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  Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 06, 2012 3:53 PMMr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 07, 2012 10:44 AMMr. Sean Catherall, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 09, 2012 2:54 PMMr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 12, 2012 10:44 PMMr. Sean Catherall, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 07, 2012 12:19 PMErnesto Maldonado, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 09, 2012 10:15 AMEdward Shannon, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 10, 2012 10:08 AMErnesto Maldonado, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 10, 2012 6:03 PMEdward Shannon, AIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 10, 2012 11:16 AMMr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 10, 2012 11:17 AMMr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
  RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012Feb 10, 2012 6:10 PMEdward Shannon, AIA
 

1.
Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 06, 2012 3:53 PM
Subject: Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:

How about something a little more aspirational and less mundane.

I would suggest that the AIA Housing KC develop a National Housing Policy that says, in effect, that it should be a right for every citizen in the United States to go to bed each night in a safe, secure and weathertight environment.  In otherwords, we need to eliminate homelessness from our nation's vocabularly.

This does not mean everyone gets to own or even rent a home or apartment.  This could be SRO's or other types of shelters.  They need not need more than four walls and a roof.  However, if we truly want to provide work for architects and raise our profile, ending homelessness would be a start.
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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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2.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Sean Catherall, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 07, 2012 10:44 AM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
A "right" to good housing? I'm sorry, but how can such a "right" be guaranteed without enslaving those who design, build, furnish and maintain housing? I can't agree with this idea at all.

Homelessness is not a problem born of the housing market, so changing the housing market will not fix it. Homelessness is a problem born of poverty, mental illness and distrust of society. I suggest we work on those problems instead.

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Sean Catherall, AIA
Herriman UT
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3.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 09, 2012 2:54 PM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:

Sean:

With all due respect, I do not believe that having safe housing as a right enslaves anyone.  It means creating policy and incentives to make something happen, making it a priority.

I do believe that the housing market contributes to homelessness.  If housing was attainable, most people would chose to utilize it.  One only needs to look at recent 60 Minutes pieces on homeless families in the Orlando market and how they can't find shelters that take families to know that is the reality.  Or look at the statistics on homlessness among Iraq and Afgan veterans.

Most architects joined the profession to make better places to live, work and play.  Here we have one of the real moral issues, and its a design problem to boot. 

Architects will continue to be marginalized until we learn to be the voice of societal issues that effect the buiilt environment.  Making the world a better place will put us at the forefront of the conversation and not a "necessary evil."  

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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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4.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Sean Catherall, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 12, 2012 10:44 PM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:

Here's more of my opinion on the subject. Feel free to skip it.

According to the Declaration of Independence, rights are not granted by government. The rights to live in liberty and to use one's liberty to pursue happiness are endowments of the Creator. Because they are unalienable, even the disrespect and trampling of those rights by tyrants does not take them away.

Shelter is not an endowment of the Creator; human beings in their natural state are not endowed with access to shelter; it is not unalienable. The natural law governing shelter is work: human effort must be expended in order to find or create it. A lack of effort is all that is needed to alienate us from shelter. The need is a natural incentive for the effort and having the need satisfied is the natural reward for expending the effort. Therefore, shelter is a human need, not a human right. Because we all have a right to liberty, no one has the right to tyrannize another by taking shelter they create or find and using it as their own without the consent of the person who expended their own effort to create or find it.

When government attempts to endow its citizens with a new right-a right to something that requires human effort to create or find (as opposed to unalienable rights that are endowments of the Creator)-it can only do so by taking that something away from someone who has expended effort to create it, find it or otherwise make it available, either by direct force or by forcibly taking money and goods away from the citizens in general to compensate those who create the object to which it is fabricating a right. If the government attempts to endow its citizens with a right to adequate food, for example, the government must take food away from those who produce it or take money away from the citizens in general to compensate the producers. Artificial, government-endowed "rights" come at the price of enslavement of the producers or enslavement of everyone.

