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Affordable City Housing

Philadelphia’s apartment rental fees are rising.This trend can be seen across many of the city’s neighborhoods, particularly in West Philadelphia. It’s an issue happening throughout large cites nationally and internationally. Several factors have contributed to the price increase, including the fact for the first time in human history more than half the world’s population lives in cities. New innovations are being produced to solve the problem of affordable urban housing that may provide a roadmap for Philadelphia to tackle two of its issues: vacant land and a lack of affordable housing.

Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Credit: Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

In the London borough of Merton, a previously vacant lot will be transformed into a community of single-occupancy apartments. The units, called the Y:Cube, can be assembled quickly and efficiently using only a few basic tools.

(YMCA London South West)

Y-Cube rendering. (Credit: YMCA London South West)

Introducing the Y:Cube

The Y:Cube is a collaboration between the renowned architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSH+P) and the YMCA.The project is generating excitement because it presents a unique, sustainable solution to the problem of affordable housing. The Y:Cube units are lightweight and don’t require a foundation. This offers the possibility of putting units almost anywhere such as above subways or along overpasses. The apartments are built to connect to existing plumbing and electricity lines. Because the units can be assembled and reassembled quickly, the apartments can move to other locations if needed. Because the costs to construct Y:Cube units are low, developers don’t have a significant need for grant funding.

While excitement about the Y:Cube grows, it’s important to acknowledge that nobody knows if the project will be successful. Construction on the first 37 Y:Cube units starts later in 2014.

A Solution For Philadelphia?

Organizations like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society are already transforming Philadelphia’s vacant land into useful assets like community gardens through its successful LandCare program.

If the Y:Cube is successful, it may offer a template for other cities, including Philadelphia, to take another step forward to transform vacant land for affordable, sustainable housing. Time will tell whether its a viable option or a project with promise that ultimately failed.

Will the Y:Cube be a success? Share your answer with us on Twitter @FairmountV

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