With one third of the world’s population living in substandard housing, a new model of sustainable, social and cost effective public housing needs to be developed. Public housing can be referred to as “housing where the access is controlled by the existence of allocation rules favoring households that have difficulties in finding accommodation in the market”. It can translate into forms such as social rental housing, cooperative housing, affordable housing, or mixed tenure. Public housing has developed in response to the inability of the housing market to respond to the general needs for housing particularly for low-income people. Public housing policies are taking into account public participation and the need for public-private partnerships.
The principles of sustainable development in the long-term perspective should be taken into account when formulating social housing policies. A study completed by UNECE Workshop in 2003 stated that “the emergence of social ghettos in certain neighborhoods and the dilapidation of housing condominiums after privatization of the public housing stock to tenants in countries in transition, are just two examples of the need for new approaches to social housing which meet the objectives of sustainable development, social cohesion and inclusion of citizens / inhabitants.”
According to the United Nations, seven billion people are living on this planet. That number will only continue to rise. One third of the world’s housing population is currently in inadequate housing and 50% of the world’s population is living in cities. The International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) had a goal of housing everyone. Existenzminimum was their attempt to insure a minimum level of quality housing that included fresh air, daylight, and good hygiene at the lowest cost possible. Unfortunately, while their intentions were noble they have thus far failed. Because of this, a new model for public housing, a new type of sustainable, social and cost effective Existenzminimum that can fit within a multitude of budgets including government bodies and non-government bodies is needed.
It is arguable that design, along with technological advancements, has always been forces to reshape culture, even if it was done unintentionally. The idea that there is a minimum level of resources required to sustain the survival of a human being has arisen as the stipulation of living space in housing schemes. For Existenzminimum design as an environmentally sustainable development, one must review the quantities of energy and raw materials used to produce or sustain particular lifestyles. To do this, designers must reduce those requirements or value-engineer them, all while maintaining a minimum level of adequacy for its occupants.
With the origination of public housing in the East Block of Europe, I plan to review the past, analyze what is happening today, and propose what can happen in the future in this region. Included in this review will be:
(a) Role and definition of social housing;
(b) Social housing governance;
(c) Sustainable development of social housing.
“Public housing projects are not lacking in natural leaders, they contain people with real ability, wonderful people many of them, but the typical sequence is that in the course of organization leaders have found each other, gotten all involved in each other’s’ social lives, and have ended up talking to nobody but each other. They have not found their followers. Everything tends to degenerate into ineffective cliques, as a natural course. There is no normal public life. Just the mechanics of people learning what’s going on is so difficult. It all makes the simplest social gain extra hard for these people,” (Jane Jacobs).
The International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) was founded in June 1928. CIAM was one of many 20th century manifestos meant to advance the cause of “architecture as a social art”. The social programs of German architects dominated its earliest conferences, dedicated to questions of Existenzminimum. The organization was hugely influential. It was not only engaged in formalizing the architectural principles of the Modern Movement, but also saw architecture as an economic and political tool that could be used to improve the world through the design of buildings and through urban planning. CIAM proposed that the social problems faced by cities could be resolved by strict functional segregation, and the distribution of the population into tall apartment blocks at widely spaced intervals. Existenzminimum was their attempt to insure a minimum level of quality housing at the lowest cost possible. Team Ten, also known as Team X, was a splinter group of the CIAM whom attended the 9th conference of CIAM in 1953. Their intent was to challenge CIAM’s approach to urbanism. Some group members included Peter and Alison Smithson of England and Aldo van Eyck and Jacob Bakema from the Netherlands. The group’s theoretical framework disseminated through New Brutalism (the Smithsons) and Structuralism (Eyck and Bakema). Shortly after their devastating critique, the CIAM organization disbanded in 1959 as the views of the members diverged.
Jane Jacobs was a writer and activist with interest in urban planning, cities, and the decay of downtowns. In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs opposed virtually all single-use development, but particularly what she called “massive public housing projects” that “tend to cause their city surroundings to deteriorate.” As the blocks around public housing decline, the result is that “as time passes, less and less healthy adjoining city is available to tie into.”
