Master thesis: Alternatives within Housing

Jan 2020 | Books & Other Publications, Design for Society, Master's Projects

Palak Dudani

The challenges of our time are increasingly complex, with housing being one of them. While housing is a basic need closely intertwined with our well-being, it also sits at the centre of strong economic, political and cultural forces. In the homeowner nation of Norway where the housing system was set up to promote homeownership, the meaning of ownership itself has seen a dramatic shift since the 80s. What was initially conceived as a tool to create stability and welfare, housing now has increasingly come to mean profit and wealth-building. While homeowners are still able to create welfare for themselves, fewer and fewer people are able to become owners now.  The obvious solution then is to push more people towards ownership, but how sustainable is that? This is a system that has made owning a home extremely expensive, but still is trying to create affordable housing – and that is the heart of the problem. Housing can not be expensive enough to be profitable and cheap enough to be affordable at the same time.

This is an exploratory project which reframes the problem of housing and reimagines the system in the near future – one where the focus of our housing system has moved away from supporting wealth-building to supporting long-term well-being. I propose a conceptual housing model set within a larger public social infrastructure which supports the new values in form of self-governance, participatory budgeting and informal service exchange.

Using the three horizons model as a framework, I position this near-future speculative model within the third horizon, representing a favourable direction going forward. As the seeds for the near-future already exist in the present day/first horizon, this project hopes to inspire critical reflection on the fundamental nature of our housing system and imagine hopeful alternative near-future – ones where everyone can be taken care of.

AHO, 2020