Whenever a citizen has a need met without expending effort (especially through government intervention and redistribution), the incentive to expend the effort is reduced or removed altogether, less and less effort is expended to meet the need and shortages result. This has been proven in every utopian society ever constructed, including the former Soviet system. Not only were architects and citizens in general enslaved under the Soviets, but the lack of housing became worse and worse until the system was overturned. A "right" to shelter did not make shelter appear; it created less and less adequate shelter. No policy or incentive within that system was capable of correcting the fundamental flaw: disincentives.

I agree that a major contributor to homelessness is the disparity between housing prices and the ability to pay of those at the lowest levels of income. However, unless the government forces someone to provide housing against their will or takes resources from the citizens in general to incentivize housing production, the natural incentive to create it is left to the market. An oversupply of housing has the general tendency of depressing prices, which is good for those with low incomes, but it also removes the incentive to provide housing except by those that are producing for altruistic reasons, rather than as a way of earning a living. Once housing production slows down as a result, the supply lags behind the demand and prices rise, restoring the natural incentive to create it. The dampening force of this pendulum is altruism. I believe most architects are naturally altruistic, but few are willing to live in poverty themselves in order to provide adequate housing for others. And the altruism of architects alone does not result in housing-only designs for housing. A great deal more altruism is required to make it a physical reality that actually gives shelter.

I conclude from this that the best way to combat homelessness is to use our altruistic motivations to combat poverty and mental illnesses in the private sector, helping more individuals become able to pay the market rate for their own shelter while motivating the natural housing market to produce as much as possible. That is how we can make the world a better place. The true moral issue is liberty and the true design problem is in creating and using altruism-problems that are not at all unique to architects.

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Sean Catherall, AIA
Herriman UT
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5.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Ernesto Maldonado, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 07, 2012 12:19 PM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
As the AIA, National thinks about setting a legislative agenda related to housing as a public good, I think Mr. Hainsfurther's idea is correct, but its not about architect full employment. It's about creating a majority of the citizenry that believes that homelessness affects them.

Discuss housing as the first rung of the public health agenda: How many healthy homeless people have we seen on our streets? I expect, not many.

Discussing Public Housing as a public good will take time. It took the medical profession in NYC 3 cholera epidemics over 12 years in the 1830's and 40's for their third petition to Albany for a department of Public Health to be won in the legislature. The public needed that much time and that kind of crisis to understand if other people aren't healthy, I'm not healthy, or not going to be healthy long. The medical profession defined the context for people to understand that there is such a thing as Public Health that the government should be involved in. Before they did that Public Health as an idea didn't exist in the public's mind.

I think the architectural profession in the US is in a similar position. A majority of US citizens believe Public Housing is not a viable idea--worth funding through governmental agencies. The majority believe that the market takes care of all housing needs. They do not understand that the market takes care of all profitable housing needs. Good, well designed, affordable housing, whatever the standard, makes minimal profits, if at all. The investors need to be given incentives to enter into that "market". 

The legislative agenda to get enough of the public to believe that homelessness is not good for public health and the public good will not be accomplished with one push. But it is the right way to proceed to put that on the national agenda.

It would be interesting to see how the AIA, National could package such a legislative agenda and how legislators would respond to it. I remember when AIA, National packaged a discussion of funding repairs to schools in 2000-2001 by reminding each legislator what their own high school looked like today, and the repairs each needed. I think the legislators understood the issue, but there was not enough public response to get any legislator to propose a bill to fund educational building repair from a national platform.

The legislative agenda needs to be pursued over an extended period of time. It is not about us as architects willing to work, it is about the public and its welfare--the commonweal.

