Friday, September 02, 2005

A Model for Affordable Housing Projects

Tribal, state and federal governments, housing organizations and the free market system have all failed to solve the housing crisis in large part because the houses they produce are not affordable for those they intend to serve. Current housing programs fail to address the poorest of the poor due to reliance on outside contractors, costly building materials, overly complex house designs and excessive building codes. These programs lack community participation, cultural appropriateness, sustainability, adequate funding and job training.

This plan by Dr. Owen Geiger provides a housing model that addresses all these issues. The recommended housing solution is a hands-on training program that creates self-build housing with locally available, natural materials to lower construction costs to a level where housing is affordable for everyone. This housing plan creates jobs, empowers homeowners and provides solutions to the major housing barriers that have held back previous efforts. It demonstrates how to build community as well as houses through bringing people together for a common cause, and turns the building process itself into one of celebration that helps restore traditional Native American ways.

The building process proposed in this project emphasizes a sustainable approach to housing development using natural building methods such as straw-bale construction. Natural building methods utilize readily available materials such as straw, stone and earth, as opposed to costly materials such as milled lumber, steel and concrete. The most effective way to provide affordable and comfortable housing is to utilize low-cost, locally available materials because other alternatives are often prohibitively expensive, impractical or simply unavailable. This housing plan provides a guideline to safe, comfortable, affordable housing that is within the grasp of all Navajos and anyone else in need of shelter. This model could eventually be adapted for use in other Native American communities, colonias along the US/Mexico border and other communities around the world in need of affordable housing.

This publication is now available from the Geiger Research Institute of Sustainable Building for $20 as a download. Visit the Contact Us webpage to place an order.