Existenzminimum (a.k.a. subsistence dwelling) is based on a concept of universal access to affordable housing and healthy dwelling for all. This concept includes minimally-acceptable floorspace, density, fresh air, access to green space, access to transit, and other such resident issues. The architects of this time were eager to build as much cost-effective housing as possible, partly to address Germany’s postwar housing crisis, and partly to fulfill the promise of Article 155 of the 1919 Weimar Constitution, which provided for “a healthy dwelling” for all Germans. Germany’s first President, Friedrich Ebert, signed the new German constitution into law on August 11, 1919. The fundamental principle of the Weimar Constitution was that Germany was to be a republic on the parliamentary model with a parliament elected using proportional representation.
The Weimar Constitution was divided into two main parts. The two parts were divided into sections. Section 5 covered the fundamental principles of economic life. “One of the fundamental principles was that economic life should conform to the principles of justice, with the goal of achieving a dignified life for all and securing the economic freedom of the individual.” This drove Existenzminimum. In the late 1920s the principles of equal access to light, air, and sun, and the social effects of a guaranteed Existenzminimum became a matter of lively popular debate all over Germany.
Between 1925 and 1930 Germany was the site of innovative municipal public housing projects, mostly in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, and Frankfurt . This was brought out in response to the poor living conditions pre-war, and as a response to the anti-urban Garden City Movement in Britain. These projects were low-rise and often in suburban settings, to free the residents from urban squalor. In these new public housing projects, residents were provided access to light, air, and sun.
Architect Martin Wagner and city planner Ernst May were responsible for many of these projects built in and around Berlin and Frankfurt. In Berlin, Wagner worked with the former Expressionists Bruno Taut in developments of flats and terraced houses. Taut’s designs featured modern flat roofs with access to sun, air and gardens, and generous amenities like gas, electricity, and bathrooms. This struck a debate on whether or not these developments were too progressive for “simple people”. Berlin mayor Gustav Boss defended the new design standards stating, “We want to bring the lower levels of society higher.” After this, the term functionalism began to be used.
In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. The representatives of the 51 countries signed the Charter in 1945. The United Nations pledges itself to “promote higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development”. The Organization feels that “international peace and security are possible only if the economic and social well-being of people everywhere is assured”. Because the UN sits as the global center of international building, it has been their responsibility to set priorities and goals, as a minimum standard, for rich and poor countries under development.
Countries that share boarders often feel the instability of its neighbor. Continuous poverty, unemployment, conflict and social disruption can interject into its neighbors economic and social issues. “A border–the perimeter of a single massive or stretched-out use of territory–forms the edge of an area of ‘ordinary’ city. Often borders are thought of as passive objects, or matter-of-factly just as edges. However, a border exerts an active influence,” (Jane Jacobs). To aid this issue, the UN has played an integral role in international consensus-building, a modern form of Existenzminimum. In the 1960’s, the United Nations set these goals through a series of 10-year International Development Strategies. “The UN continues formulating new development objectives in such key areas as sustainable development, environmental protection and good governance – along with programs to make them a reality,” (UN.org). At the Millennium Summit in September 2000, world leaders adopted a set of Millennium Development Goals that are to be achieved by 2015, aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring environmental sustainability. In September 2008, Governments, foundations, businesses and civil society groups announced new commitments to meet the Millennium Development Goals at an event at UN Headquarters.
In 1988, CECODHAS was established as the European liaison to promote the right for decent housing for all. Their promotion expands over 19 countries and includes over 21 million homes across the European Union. CECODHAS’ vision includes decent and affordable housing for all in communities which are socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable. CECODHAS Housing Europe, the European federation of social, cooperative and public housing, is organized in three sections and three working groups; Policy Formulation and Lobbying, Communication and Research. The Observatory is the research branch. Its main aim is to identify and analyze key trends and research needs in the field of housing and social housing at European level, and provides strategic and evidence-based analysis in the field. CECODHAS has memberships open to national organizations of providers building and/or managing social housing in EU Member States.
CHAPTER 2: CASE STUDIES & ROL
The basic goal of housing policy is to provide the whole population with good, adequately equipped dwellings of suitable size in a well-functioning environment of high quality at reasonable cost. Social housing in Europe is as diversified as the number of countries. Since there has been a movement towards the decentralization of social housing is in the process in many European Union (EU) countries. This movement brings with it a new role for local authorities. According to the study completed by the UNECE Workshop, financing these projects has become very difficult. This is why the use of private organizations and NGO’s has become prevalent. However, in countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, the privatization process has reacted more slowly.
