DAVE CARR’S ARTICLE ON HOUSING in the last issue of Briefing is absolutely right. Any new housing, council or otherwise, has got to take on board the contribution of domestic burning of fossil fuels to releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
But I want to raise the issue of providing alternative living and social arrangements which will help to reduce our total energy consumption. For instance, not everyone wants to live in a nuclear family. If they do, that’s fine - but we have to provide alternatives for those who don’t.
The make-up of households is quite variable nowadays - single people, single parents, friends living together, older people living on their own and those who want to live in more extended families. If communal areas were incorporated into the plans for new housing there would be many advantages. If you build housing which has community at its heart with communal space, social isolation will be lessened. Create spaces for people to live which enable them to have private space - but also collectivise some areas.
For instance single mums can get together in the places where they actually live. Older people, whose main problem is often one of social isolation, can do the same, especially if they have mobility problems.
If we lived in housing which was more communal, we could share domestic facilities. For example, a communal laundry could be built in and we wouldn’t have to buy our own domestic appliances like washing machines. We could have communal kitchens, which would create the social heart of the people living in the accommodation. There’s no reason why we all need our own bathroom or shower. If we take joint responsibility for keeping our communal areas clean and tidy there should be no problem!
Communal facilities are a common arrangement in youth hostels or halls of residence at colleges. We all need these facilities, but we’ve become too tied to the idea of individual consumption. This is energy madness and creates social isolation. It fits in with capitalist consumerist economics which the planet can no longer sustain. Make the domestic sphere more sociable - begin to make it the centre of our social world, where women in particular can create supportive networks and feel strengthened both as mothers and sexual partners.
If we lived like this, it would help change the mindset where everybody thinks they need their own private motor car, another major source of CO2 release and global overheating. So all new housing estates must be served by cheap reliable public transport and cycle lanes. 22
Lewisham East CLP.