The multiple family housing unit

TEDDY GOLD, born 1928, who describes here his proposal for a “Multiple Family Housing Unit” is warden of Harold House, Liverpool (89-93 Chatham Street, Liverpool 7).

FOR ELEVEN YEARS I WORKED AS A YOUTH 513?1x and enjoyed my work tremendously, but later, realised that most of it was in vain, as the family is often unable to carry out its duties satisfactorily and the wider community does not encourage many of the precepts practiced within the youth club, i.e. mutual help, voluntary service, participation in local affairs, etc. I realised that if human beings were to be given a fair chance of a healthy development, vast changes would have to be made in order to improve the social structure and a living pioneering project would have to be set up so that this could be done.

It is most disturbing that there are far too many people in all spheres of life, who have lost their confidence and trust in each other and believe that human beings are basically selfish and have no fundamental regard for each other.

We have yet to give man a fair chance of proving that he was created with the greatest potentialities of love and freedom of action.

The security and mutual assistance which were given by the large family is being lost and with it, the stability of belonging to a group that accepted social patterns of behaviour and was able to impart these to their children.

It is now generally accepted in developed countries that responsibilities which have traditionally belonged to the family, can now be handed over to other bodies that are maintained by the public collectively. However, Social Welfare Services continually require expansion and are at the best, a “patching” service. It is recognised that a good family atmosphere where there is real affection cannot be replaced by social welfare.

Statistics on anti-social behaviour by all age groups, point clearly to an unstable society based upon a weak family unit. The increasing number of mental health patients, points to the increasing number of people who are unable to find sufficient aid in their private lives to help them to overcome their problems. There are tens of thousands of people who realise that they are not normal in their sexual feelings and suffer continuously because of it. We know that this defect is often due to an unstable and unhappy home life.
In our society, the aged and the young children are the main sufferers. They both need each other. The aged are often left to suffer loneliness. The children lose the benefit of a full family life, and the love and guidance of grandparents. Many of the aged no longer belong, to a family unit and many children are having an un-satisfactory family life, as the small family is unable to give the children a full family life. Later the parents also suffer, especially when one dies.

Members of a small family are unable to carry out their responsibilities to each other, especially in times of distress. Small housing units provide independence and privacy, but do not encourage neighbourliness and largely contribute to causing loneliness and boredom. The improved financial position of the family has increased independence and self reliance, but has not encouraged neighbourliness.

The loneliness of the young mother too, living in a flat on a housing estate or in suburbia has to be experienced to be believed. Often she is completely cut off from her family and the people she has grown up with. Young couples, even with adequate housing often do not have a fair chance of developing a healthy relationship because of the sometimes overbearing burdens and total responsibility that is placed on their shoulders, without having any family or friends to turn to, when a crisis occurs.

One of our greatest problems today, is loneliness. We must be forever grateful to the television that has proved a means of forgetting loneliness, even if it’s only for a few hours a day. For so many who have little chance of making vital human contact, the television has become their best friend and after the bed and gas cooker, is possibly the most important asset in the house. Yes, it is escapism, but is there at present, an alternative?

We have yet to plan houses and towns that will encourage neighbourliness and the development of real communities. Our present structure encourages many of our social problems to develop.

This is why I am launching a campaign for the “Multiple Family Housing Unit” which aims to provide a method of housing which, while catering for the needs of privacy on the part of the occupants, will, at the same time, create the opportunity for inter-action and mutual care among people of all ages in a family-like manner; to encourage a sense of care and responsibility from childhood onwards, toward personal, private and communally owned property; and to provide an alternative form of social machinery that will encourage more people to participate in improving their own way of life and that of their neighbours.

We have yet to plan houses and towns that will encourage neighbourliness and the development of real communities. Our present structure encourages many of our social problems to develop.

This is why I am launching a campaign for the “Multiple Family Housing Unit” which aims to provide a method of housing which, while catering for the needs of privacy on the part of the occupants, will, at the same time, create the opportunity for inter-action and mutual care among people of all ages in a family-like manner; to encourage a sense of care and responsibility from childhood onwards, toward personal, private and communally owned property; and to provide an alternative form of social machinery that will encourage more people to participate in improving their own way of life and that of their neighbours.