After 1989, the Czech government tried to retain the existing “housing privileges” for those who already occupied public housing. The state could not give the same level of economic subsidy to all existing and newly created households as in such case the state budget would end in the bankruptcy. By doing so, they privatized public units into the ownership of the tenants at very low prices. This allowed the proportion of owner-occupied housing to rise over 90% of the total housing stock. Between 1990-2004, the public housing stock had sold out. In 2002, the government subsidized $528 million dollars into public housing projects. Between 2003-2007, the government spent $868 million on the construction of 23,000 social housing units. By 2005, that decreased to $375 million. Since 2006, government subsidies have gradually come to an end. Because of this, 70% of public housing has been privatized. Since then, the Act on Unilateral Housing Rent Increase has been in force; its aim is to remove, by the end of 2010, differentiated rent levels. Their goal is to close the gap between affordable and free-market rents. Going forward from 2011 on, housing rent levels in the Czech Republic will depend on the local demand and supply in the housing market. The Czech housing policy must find ways to prevent rent inflation which is often connected with demand-side subsidies (grants and loans for owner-occupied housing or housing allowance for tenants).
Social housing is not defined on the central level, with the exemption of the Act on Value Added Tax. The reduced VAT rate in the Czech Republic has been increased from 5% to 9%; the Act amendment (approved in 2007) includes also the definition of “social housing”, for which the reduced tax rate has been applied since January 2008. For new construction, as well as for fitting, refurbishment or change of the “social housing buildings”, including facilities, the reduced tax rate is applied. The reduced tax rate is also applied for construction or change of residential as well as non-residential building or family house (or even space in a building) with the aim to create “social housing”, (Workshop, 2003).
In the Czech Republic, the financial affordability of newly built dwellings is considerably lower than 15 other European Union countries. When taking into account aggregate average figures there is clear trend of decrease in financial affordability of housing and housing expenditures became the main consumption item in the household budgets; this trend has been currently strengthened by the end of economic subsidies and substantial house price growth in the last two years. In 2011, the median monthly salary in the Czech Republic, after tax, is $958. The market rate rental price for a 538 square foot unit is $945. That equates to about 98% of one person’s salary. As there are no private developers of affordable rented flats in the Czech Republic, there is a need to satisfy housing needs of the group of socially disadvantaged persons because of aging population as well as because of the existence of families with low incomes, (Workshop, 2003).
SCMBD (Union of Czech and Moravian Co-operative Housing) is an association of housing cooperatives that promotes throughout the Czech Republic. Founded in 1969, it consists of 635 housing cooperatives and represents about 20% of the total housing property in the country. Their mission is to protect the interests of the cooperative housing movement as a whole and to provide housing. They constantly evaluate their issues that cannot be solved successfully by an individual co-op or a regional association. They also offer education and training for its member cooperatives as well as small, emerging cooperatives, on legal, technical, and economic issues as well as cultural issues. As SCMBD is a member of international cooperative organizations, they represent its member cooperatives in negotiations with the government and non-government organizations.
Last decade brought substantial changes in the housing sector in all the countries in transition. Their scope and impact have never been experienced before in Europe. Before 1990, the State was involved significantly in the housing development. In Slovakia, with upwards of five million inhabitants, more than 1.3 million dwellings were built between 1948-1990, with the highest intensity in housing construction reported over the period 1971 – 1980 (more than 40,000 flats completed yearly). After 1989, Slovakia transitioned from a national economy into a market economy, which in turn influenced housing construction. Between the years 1991-2000, housing construction decreased by 25%, leaving a substantial part of housing to the owner-occupied sector. By the year 2000, 93% of all completed dwellings were owner occupied. By 2003, only 5% of housing was in the public rental sector.
According to a study completed by UNECE in 2003, the real costs for housing in both existing and newly built dwellings exceed the affordability limits of many households and housing becomes financially inaccessible for some households without various forms of subsidies. The median monthly salary after tax is $864, while a one bedroom rental unit costs $590. That is almost 70% of one person’s monthly income. The unbalanced occupancy structure has started the discussion of what public housing is and what it needs to be. There is a general understanding that certain public intervention is necessary to increase affordability of housing for lower income groups. Low average income of the population and a high unemployment rate constitute the most significant barrier for the access to the housing market. Because of that, it is considered necessary that the State and municipalities in a long run create suitable conditions and adopts efficient measures to provide for the affordability of housing for the inhabitants.
