washed. The appliances are tested to ensure functionality, and the next day it is ready to be lived in.

The external part of the home also needs to be engineered to be resistant to graffiti, damage from baseballs and other thrown objects, perhaps even drive-by gunfire......

Just a thought to come back to some day....

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