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Feminist Research
Housing and Feminism
Self Build Housing


	Case Studies

Personal Background
Training and Technical
Land Policies
Institutional Support
Shelter and Service
Planning and Design
Building Materials


Case Studies of Women's Self Build Housing

Housing Women and Feminism
Women are not the homogeneous group it is often assumed. Women's differences relates to living location, birthplace, culture, spoken language, ethnicity, economic background, education, sexuality, familial ties, age, health, ability and any number of other factors. These factors impact upon housing needs as evidenced by the range of research examining issues for female sole parents (Cass, 1991), young women (Canold McDonald, 1991), older women (O'Brien, 1994), migrant women (Thompson, 1994), and women leaving violent situations (Grieve, 1991; Smith, 1994).

Women's different experiences are reflected in writings on the majority housing tenures of home ownership (Watson 1985), private tenancy (Econsult, undated), and public tenancy (Denigan, 1992); and minority tenures of housing co-operatives (WISH, 1994), women in refuges and crisis accommodation (Victorian Women's Refuge Group, 1979; McFerron, 1990), and caravans (WISH, 1991). One may conclude from these studies that the stereotype represented in the old saying "a woman's place is in the home" while signifying attempts to limit women's role outside the home, it has not had a big impact on a woman's right to be adequately housed.

This argument was supported by a number of the community based women's organisations which were represented at the recent Non Government Organisation(NGO) Forum, and parallel 4th United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. Before the conference a "super coalition" consisting of several women's international NGOs was formed. Members include: United Nations High Commission on Human Settlements (Habitat) Women in Human Settlements Development Program, Habitat International Coalition Women and Shelter Network, Grassroots Organisations Operating Together for Sisterhood, and International Council of Women. In a joint statement they said,

The fact that women are not equitably involved in the decision-making of the design of the home, the choice of the area to live in, the planning and development of the neighbourhood and, even more importantly, the planning, development and maintenance of their villages, towns and cities, makes the world further removed from achieving...sustainable development for its families and communities.

Houses are only one aspect of the problems of housing. The context of housing, be it in urban or rural locations, is of equal importance. Feminist geographers and urban planners have developed extensive critiques of the built environment taking into account state policies in urban development, the infrastructure which supports housing and the economic parameters which surround it. (Johnson, 1992)

Socialist feminists in particular have amassed a considerable body of work on the feminist analysis of housing; perhaps due to the Marxist emphasis on materialist analysis. English academic Sophie Watson, who has been working in Australia for a number of years, proposes that feminists must look at how housing institutes and replicates patriarchal relations. (Watson 1986)

Watson links the patriarchal notion of the women's dependant role in the family, with the capitalist wage hierarchy which systematically pays women less, and points out that women's economic dependence is a central assumption in the designs of Australian housing. She presents arguments on aspects of design, production and tenure to illustrate this point. (Watson 1986)

This project is premised on the conviction that the exclusion of women from the design and production of the built environment, has resulted in an environment that does not meet women's needs. Broad-acre public housing estates like Coolaroo West are an easily identifiable example of this. (Denigan 1992) These public housing estates create many difficulties for women, as they lack access to transport, work, and other services. They function to entrench women's already disadvantaged position. (Cass 1991) In Victoria, as in most states of Australia, public housing is provided as residual welfare housing, accessible only to those on the lowest incomes. In 1992 women, made up around 60% of public tenants. (Pearce 1992)