In 2000, the Slovakian government has introduced programs with the goal to improve the occupancy structure and increase the share of public rental housing. These include:
- State subsidy program for municipal rental housing construction provides grants in amount of 30-50% of construction costs;
- Long-term low interest loans for municipal rental housing construction from the State housing development fund;
- Subsidy program for technical infrastructure necessary for housing construction;
- Program of the state guarantees for market bank loans for municipalities.
This program has helped to start construction of over 9,000 public housing units (typical construction ranks between 10,000-14,000 market rate dwelling units per year). Slovakia’s State Housing Policy states that one of their targets is to gradually increase the construction of new rental dwellings (both private and public), so that their share would be approximately 50 % of the new construction around 2010, (Workshop, 2003).
Poland has no national policy dedicated to building homes for low-income groups or helping them afford renovations. The market price of houses and land increased by 100 percent in 2004 alone, and values continue to rise every year. A comparatively high value-added tax, 23 percent, significantly adds to the cost of renovations. As a result, nearly 12 million Poles—almost a third of the population—live in overcrowded homes. More than 60 percent of apartments need serious renovation. More than half of the housing stock is more than 40 years old. Low-quality building materials and poor insulation are resulting in high monthly energy bills, making funds even scarcer for families to improve their living conditions, (Habitat.org).
At the end of the communist era, housing was a major social problem. In 1990 the disparity between available dwellings and number of households requiring housing was estimated at between 1.6 million and 1.8 million units. At the same time, the Polish birth rate added pressure to the housing situation. By the late 1980s, the average waiting time to buy a house was projected at between fifteen and twenty years if construction continued at the same rate, (Poland Housing, 1998).
By 1988 Poland ranked last in Europe in housing with only 284 dwellings per
1,000 persons; 30 percent of Polish families did not have their own housing accommodations; and the average number of persons per dwelling was 20 percent above the European average. In addition, the average usable area per dwelling in Poland was 10 to 15 percent below the average for other socialist countries and 30 percent below the average for Western Europe. By early1990, the state housing administration was abolished, (Poland Housing, 1998).
Poland has excessive regulations on rentals. A few rules include: lease agreements cannot be shorter than three years and cannot be terminated unless a tenant does not pay his or her rent for several months at a time. All evictions have to be approved by courts of law, which can actually suspend the eviction until the evictee is provided with a new social dwelling. In 2001, there were a total of 22,977 evictions from market rate rental housing, 21,221 of those evictions were due to tenants being months behind on rent. Because a large number of evictions were taking place, to try to prevent a growth in homelessness, governments started creating social hostels as a temporary shelter.
Rental regulations are meant to protect poor households but by the same token they hit landlords and discourage private investment in affordable rental stock. They also create pressure on local authorities to provide more social housing in order to enable quick evictions. Non-profit housing associations such as TBS provide subsistence housing with controlled rents, but this type of housing is too expensive for the lowest income households. Meanwhile, the existing social stock is insufficient to bridge the supply gap.
The Polish Chamber of Commerce of Low Cost Social Housing (TBS) was founded in 2002 and is a voluntary, independent and permanent self-government economic organization. It gathers Low-Cost Housing Societies and other companies operating within the sphere of low cost housing, town and country planning, real estate management and turnover, enterprises dealing with the financial side, and those aimed at the development and spread of initiatives favoring building development and knowledge of the sector. TBS’ main goals are: to represent and protect the interests of its members including public authorities, scientific and economic institutions and foreign bodies; to diffuse modern technical and economic knowledge and to elaborate plans for the development of housing construction and infrastructures.
Poland’s total output on public housing is only 2.5%. Throughout the country’s transformation years, the government – while it has offered substantial support for the TBS program – it has practically left new municipal construction to its own resources. The government was more eager to develop a sustainable housing program it could control rather than subsidize the construction of substandard social ghettos. The housing authorities rightly assumed that broad participation of local authorities in the TBS program could improve the use of the scarce municipal housing anyway. It would facilitate the moving of better-off municipal tenants from the municipal stock to the TBS stock. It was also expected that the number/quality of social dwellings for the disadvantaged and the evicted would grow as a result. As an additional benefit – not much new unsustainable housing would be produced, (Poland Housing, 1998).
