PDP Community Series – Blog 13: Jamaican Society – 1

The proposed community concept for the pilot demonstration project should be built now so it can be used as an example of what this type of community would look like in the future. The purpose of the project is to offer innovative ideas that will demonstrate solutions that could be utilized and adapted for times of recession or abundance. Regardless, we will always need affordable housing. In the latter part of this book, various views of what our society could become are dependent upon many factors dealing with our social systems, use of natural resources, revision of food chains, and various forms of pollution. What we do now determines how we live in the future. Present practices of greed, political cronyism, questionable technologies, unstable social systems, overuse of natural resources, expensive or dwindling energy sources, over-consumption, increasing inequality, government debt, environmental degradation, and so on have to be curtailed or reduced. If we don’t start considering and acting on these issues now (we are already too late on some), there will be chaos, depressions, and conflicts about food, water, and other resources. How will we act when we have limited energy sources and limited conveniences that we now enjoy? This book will attempt to offer some solutions by the presentation of a community that is a possible viable answer for our future. I hope to provide ideas that will stimulate other ideas to make even stronger communities. Users can be as important as professionals in this regard, since they have valuable considerations that are often overlooked by the designated experts. No project is static, so laws and ordinances that make it so are not acceptable. That is why this type of community will require many exemptions from standard zoning ordinances.

      The most important aspect for any community is its social cohesion and the instilling of sharing and collaboration among its members. This is the first step in making it a community that is healthy and viable. Physical structures alone cannot do this. Like nature, the key to success is diversity among its members, and this includes all races, various cultures, young students, the elderly, the handicapped and homeless, occupations, political thought, and so on. Rather than focusing on one’s self, the goal is to help others. This proposed community design will make that easier to do. The goal is to give people a chance to define their own purpose in life. Depression is one of our biggest problems, and reaching for drugs to solve it is not the answer. This demonstration project is also economical because it reduces the amount of “stuff” that you think you need. Swapping of stuff can be enjoyable and add variety to life. The project could also reduce dependency on some of the false gods that many people depend on when using social media as their only outlet.

      The pilot demonstration project has been designed using several unique concepts that I would like to introduce so they could be included in community development practices. They can be used for affordable housing solutions now and during a recession. Unfortunately, affordable housing solutions are limited due to many different factors. One of these is the lack of funding by HUD and continually higher building and land costs. Most residential designs now are commissioned by builders or individuals for people in the upper-income or middle-income brackets. The designs used and constructed by builders in the United States show few new innovations regarding the homes that they are building. Most features being used are what is trendy each year, mainly regarding interior features. The sense of community is primarily found in master-planned communities featuring swimming pools, some sports activities, and shopping and greenbelts, and these are not available for many people because of costs.

  Social diversity is limited to economic considerations and may include a scattering of affordable housing for persons in the middle-income groups. When people want a larger house, they may add an addition or move to a larger house. Now, due to increasing land costs, we have many McMansions being constructed on small lots. Builders, in order to save money, are not known for preparing the landscape space with decent topsoil, and many times they use subsoil. Because of this, landscape costs for homeowners are more expensive than they need to be. Expansive lawns are the order of the day, and most of them are fertilized with chemicals, over-sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, with little regard for water conservation. These factors are some of the reasons for creating the pilot demonstration project.

The summary for the pilot demonstration project (PDP) is shown below, with specific details noted after it.

