In the last few weeks we’ve seen a lot of engagement on the topic of housing, so I thought I’d share the perspectives of a few young women doing the mahi in this space.

Firstly, Women in Urbanism Aotearoa and Generation Zero’s Greer Rassmussen wrote a case for housing density in the face of climate change for the Climathon. This is a good 101 piece that looks at how higher density, energy efficient housing close to accessible and reliable public transport can help us protect vital natural resources, and combat climate change.

“Housing density has been a polarising topic in Auckland for a long time. The recent media coverage of and heated debates around Auckland’s Unitary Plan made this polarisation abundantly clear. As housing reaches crisis point in Auckland, we must understand the latent potential that infill or subdivided housing has on improving our affordability, liveability, and environment. Continuing with the status quo of urban sprawl and ever-increasing suburbia will not serve the people of our city or the environment. If incorporated appropriately, increased housing density will improve environmental outcomes for Aucklanders in three key ways: more efficient energy use, better use of land, and improved public transport.”

Secondly, this article on YIMBYism has been shared widely over the past few weeks. It mostly discusses the rise of San Francisco’s YIMBY (Yes In My BackYard) groups due to their housing crisis.

During the San Francisco Planning Commission in September this year, Sonja Trauss, a YIMBY activist, argued on behalf of a proposed 75-unit development in the Mission that would be mostly market rate, saying that any new housing built is better than none at all.

“The 100 or so higher income people, who are not going to live in this project if it isn’t built, are going to live somewhere,” she said. “They will just displace someone somewhere else, because demand doesn’t disappear.”

There’s some thoughtful counter arguments to YIMBYism being shared too. This excellent blog is from Erin Reeves on how to be a ‘housing ally’ and why she’s not a YIMBY. (I’ve just taken pieces of her article, I encourage you to read it all.)

“But while I am a millennial and I am an affordable housing activist who supports dense housing development, I am not a YIMBY. Their simple messaging misses the point: that solidarity with vulnerable communities is about actions, not words, and that working to address the affordable housing crisis must start from the place of affordability.

In some ways, this is a battle over how economics works: will building more market-rate (i.e., very high-end) housing in San Francisco actually help or hurt? Can we simplify housing economics in a hot market to basic principles of supply and demand? Does an unregulated real estate market actually benefit everyone? I have data and figures to battle theirs, like the recent report by the UC Berkeley Urban Displacement Project that shows that market-rate housing can take DECADES to become affordable to middle- and low-income residents — a timeline that is far too long for the people and communities that are being displaced right in this moment.”

“I understand the appeal of YIMBYism, because I feel it, too. I am a young, well-educated, white woman who was raised by comfortably middle-class parents, and I currently earn a living wage. I identify as liberal and progressive. I moved to the Bay Area five years ago and feel like I have a stake here — and yet at the same time, I am a relative newcomer with privilege who wants access to a city that is telling me that it is hurting, and that I, and my partner (a tech worker), and my friends (many of whom are tech workers), are contributing to this hurt. Isn’t saying yes to all housing development also saying yes to change, to newcomers — to me?”

“Here is what I think true housing allyship looks like, and why I am neither a NIMBY nor a YIMBY:

  1. Listen to and stand with vulnerable communities: … Every single person deserves housing they can afford. And at the same time, this crisis is impacting some people and some communities in more devastating ways than others, namely low-income people and people of color. These are the same communities that have historically been displaced or excluded time and time again and who now are experiencing the housing crisis as threatening their very survival. Being a housing ally, particularly as someone with race or class privilege, means listening to the experiences of people from these communities and the ways they see their communities being impacted by development, and standing with them.
  2. To that end, always come back to one question: Who are we really building for? And, as a follow-up: Who stands to get hurt, and who stands to benefit? The YIMBY desire to support any and all housing development sounds great, and I’d support all market-rate development, too, if it really resulted in housing for everyone, at every income level (or even at most income levels). In reality, though, the housing market in San Francisco only builds for the highest income earner.

An important note: Just like trickle down doesn’t work for taxes, it doesn’t work for housing in San Francisco — giving developers and investors more opportunities for profit doesn’t necessarily result in cheaper housing.”

Nadine Ortega, founder of AF3IRM Hawai’i, provides a feminist insight on how housing problems impact women in Hawaii, in this video. Especially how housing impacts Native Hawaiian and transnational women, more than others.