Recent years saw the opposing trends in municipal housing stock and TBS completions. Steep growth of TBS program was accompanied by a downward trend in municipal housing construction. At the same time, the number of social dwellings with lowest rents steadily grew by several thousand yearly. However, the number of suspended evictions shows that the shelter for the lowest income households is still insufficient, which impedes the development of the housing market.
The Act of October 25, 1995 determined the legal basis for the creation of LCHS, as also for the National Housing Fund, created for the issuing of low interest long-term loans (about 30 years) for the building of moderate-rent apartments by the LCHS’s. However, today the role of the LCHS, in the light of the difficult financial situation of Polish society, requires a change in the functioning of the LCHS, which cannot simply build apartments for rent, but must also be active in other spheres connected with housing construction. They must create a new financial security for a situation, in which the tenants loose their jobs and are not able to pay the rent. Such a security is necessary, as it is linked with the compulsory discharge of loans, taken by the LCHS for the construction of apartments for rent.
Poland’s difficult financial situation results in social building having small chances of development, what means that a financial assistance from the structural funds would be necessary. The difficult economic situation of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe result also in small chances for the development of social housing in those countries and thus a financial assistance from the structural funds seems expedient.
Social housing has been neglected in Hungary since 1990. The transfer of the state owned housing stock to the municipalities in 1991, and the speeded up privatization resulted in a weak public housing sector. By 2001 the share of the public housing decreased from 21% to 4% of the total inhabited stock. The housing subsidy system in Hungary has not been successful in addressing the social housing issues effectively. The housing allowance program is managed by the local governments helping the households to pay for the maintenance costs of public housing. According to 2001 figures, the total amount of debts was $17.3 million, and around 4-5% of the households have more than 6-month longer overdue payments. Recent estimates show the total cash benefits programs on housing related expenses amounts to 3.5-4.5% of the total household expenditures on housing. The public housing sector is a loss generating service for the local governments. The rents cover approximately 30-40% of the actual costs related to the residential sector. Minimum wage in Hungary after tax is about $354 USD, and to rent a one bedroom apartment, it costs $290 USD, (Ratcliff, 1989).
The potential demand for rental housing is around 750,000 rental units, out of which about 500,000 units need social support. Because the government has gained so much debt in housing subsidies, they are no longer interested in increasing the public housing sector. The political issues that governments have to deal with can create cause to not increase public housing. The catch is that people cannot afford a rent increase and home owners do not want social rentals in their neighborhood for fear it will drive down home values.
In 2000, Hungary launched a housing program that was a grant program for local governments supporting five housing areas: rentals sector, energy saving renewal, rehabilitation programs, land development, and housing renovation owned by churches. This program offered 75% of investment costs to local governments who supported social rentals, cost based rentals, young family housing, elderly or pension homes. Between 2000-2002, several hundred local governments took part in the program. The total investment amounted to 50 billion HUF ($215 million USD) and more than 10 thousand new public housing units. The policy set a regulation that the rents should be a minimum of 2% of the construction cost. This allows for a quicker cost recovery on the projects. However, the average rents were considered too high, which kept the need for more government assistance. The building authorities have very limited legal rights to prescribe a minimal maintenance level for the buildings. Most places neglect maintenance of their buildings and they do not have enough reserve funds, (Ratcliff, 1989).
LOSZ (Hungarian Association of Housing Cooperatives and Condominiums) was established in May 1990. LOSZ brings together regional and independent associations offering products and services that relate to the maintenance and renewal of residential buildings for public housing. The main objectives of LOSZ are to improve the operating, legal and management environment of public housing. Annually, they construct about 256 units.
CHAPTER 3: NGO’s WORLDWIDE VISIONS FOR THE FUTURE
While several public housing projects succeeded in giving lower-income families a place to live, they also led to the creation of suburban ghettos, most of which are being torn down today. Alternate non-government organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Institute, Atlantic Meets Pacific, and ZETA Communities are making other attempts to solve these problems.
