Few years ago, the french minister for the "cohésion sociale" Jean-Louis Borloo proposed a plan to make as much french as possible owning their own house. It was called "the house for 100 000€". And few days ago, our loved minister of housing and city (she is pretty homophobic by the way) Christine Boutin proposed a magical plan, "the house for 15 €" (a day during 40 years). (people that do understand french please read the article from liberation.fr below)
This dream petit bourgeois to make all french people own their own individual house is shared by a big part of the population, but I would expect from minister, presidents and co to think a bit further, in bigger scales. It's their job for heaven's sake !
Basically, I am not against individual housing. But I think that it shouldn't be the majority.
Here are my reasons.
1) Ecology, sustainability
Imagine what means when everybody (or every family) has his/her own house.
As you can see, more indivual houses lead to increasement of the distances between home and everything (schools, shops, offices, friends, facilities...) (and it is even more extrem with individual houses from rich people with more land) First of all, people will loose a lot of time everyday.
> Big distances increase the costs of a good public transportation net, and since it is well known that cities and states usually don't swimm in the money, more distance will become less public transportion pro person.
> And bad public transportation = more personal cars = more traffic jam = more pollution = less social interaction with other humans
Another point is the building ecology. You will use more energy to heat (or cool) 120m2 in a one family house, than the same surface in a multi-family house. Indeed, 10 x one family house has more exterior walls than a 10 apartements building.
A further point is the costs for the cities, the region and the state : more distances means more telefon cables, more gaz and water installation, longer electricity cables etc. This is not only expensive to install, but also to maintain.
More distandes means also longer distances for the carbage trucks and the school busses. All that is expensive and goes against sustainability.
> To build a lot of individual houses, you need more territory than to build few housing buildings with the same m2. If you incitate the citizens to build indivual houses, your country will consum more territory.
This means less place for nature, and we know how important nature is for our planet. A country like France has quite big territory, but it is an illusion to think that we can just spread uncontrolled without any consequences. We are lucky to have this, and we should protect it.
2) loosing the capacitiy of compromises, unlearning the social behavior/ ruining the urbanity
Not everybody might share this aspect of human interaction with me, but for me, it is an essential point.
Human is a social animal. Since always, humans search contact to other humans. They build their house close to each other, it becomes a village, sometimes a town. We had to learn how to live with each other. Respect the privacy of other, even though we live close to each other. We created places to meet outside the house, public space where we can meet our friends. The variety of public space is unlimited and that is why we enjoy so much to walk through the old town in european cities. Small streets, and suddently a place with small dimensions, and later a huge one. In this public space you can go to markets where you learn to know other people, you will be part of a big crowd during celebreations (religious, sportive, politic, musical etc).
In the public space you can search signatures for a politic reason, you can join a demonstration, you can dance, you can kiss your same sex partner and open minds, you can do so much things that are essential !
In the public space you can also see some calls to peace hanging from a window, a communist paper sticked on a wall, a feminist logo painted on a sign, a heart with initials graved on a bank or a tree. We might say this is visual pollution. But it is also communication. The allowed communication like public information, parties events, or concerts posters stiked on the public board also takes place in the public space. The public space is basically a place of individual expression.
Public space is essential, and individual housing areas kill the public space. You have to take your car to buy bread for the breakfast. On the way, no chance to meet somebody. No oportunity to claim you ideals, or to answer to other ideals that are not yours. No chance to read that small poster hanging next to the bus stop that proposes cheap private spanish courses, language that you want to learn since long time already.
Individual housing might be nice because you have your own barbecue on your own terrace. But what is so bad to do your barbecue on the roof terrace from your building ? The view is better !
The society becomes more individual, and people unlearn the social behavior. We become more sensitive to everything (the music from the neighbour, the fact that we have to take the lift to go to our roof terrace instead of beeing able to grill in front of our kitchen, the fact that our children play in the parc in front of the building with other children instead of playing in our garden etc)
I think that this is not a good evolution. We should learn to compromise. Because at the end, the whole society is better. If everybody refuges in their own 4 walls, the society becomes more and more sensitive, and less tolerant to other people, to everything.
I'm sad that the people who govern us don't (want to?) see far enough. Even if they dream about a individualist selfish society (I think this is the dream of the actual french governement), at least, they should see that huge individual housing areas are not sustainable !
3) the perverted plan of the "house for 15 €"
About this program from Madame Boutin, now. This plan is purely a joke when you see the conditions. This program is for couples that earn around 1500 to 2000€ a month (together). You could think the plan is very kind ! But no, wait.
A 15€ house has to be 85m2, and the land 250m2. 85m2 is less than a 3,5 Room appartment in the actual standard. (3,5 Room apartment = a big living/eating room and 2 other rooms) Basically, you will have a very small house. I find this very vicious from the governement.
By the way, 15€ a day means 450€ a month, and 100'000 to 120'000 € for the house (without the land). And around 40 years credit for everything (almost your entire working time).
There is another political problem with this plan. In France every city is supposed to has 20% of social housing (if not, the city pays a fine). Social housing is good (when it is well planed), because it leads to social mixity in the city. 1,3 million of french people would like to live in social housing.
Madame Boutin had the great idea that cities could count the 15€houses into these 20% social housing. Which means less social housing. The city majors are happy, because the 15€house people are richer than the social housing people. Less social mixity, UMP happy.
(Nicolas Sarkozy belongs to the parti UMP)
All this sounds very negative, I'm sorry ! But it is the sad reality that the french governement is messing up the country, especially in urbanism !
(By the way, I also could talk about the sad architecture in most af individual housing... but that I would really be too negative !!)
But loyal to myself, I am not pessimistic : I hope things can change. I know some urbanists and architects in France that are engaged for real urbanism in cities. (I will make an internet search for that !) And I also think that a lot of french people rediscover to pleasure and freedom that public space can bring. And I also think that it is possible to tell people what does mean if everybody has his/her own own, and that it is maybe not as good as what you thought when you count everything !
So, we will see...