  1. Demonstration: Since the project is a demonstration project, it will have different requirements than a typical housing project. The purpose for the project, from a housing perspective, is to obtain enough construction and maintenance data that can be used in other later projects. Will solar panels pay for themselves and over what time frame? Is it better to use wood studs or metal ones? What will the best housing construction products in the future be, considering that some of what we have now will not be available later? For example, will metal materials or wood framing be too expensive or even available? What new technologies are available for power storage or sanitary sewers instead of septic systems and high-pressure lines? What exterior siding or other material is cost-effective now and still has low maintenance costs? What type of landscaping will be applicable for the future? The answer should be organic maintenance, reduced lawn areas, and native plants versus chemical treatments. Organic products and methods will be more sustainable and cost-effective because the soils use natural processes. What sustainable materials and practices are better to use now even if they cost more? These are just some of the questions to be answered. Proper planning now is necessary because of the importance of preparing for the future. The same type of questions will also be considered during the planning of the project for social and environmental potential problems.
  2. Multi-use of Buildings and Products: To date, this has been a limited consideration in community development, but it will be a major component of the PDP. Due to our uncertain future, this is necessary to keep communities stable. What has happened in Detroit, Michigan, is a good example. Hundreds of houses are vacant due to an economic downturn. It is starting to turn around, and the process is slow and painful, especially for low-income families. One example for housing is in the design of the triplex housing plans. Some of the plans are shown on page 6 in the appendix. In plan 1, the triplex consists of three individual units (A-B-C) ranging between 480 and 500 square feet. Unit A is separated from B and C. Both units A and C can be enlarged to whatever size is desired. Unit 2 shows how a triplex can be converted to a duplex by just taking down a small section of wall and taking out a movable kitchen to be used somewhere else. This then could be for a single family, with unit A being used by the family and a rental unit or a place for a young or elderly member of the family. As for the multiuse of products, an example would be for several members of the community to use community landscape equipment rather than buying separately for each residence. Many other examples will be shown later in the book.
  3. Amenities: The project will have several amenities, and they are described later. Some of these include a community building, small sports park, restaurant, community bank using local currency, library, day care center, and community car rental. These locations are shown on the site plan.
  4. Sharing, Collaboration, Social Programs: The project is designed around these types of social activities. There are facilities for the elderly, homeless, handicapped, veterans, and people suffering from anxiety and depression. Student housing facilities and medical facilities are also available. The community has car rental and car-sharing opportunities. Special purchasing arrangements can be made with local businesses in regard to discounts and delivery options. The community will have its own businesses, such as landscape and building maintenance, that hire people from the project. Flea market and farmer market facilities are also available. Various types of rental, lease, or home ownership can occur on one lot, and this opens up many more opportunities for the poor to afford housing and start their own businesses. The community will also have its own community money to be used within the project and surrounding area. A government center will be on-site to help people so they do not have to find transportation to go to a government office outside of the project.
  5. Education, Training, and Workshops: The central area of every community will have training and educational facilities with emphasis on business management, construction trades, agriculture, and landscaping, with other trades available at a later date. The program will be based on a work/study format with very low tuition fees. Student housing will be available on-site for people coming there from other cities or towns. Progress will be evaluated on a person’s abilities and not on the number of courses that are completed. Apprentice work will also be available with nearby farmers and general contractors, and the agricultural programs will be based on understanding organic applications, permaculture, and agroecology. Information on these programs is included later in this book.
  6. Support Mechanisms, Governance: People will not be alone in the community if they need help at any time, because of the social management structure. One of the requirements that will be enforced is that people cannot use drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.), and if they are caught using them, they will have to leave the community. There may be exceptions for marijuana usage. The project will also have its own type of governance once a certain percentage of the units are occupied, and there will be a nonprofit available for people living in the community to obtain community or other grants. There are many options that could be used, and each individual project would determine its own needs.

This type of community can be anything that you want it to be. People have choices and in turn are recognized as who they are and want to be. People who want privacy can still have it and yet contribute to the community on their own terms. Sharing and collaboration will still be part of the program.  The grid plan shown makes the project more affordable but it has several problems for creating a pleasing aesthetic experience that curved features present.  This is why the landscaping, choice of architectural features and entrance appeal is important for presenting  interesting features and vistas that would encoring people to want to enjoy walking in the community.  Affordability, however, is still one of its most desirable features.

This book is divided into two sections.

Section 1 discusses the objectives and description of the pilot demonstration project. This is the optimistic section of the book because it describes a way to design a proposed community that would allow people to live in a different type of community than what is available now. It is versatile and innovative enough so that it can adapt to the changing conditions that will occur in the near future. Hopefully, these changes will occur slowly enough that there will be limited problems, but as things appear now, our habits of greed, consumerism, nonproductive wars and destruction, exponential use of natural resources, increasing ecological footprints by the developed nations, depletion of soils, and nonrecognition of climate change by the present administration will hasten our pathway toward chaos to a degree we have never seen before. This community plan should be just a beginning for developing other solutions.  Pictures and plans are shown in the appendix and provide a synopsis of the project and its objectives. The land use plan is shown below with explanations that follow.            

In section 2, I attempt to show what is happening both environmentally and socially. This is done by using excerpts from books and articles by other authors. This enlarges the scope of the dialogue by encouraging readers to read in depth the writings and comments that would be most interesting to them. It discusses the false power of advertising along with all the corruption of our political system. It describes how the mismanagement of our soils can lead to increasing the acidity and temperature of the oceans. This kills the krill, which is one of the main foods for fish. The corals would die, and this destroys the balance of nature in the oceans and land. The permafrost in the arctic could melt and release large amounts of methane that can exponentially speed up climate change. There would be little good topsoil left, and Monsanto/Bayer would be left with billions of dollars that they can’t spend because they are one of the main chaos manufacturers. All this, and I still haven’t mentioned the drug companies. I hope the journey through the book will make everyone aware of what is happening regardless of their party affiliation and beliefs. This understanding is needed to bring us together to fight for a common cause—survival. Then, by working together, we can have a safer world for our children.

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