The Rocky Mountain Institute’s vision is a “world thriving, verdant, and secure, for all, for ever. Our mission is to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. RMI’s style is non-adversarial and trans-ideological, emphasizing integrative design, advanced technologies, and mindful markets. Our strategic focus, executed through specific initiatives designed to take our work rapidly to scale, is to map and drive the transition from coal and oil to efficiency and renewables. We work extensively with the private sector, as well as with civil society and government, to create abundance by design and to apply the framework of natural capitalism.” Their guiding principles are based around the concept natural capitalism, including radical resource productivity, biomimicry, service and flow economy, and reinvestment in natural capital.
Atlantic Meets Pacific consists of leaders and audiences that bring critical life issues to the table through critical thinking and conversations. These are typically held through events such as festivals, forums, and roundtable dinners. Each conversation is characterized by meaningful and logical content and unique perspectives of professionals.
ZETA Communities is an organization that builds modular homes in a factory. The homes are not stick-built homes, but are built in assemblies (floors, walls, and ceilings). Because of this, a single 1,500 square-foot home can be built in one day. Each piece of the assembly is certified green or is from sustainable sources. Often rooftop solar panels are put in place to help create a net zero energy home. ZETA sets its sites on cities as their target market. They are able to recognize that populations all over are shifting towards cities which makes land a vital resource. Since land in or around cities will only become more limited, it is imperative that organizations such as ZETA think of creative ways to use the space. The modules are stackable for city sized urban lots and to create a new generation of efficient buildings. Some of their spaces are as small as 300 square feet but utilize concepts such as placing a larger sink in the unit or by providing sufficient storage to make sure the person using it doesn’t feel like they’re lacking by living in a smaller space. The entire concept of these smaller units is developed around the idea that its residents will inhabit the city more and become less private by only using the module as a place to sleep at the end of the day.
It is always beneficial to have a high homeownership rate; however, there must be a balance. Otherwise, the imbalance produces social and market risks. The housing situation for many tenants in countries in transition is very difficult. Privatization has created a situation where these people often do not feel safe or stable anymore. Because social housing is often frowned upon by homeowners, they are often spatially excluded. This limited perspective leads to amplifying the social exclusion processes rather than reducing them. Therefore, it is a necessity to search for new social housing schemes.
An efficient housing system needs to be put in place to prevent the accumulation of evictions or past due rents. It also needs the rent and operational revenue to be predictable and stable for the public sector landlords. A reform to the present day system is needed. The government has failed so they passed the responsibility along to privatized organizations.
Because the government can no longer afford to subsidize privatized projects, the owners cannot afford to maintain their buildings. Consequently, design has suffered and life cycle costs have risen. The government needs to be cut out of the scheme altogether. A new model of public housing should utilize an efficient building system and sustainable products with long life cycles to keep the building as maintenance free as possible. This will allow for owners to rent their units at a lower rate, which in turn can be affordable to the same target audience as public housing, and still be considered market rate units. This will allow for social cohesion to indirectly take place because the quality will be physically and environmentally friendly and will be affordable to all. The new scheme will cut out the need for government policy and government intervention altogether.
I plan to implement transformative designs by way of:
- Assessing industry trends & client needs;
- Evaluating relevant technologies;
- Analyzing alternative business models & implementing financial sustainability;
- Assessing production systems and the environmental impact of products and innovations.
Strategies leading to the creation of sustainable neighborhoods and cities should be supported. The protection of the environment, the promotion of environmentally friendly behavior, the use of innovative energy-saving solutions in design, and shortening the daily commuting distances would be cost-effective and would improve the quality of life in those neighborhoods. It is equally important to try to strike the right balance between the principles of the compact city with raised densities and those of the green city. The concept is characterized by flexibility, variability, innovations, change. The new social housing forms increase the responsibility of eligible households but also give them more choice. The imperatives of giving choice and having higher respect for preferences of target population support the sustainability of social housing schemes, (Workshop, 2003).
In her admiration of cities as “delicate, teeming ecosystems” Jane Jacobs disdained public housing projects as places of concrete monocultures deliberately designed without the functional and commercial diversity she admired. The street-level merchants who kept traditional neighborhoods safe both by their watchfulness and the activity they promoted were typically obliterated by urban renewal—leaving public housing residents deprived of grocery stores, restaurants, or services.