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Another Voice: Let’s define affordable housing, and then achieve it

By Michael R. Weekes

There are volumes of articles, thousands of government and non-profit organizations dedicated to affordable housing; however the term itself remains undefined. Like the words quality, timely and reasonable, there is no simple, clear, common definition.

Let me offer this definition, after meeting scores of folks throughout the eastern United States who work in this arena: a safe, clean, capable and aesthetic dwelling with a capacity for up to two adults and three children that is affordable, via cash or mortgage, at $70 per square foot.

For a 1,200-square-foot home, that equates to $84,000. I have yet to meet a block club leader, council member, legislator or mayor who dislikes a figure like that.

The U.S. government pays an average of $300,000!

More than 67 percent of the population seeks affordable housing they cannot find.

R. Buckminster Fuller took the triangle and associated octet truss and combined their simplicity, capability and affordability to build domes for things as small as radomes at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and things as large as the U.S. Pavilion at the 1967 Expo in Montreal. But these ultralight, ultra-capable structures remained, for the most part, a spectacle, a custom solution and an oddity.

Today, we are all excited about sustainability, another word that remains ill-defined. I like the term, “enough for everyone, forever.” It reminds you of our Native American landlords (whom we all but exterminated from the U.S. landscape) who had all this figured out already.

Like the solar cell, nanotubes and robotic surgery, there are all kinds of new technologies, materials, processes and techniques to build geodesic domes of the 21st century. Keeping the spirit of their 1960s forerunners, these dwellings satisfy not only the 1,200-square-foot need for $84,000, but they satisfy the tiny home advocate of today who seeks comfort in a 240-square-foot home.

The veterans, the single mom, the older lady and even our new millennial workforce deserve homes now.

Our cities are littered with thousands of vacant lots crying out to once again become community. Millennials yearn for a walk to work to the downtown health care and financial districts they work in.

We can build affordable homes here, now.

The engineer who authors this piece wants to inspire. Let’s build dome homes to put people who deserve them in homes they can afford and be proud to call home. All this represents new, advanced manufacturing that creates new jobs and revenues and tax base and rebuilds community.

Michael R. Weekes, of West Falls, has a degree in industrial engineering from the University at Buffalo.