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Ernesto Maldonado AIA
Principal
Glassman Shoemake Maldonado Architects, Inc.
Houston TX
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6.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Edward Shannon, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 09, 2012 10:15 AM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
Walt, my good friend (and I am proud to call you friend) I must disagree with you on a couple of counts.  Like Mr. Catheral, I don't believe homelessness is an architectural problem, but a social one.  I serve in churches and ministries that have homeless populations.  I have seen first hand that many "choose" to be homeless.  It doesn't sound rational to clear thinking people, but mental illness, addictions, and broken families can foster this.  I used to drop my boys off (at their mother's) in Palatine at 5pm on Sundays.  I would be heading back to Winnetka on Palatine Road and would usually see a homeless man in Arlington Heights walking west bound.  I would turn along and give him a ride to a church in Palatine that had a PADS program.  His name was Emory.  He walked with a bad limp and it just pained me to see him walking a 3.5 mile trek.  On our short drives, I began to get to know Emory a little.  I asked "what happened?"  He explained to me that he a a college degree and was once married. his marriage feel apart and he lost his job (that happened to me too) and could never "pick himself up".  As such, he went down the slipperily slope of becoming homeless.  I asked if he had family in the area (this is key, I believe).  He told me he had a sister on the South Side of Chicago.  I asked why he didn't move in with her and try to get up on his feet.  He shyed away from my questions, saying he didn't want to impose; they didn't get along well, etc.   

Where are the families?  If I found myself in that predicament, I am confident I could move in with a family member or close friend.  In the 1930's depression years, many were unemployed, yet many families lived together.  This doesn't happen with this demographic, and I have seen stories, like Emory's, time and time again.  I could share a few more, but need not.

I don't think any amount of free housing will solve this problem.  Housing is not the problem.  It is a symptom of the problem.  These people need family support.  They need counseling and (often times) addictions intervention.  Architects will not solve this problem, nor should we.  I know a few, like Donald Macdonald of San Francisco, and the "Mad Houser's of Atlanta,  have tried.  I commend them for their efforts, but wonder if they have actually produced tangible results.


Second, please don't dismiss Mr. Rawlings findings.  This is a very real dilemma that threatens the residential sector of the architecture profession.  When my kids were young we moved into an inspiring 1950's California styled ranch designed by Mies van der Rohe's student Roy Binkley.  It was a small home of 1,500 square feet, yet it had a huge great room and den with a south facing glass wall 42' long (We froze our a$$es off in the winter as it had single glazing).  The ceiling sloped from 8 foot to twelve feet, and it's exposed beams barred into a solid brick wall.  Today this would cost way more to construct than a conventional home. When we had an opportunity to refinance (hoping we could retrofit the windows, which ended up being 30K) the appraisers did comps.  Our inspiring home was just another 3 bedroom. 2 bath ranch!  Forget the attention to detail and craftsmanship.  The real estate profession thrives on resale.  It has done a great job convincing the general public that their home is only worth what it can be re-sold for. Anything unique (like we had) will be a tough sell.  Not because prospective buyers don't like uniqueness, but because they are afraid to venture into something they might have difficulty selling a few years down the road.  This fosters cookie cutter house designs and monotonous neighborhoods devoid of diversity like old Highland Park.  Your house is simply a statistic. 

Sadly our little post & beam gem was sold to a builder who tore it down and put up a McMansion that was completely out of scale withquaint, downtown Palatine!

If the AIA is going to be of any value to residential architects - and sadly, I am no longer convinced it is - this needs to be addressed.  Even in the world of production housing, unique solutions and variety need to be encouraged.  Realtors have hurt our profession.  And, by the way....in most cases they make more than us. Ok I need to stop here.

PS...It was great bumping into you at Geno's East last fall.  As always, thankyou for all yo have done to serve our profession.  Ed

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Edward Shannon AIA
Waterloo IA
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7.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Ernesto Maldonado, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 10, 2012 10:08 AM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:


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Ernesto Maldonado AIA
Principal
Glassman Shoemake Maldonado Architects, Inc.
Houston TX
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There is a misunderstanding in this reply from Mr. Shannon. Funding affordable housing is not providing free housing. Affordable housing is neither an architectural nor a social problem.
 
