The world is an ever changing place, and to meet the challenges as quickly as possible to avert major economic and social hardships new solutions to the problem of affordable housing need to be started now. Everyone deserves a safe, clean, secure place to live. Yet the industrialized nations also need to limit their carbon footprint.
In Europe and North America there are far too many homeless people, and far too many isolated people struggling to make ends meet in over priced apartments, living with slobs for room mates, or needing to commute from reasonably priced housing to the city for their work. New housing uses more resources than needed per individual for an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Simply put individual houses and self contained apartments use more resources. Also there are those who need to travel to jobs as itinerant workers or temporary workers, but still need reasonable and secure homes for shorter periods of time or a home to come back to.
The new age solution is an olden days staple- The Boarding House. A modern take on the old boarding house is a workable solution to many social and environmental problems in today’s society.
First, what was a Boarding House?
A Boarding House was a two to four story house that had rooms on each floor, each floor having a bath room and toilet room to be shared by those on the floor. The rooms were furnished; some were spacious with a separate sitting area, some were smaller with just a bed, dresser, closet, an easy chair, table and lamp. All the room rents included two meals a day- Breakfast and Supper. Some had Tea time and sack lunches available.
The residents and the owner/operator ate in the dinning room, with fixed times for meals. There could be a common room for receiving visitors, conversation, music or other activities-like card games, jigsaw puzzles and the like.
Single men, women, couples with-out children, widows, widowers, retired elders, and traveling business people frequented these places. Long term residency was common with some Houses having extra rooms to let on a weekly basis. Today a mix of people will also be residents.
Retired, widowed, young adults starting out, and those in between need a safe, secure, and friendly place to live. With wages falling, the idea of ownership of a house or setting up house in an apartment has become the impossible dream or the nightmare of living above one’s means for many people; as well as isolating and using more resources than needed for a comfortable life.
The Boarding House of today and the future would cater to individuals of similar needs such as Vegans and Vegetarians. A mix of ages and genders is optimal for a family like setting to keep individuals from becoming isolated and the related ills with isolation. Structure of a home-like atmosphere as well as the freedom of independent living combine to become the ultimate safety net to avoid homelessness and reckless behaviors. It also allows for individuals to put money aside, live a more green lifestyle since less resources are needed to accommodate the 8-20 people in one house rather than individual apartments & houses, lessen commutes, thus traffic congestion. A Boarding House gives security to the residents - how many people have some one that can be called in case of emergency? Who will know if you are over due getting home from your day, or not up for breakfast? Who will know if you were living alone? An example of why this matters is a colleague of mine- an unmarried woman who had a small home did not show up for work after a 3 day weekend. After calling her phone number it was decided to go to her house and the police were called and she was found dead of an apparent fall in the bathroom- had she lived with someone or was a resident of a Boarding House she would have had someone hear her calls for help, been attended to, and not died.
Boarding Houses should be owner operated and not corporate chains. This as a cottage industry would employ people, add to income and create a more friendly, caring society.
With all the modern technology -wifi, cable, cell phones, head phones, people can live with each other and still have a nice amount of privacy. If the idea of shared bathroom facilities are incompatible, then the new smaller all in one bathrooms can be added to the remodeling and retro fitting of buildings that could be converted into Boarding Houses. An ideal is to have these boarding houses in the cities, on the public transit systems, in mixed use neighborhoods. Areas of cities that once were mixed commercial can be revitalized with residents and vacant areas adjacent to the houses can be gardens where flowers and vegetable can be grown by the residents and owner.
There are many levels of service that a Boarding House can provide- laundry, meals of course, internet, cable. The idea is to have less space and resources used by just one person- such as a 4 room apartment ( bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen) and all the paraphernalia that goes with housekeeping contribute to a more green society.
Making meals in itself is a time consuming process that needs special equipment, planning, shopping, and clean up. Many single people either don’t eat correctly leading to illness, obesity, over thinness, or eat out adding to the cost of living and added cost of the useless complete kitchen space in the rented apartment. Sharing meals has been proven to bring people together, creating compassion, camaraderie, better nutrition and mental health.
The convenience of a Boarding House is no room mates from hell and no isolation. The people who will work in service to the house- an honorable, useful job- can get room and board with a small salary for their time and work. Running a boarding house is like running a family- there is cleaning, cooking, shopping, paying the bills as well as the joy of a friendly home and companionship. With these chores out of the way the residents can be relieved of the added stress of a household albeit a one person household- in the times of job insecurity and dwindling paychecks.
Boarding Houses can accommodate pets, and other essentials of living well. The cost to live in a Boarding House should be less than an apartment with as much opportunity for privacy. The responsibility of the residents is to be clean, tidy, have cordial behavior to all or out they go- unlike the room mate on the lease!
Unlike a co-op living arrangements where everyone is suppose to pull their share of work, and we all know they do not, the Boarding House takes care of the cleaning, cooking, and laundry. The resident keeps his or her room neat and tidy, leaves the shared bath room ready for the next user, and the common rooms also neat and tidy. Responsibility and a safe, affordable home- a win-win solution for many of societies people as well as the developed world using less of the finite resources.
The Modern Boarding House is one solution for Europe’s and North America’s housing and societal ills in the face of dwindling paychecks, isolation of single individuals, land use, and the decline of the current standard of living of the Western world. It will be much easier to relocate for work, sit tight when unemployed, and still not face living on the streets. Change should now start to be for the better. It is time to come full circle.