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Feminist Research
Housing and Feminism
Self Build Housing


	Case Studies

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Case Studies of Women's Self Build Housing

Self Build Housing
Self build housing may allow women different approaches to design, production, and tenure. Yet it would seem that a detailed analysis of what self build housing might mean for women remains to be written. Feminist authors have given little attention to self build housing and writers on self build housing appear to have been blind to gender issues. This is the void that this project hopes to begin to bridge.

Women are not significantly represented in Australian books and journals documenting this field. Women are visible in the documentation of self build housing only in as far as they are associated with men. Among the hundreds of known examples there are few cases documenting women as self builders in their own right.

Despite an extensive search only a handful of short articles could be located and these do not present anything more than a superficial reading of the topic. (Adams, Denker, Francis, Garvy, Lindquist, Moser, Wekerle 1981, and Wise) These present only isolated examples, and passing comments on one of projects. It would not be the first time however, that a significant amount of activity concerning women was marginalised or ignored. This trend can be identified across the international field and is not limited to the Australian example.

Watson, who dismisses self build as a "conservative self-help ideology" holds a similar position to Peter Ward, who in Self Help Housing: a Critique, writes that housing provision is "the responsibility of either public or private sectors". (Ward 1982, Watson 1986) Both writers subscribe to a socialist analysis which focuses on gender and class inequalities occurring within the institutional framework of housing provision in western societies. In this context self build housing is viewed as an activity of the privileged wealthy or a program imposed on the poor. The women participating in this project are far from wealthy and none have been compelled to participate in a self build program.

Rather than conservative, self build, in the hands women, can be interpreted as a radical challenge to women's dependant role as consumers rather than producers of housing. It has been used as a strategy to arrive at alternative, perhaps more appropriate, housing solutions.

An analysis such as that of Ward, fails to recognise the many community based organisations which have a role in providing housing. In Australia for instance the Matrix Guild of Victoria Inc. is,

...a group of lesbians over the age of 40 ...committed to the establishment of appropriate care and accommodation ,...for older lesbians in Victoria.

Community groups have long been the backbone of the women's movement. Grassroots feminist activists have organised locally, nationally and internationally around every issue imaginable, including housing. While the community sector may provide women with opportunities, this work, like so much of women's work, remains largely unremunerated and often unrecognised.

The much needed moves towards sustainable living are dependant on women precisely due to the marginalisation of women within the market and the state. Self build advocate John F.C. Turner recognised this when he said,

"...home and neighbourhood building depend more on women than on men, who almost always dominate the paternalistic forms of market- and state-based housing provision." (Turner 1989)

Women who build their own housing are part of a worldwide movement. Not only are they part of the women's movement but also part of the rise of the community sector. Along with millions of women around the world they are organising in their own ways to change the shape of their environment on a local scale and as a movement they are changing the world.