I was camping with a friend last summer (I do have a couple left, if you count my dog) and he, being a San Francisco architect and knowing I have a keen interest in homeless-related subjects, described an “affordable” housing project now under construction in The City.
It’s on Irving Street, seven stories high and being built at a cost of about $1,000 per square foot–or, just under $1,000,000 per apartment. Of course the thing was opposed by NIMBYs, with all the attendant drama, but what we both marveled at was the price tag.
At the other end of the spectrum, from a million dollars a home, is a 7X9 tarp of the sort we’ve distributed for almost six years, Sunday after Sunday. Tarps cost around $10. And yes, a tarp is a kind of home if that’s all you’ve got.
So we have a spectrum, from a million dollars to ten dollars. A ratio of 100,000:1. Building (un)affordable housing in Chico costs a bit less–more like $350,000 per unit, a 35,000:1 ratio.
It’s not a new thought: Why are we “stuck on stupid” when it comes to developing shelter at lower cost and in the numbers we really need? This year, 12,000,000 cargo containers were returned to China, empty. Are we just too proud to buy 5% of those humble “cans” and immediately create the half-million affordable dwellings so desperately needed?
— Patrick Newman, Chico