It is a funding problem caused by the fact that Affordable Housing doesn't provide the profit that market rate housing does. Affordable Housing can pay the maintenance and management of the building with rents, it can't pay the loan interest and the profit margin required to motivate banks and investors to enter the market. This is not to vilify anyone, it is just the way the market works.

There are people who "choose to be on the streets", they use shelters in times of crisis. 

The clientele for affordable housing are those who already pay rent to substandard and overcrowded buildings. There are many who need to rent something other than a very dilapidated 40 to 50 year old house that has been turned into "apartments" by owners who don't return the profits from that rent into enough maintenance to keep a building dry and clean. This is the clientele for affordable housing.

If you build good, clean, well managed affordable housing, the residents will pay for their room. They most likely won't be able to also pay a bank or a creditor. There is no free housing in this conversation. I have been working with a development company in Houston which has been proving this model for 15 years and currently has more than 600 units of award winning affordable housing. It is moving toward its goal of building and maintaining 1,000 units of SRO buildings in the next 3 or 4 years. Market research from the mid 1990's documented a need for 10,000 units of SROs in Houston. This is a segment of housing that doesn't generate profits but can maintain itself, once built.

I think we need to be clear about items like this if the AIA, National is to formulate a policy that responds to the reality of the situation in 2012 rather than ideas about "Free Rent". 


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8.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Edward Shannon, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 10, 2012 6:03 PM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
Mr. Maldonado - Perhaps there was a misunderstanding on my part.  However, I read "we need to eliminate homelessness from our vocabulary" to mean that somehow a new AIA legislative effort could accomplish this.  I reiterate that housing is not the problem, but a symptom of the problem.  I think of homelessness not as "houselessness" but being without a home - meaning family, or other support system.  I am all for the efforts of affordable housing and subsidized housing.  But providing these to people who cannot take care of themselves will be futile st best.



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Edward Shannon AIA
Waterloo IA
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9.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 10, 2012 11:16 AM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
So Ed, you pose an interesting question.  What role should architects and architecture play in solving sociatal issues that confront our country?  Is there a moral imperitive for us to use our skills, including design thinking, to "make the world a better place?" 

Obviously I think we have a role to play in these issues (and there are a whole raft of them, including Diversity, Public Health, Sustainability just to name a few.)  We need to at least lead the discussion or we will forever wonder why we are under-appreciated compared to others.

Daniel Burnham famously challenged us to "Make no small plans because they fail to stir men's souls."  I'm looking for those who will advance big plans. 

Always good to see you as well.  You are one of the people who make this profession better.  Your students are forunate to learn from you. 

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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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10.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Mr. Walter Hainsfurther, FAIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 10, 2012 11:17 AM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:
So Ed, you pose an interesting question.  What role should architects and architecture play in solving sociatal issues that confront our country?  Is there a moral imperitive for us to use our skills, including design thinking, to "make the world a better place?" 

Obviously I think we have a role to play in these issues (and there are a whole raft of them, including Diversity, Public Health, Sustainability just to name a few.)  We need to at least lead the discussion or we will forever wonder why we are under-appreciated compared to others.

Daniel Burnham famously challenged us to "Make no small plans because they fail to stir men's souls."  I'm looking for those who will advance big plans. 

Always good to see you as well.  You are one of the people who make this profession better.  Your students are forunate to learn from you. 

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Walter Hainsfurther FAIA
Kurtz Associates Architects
Des Plaines IL
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11.
RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
From: Edward Shannon, AIA
To: Housing Knowledge Community
Posted: Feb 10, 2012 6:10 PM
Subject: RE:Legislative Priorities - 2012
Message:

Yes Walter, I do think architects should be involved in housing needs.  and your right, we should be at the forefront.  But, it is not our responsibility to "eliminate homelessness from our nation's vocabulary".  Again, this is not an architectural problem, but a social one.

I also was resonding to your "more aspirational and less mundane" comment.  I think your discussion is important, but could be a new thread.  Mr. Rawling's observiations are very poignant and need to be adressed.

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Edward Shannon AIA
Waterloo IA
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