In praise of Project Gregory


This is a really rather inventive idea that's just been funded on Kickstarter. We've lots of homeless people (perhaps rather fewer in England than many think but still). And we'd all obviously like to find a way to house the homeless. We might say it's for ethical reasons, civilised ones or just that they clutter up the urban landscape so badly: but housing the homeless is quite obviously a good thing to be doing. So, why not build little self-contained units, by the roadside, that are then slathered with advertising? The billboard pays for the upkeep (even if not the capital cost) of that housing? On much the same basis that various advertising firms are willing to build bus shelters as long as they get the advertising rights upon them.

An excellent concept except for just one thing:

Cities are engulfed with billboard advertisements which are expensive to construct, maintain and their subsequent renting is a costly venture. The proposal increases the functionality of the structures in a way that the insides could be turned into living spaces. Such an object would produce minimal maintenancecosts, which could be paid through the rental space of its facade. In addition, the architects believe, ‘if we take the electricity cost needed for the billboard to keep it lit during night and we try to optimize it by x%, we find that this saved energy could fully cover all those interior usage needs.”

That might not quite roll off the tongue but that's pretty good English for some Slovak architectural students.

At which point we come to that just one thing.

Planning permission.

To do this would obviously require the granting of planning permission to build such dwellings. But if we had a planning system that allowed the building of cheap and cheerful urban homes then we wouldn't (absent addiction and mental health issues) have a problem with homelessness in the first place.

It's a fascinating solution. But the reason it won't work as a solution is because it won't pass through that planning system that causes the problem it's trying to solve.

Ain't bureaucracy wondrous?