Initially we need twenty-five people, each prepared to take out £5 shares to start a Housing Association affiliated to the National Federation of Housing Societies, and qualifying for assistance under the special terms for Housing Associations.

A City Council will be approached and asked for their co-operation and sympathy towards the project. It is to be emphasised that the project does not intend to give any quick answers to present housing problems, but endeavours to find a way within its framework, to provide answers to some of the urgent social problems, e.g. loneliness, care of the aged, mental ill-health, care of the widow and orphan and the general problems that are an outcome of anti-social behaviour and a lack of neighbourliness.

The City Council will be asked to provide a suitable site for the building of this particular kind of housing and asked to allow space for a limited development, so that this pilot project will be given a reasonable chance to prove some aspects of its potentiality.

We aim to create a housing unit of about 15 flats providing accommodation for between 30 and 40 people. These flats will represent the prIvate lives of the individuals or families occupying them. But in addition, there will be communal facilities—lounge, launderette, indoor workroom, recreation room. This is the sort of community where you select your neighbours and they pick you, too.

The housing remains the property of the society. If a member wishes to move, they simply withdraw the money that they have put in. Each member of the Society will purchase an agreed number of shares. The agreed sum being the member’s share liability, representing the deposit required from each person to bridge the gap between the loan and the total cost of buying the housing.

The members will pay an inclusive rent that will cover the cost of rates, repayments on loans, administrative costs, a sum put to reserve against the day when the freehold may be bought and the cost of other items as agreed, such as electricity, gas, etc.

A system of mutual aid would be organised so that if one person or family is in financial trouble because of illness, death or unemployment, the position could be alleviated.

All apartments will contain bedroom, living room, and kitchenette. This will ensure the maximum usage of accommodation in any changingfamily pattern and allow the users to retain their accommodation in all changing circumstances, e.g. the family decreasing in size due to death or marriage. This will also mean that it will be necessary to have children’s apartments arranged at the discretion of the parents and that these apartments be able to be switched for other usage if required. It is believed that this system of children’s apartments will alleviate many of the problems that often occur with an only child or first born. The children will also have the opportunity to develop a sense of care, one for the other, from an early age.

It is believed that sound proofing of apartments will be of vital importance in such a housing unit.
Equipment will be installed in the housing unit that will enable parents to maintain contact with their children at night, as is necessary.

Accepting that family life is of value to the individual and that a healthy inter-action between third, second and first generation is also of value, it is necessary when arranging housing accommodation, to so arrange it that this inter-action becomes possible.

Because of the standard size of the apartments, it will be possible to provide communal facilities, such as a comfortable lounge to accommodate all the members, plus their friends. A general purpose room will be available for small craft work, repairs, ironing and washing and the storage of spare equipment. A large kitchen will be available for the preparing of any main meals that it is desired to have together. This takes into consideration that the aged and un-married especially, might want to join together for some meals. Each unit will have its own House Committee, comprised of all the adult members. The Committee will provide the means for settling domestic issues and encouraging its members to take part in the affairs of the outside community. They will appoint their own Housekeeper. The active aged will have excellent opportunity to assist in the full life of this small community. Mutual aid will be possible in all fields, e.g. baby sitting, care of children during the hospitalisation of a parent, care of the aged, etc.

If mothers with young children decide to take a part time job or wish to take part in an educational course, it will be possible to make adequate arrangements for the care of their children for a few hours in the hands of people that are well known and loved by their children.

The distress caused to many people by having to move to other accommodation due to a death of a husband or due to problems of ageing, is immeasurable. People not only lose their loved ones, but have to leave neighbours and the neighbourhood that they knew. Roots have to be started again, at a time when they are in a distressed condition. Children not only lose a parent, but also lose their friends at school, in their neighbourhood and perhaps the advice of a friendly teacher or the help that could be gained from a good club.

Such stresses call for strong action, and any project that sets out to alter the conditions which aggravate an already un-settled situation, needs a fair chance to prove its value.