“Current policies based on “solutions for all” do not work for women….Women cannot survive when policymakers are unable or unwilling to attack systemic issues…. What women know from our own lives: 1) affordable housing is unaffordable, so we need to change the definitions so that incentives are available only to developers who build truly affordable housing; 2) women will not automatically climb the housing ladder — building any housing at all will not create affordable housing because housing does not devalue in Hawaii. There is no freed up housing when luxury units are made. We need affordable housing because new luxury developments do not trickle housing down to our communities.”

“Now that motors are sweeping the children off the roads, the railway tracks remain their only available playground.” Punch magazine, 1907.

In Hamilton there is progress on improving road safety. Later this week we’ll be looking out for the approval of the ‘Draft Access Hamilton programme’ which includes a target of zero traffic fatalities. Back in June when the road toll blip was becoming a trend, Hamilton city Councillors voted to stop planning for an acceptable number of deaths and setting a target of no more than zero people killed in traffic. Now setting a zero target is not about balance, it’s about political leadership and change.

Moving into public spaces and places, here is some interesting research on sexual entertainment districts and how they make cities threatening places for women.

“A report by the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women found alcohol consumption in strip clubs creates a significant risk to the safety of nearby women. The report suggests alcohol licensing has direct impacts on community control of stripping venues and leads to no-go zones for women.

Plan International Australia’s recent interactive mapping project, Free to Be, found women deliberately avoid the entire length of King Street, Melbourne’s main strip club precinct. Project participants reported that any woman in the area was considered to be open to sexual propositions from strangers.

Plan International Australia’s data indicate that Melbourne women have internalised the link between the strip club precinct, the assumption that any woman in the area is “up for sex”, and the normalisation of hyper-masculine violence.

To reduce the risk of harassment and assault, more and more women feel forced to modify their movement throughout the city – especially during the night and early mornings.”

Photo: Lynn Grieveson

And in case you missed it this week, here’s Women in Urbanism Aotearoa’s Dory Reeves on closing the gender gap on climate change.

“Gender issues are too often ignored in relation to climate change. Cities need to link their policies and, in this case, their commitment to climate policy and gender equity. This means a commitment to a low-carbon, resilient, inclusive and gender-just city.”

image: Joe Hockley

The School of Architecture and Planning is hosting an exhibition tracing the history of women in architecture for the School’s centenary. If you haven’t seen it yet, go along. It’s just next to the School Library, 26 Symonds Street.

If you’re going to the Asia Pacific Cycling Congress next week, there’s a Women in Urbanism catch up organised in Christchurch om Thursday – link up with them here.

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12 comments

  1. Of course, women WORK in “sexual entertainment districts” as well. The voices of sex workers are often brushed aside in debates such as these with arguments that they’re brainwashed servants of the patriarchy or whatever. It’s like talking about moving the port without listening to the voices of wharfies.

  2. And most of the comments on the article effectively say “Don’t truck with our speed limits! If you don’t have F1 level driving skills then accidents are your own fault”

    1. Speed limits are not based on the level of driving skill, they are set by what leaders see and feel.
      F1 teams support 60km/h speed limits in pit lane, the governing body rejected proposal.
      “The FIA also considered what the cars would look like travelling down the pits at 60km/h during the race and felt that they would appear too slow”
      http://www.bbc.com/sport/formula1/17209342

      1. I was given a full description of what Tesla’s “Insane Mode” felt like yesterday, from a young woman whose father has just bought a Tesla. She had to wait days to get her joyride because he was showing everyone in the neighbourhood what it’s like to go from 0 to 120 in just a few seconds. Because cars are fun, eh? Meanwhile, in the real world…

          1. Nothing is much fun for a few NZ families at present.

            In my family’s experience, the knock-on effects of car fatalities last for generations.

          2. I’m not sure I see your point Heidi. Are you suggesting I shouldn’t enjoy an activity because some have died because of their involvement? Does this also apply to other activities?

  3. electric trains are able to run scheduled services every day. at speeds that petrol powered and electric cars can only reach on race tracks
    Might not be fun, trains are predictable and reliable, which is not exactly ‘fun’.
    A New Zealand with a network of high-speed electric trains and a limited number of electric cars would be efficient but that does not automatically eliminate fun.

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