Showing all posts tagged: economics

Converting empty offices to housing to reduce homelessness?

7 May 2023

When people started working from home during the COVID pandemic, large numbers of office buildings fell vacant, and many remain that way. So why not convert these once commercial spaces into residential accommodation, and put a roof over the head of homeless people?

At first glance the idea makes sense:

Proponents argue that increasing housing in urban centres through office-to-residential conversions also supports the 15-minute city model, where many of your daily needs are just a short walk or bike ride from home. The model promotes community-building and healthy living, boosts local economies and reduces transport emissions, helping ensure there is cleaner air and a more sustainable planet.

Problems abound though. Repurposing office blocks into housing comes at cost, and some buildings are not always suitable for conversion into residential accommodation. It’s an unfortunate dilemma. On one hand, buildings sit empty, while on the other, there are people without a place to call home.


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Self identity, work, careers, Gen Z are doing it differently

4 May 2023

Generation Z has an identity crisis. People aged between about ten and twenty-six say they struggle to define who they are. Other demographics, I dare say, would have no such trouble. But, according to recent research carried out by in Australia by Snapchat, zoomers, as Generation Z members are also known, are pretty clear on other things.

When it comes to the identity of others around them though, Gen Z dislike binary definitions, and not just those applied to gender:

More than half (56%) of Australian Gen Z have said they don’t like binary definitions based on sex, gender, ability or culture, and prefer to just be defined as themselves.

Many zoomers also see themselves as intersectional, being people who embrace a number of identities. Gen Z may not have been the first demographic to realise just about everyone is really intersectional, but they may be the first to consider being intersectional as part of who they are.

Gen Z also takes a different view to work and careers. They’re keen to avoid burnout, and what they call the nine to five hustle:

That’s not to say that Gen Z are shunning work however. The vast majority (87%) have said they’re actively seeking new ways to earn money outside of a traditional job, with side gigs and passive incomes (e.g. selling handmade goods, investing in the stock market and cryptocurrency, or becoming a blogger or influencer).

Eighty percent of zoomers say they would prefer to work on a freelance basis, or be self-employed. About sixty percent of survey respondents say they’ve taken courses (from “traditional learning institutions”) to skill themselves for this sort of work.


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Could libraries be a place to offer affordable housing?

21 April 2023

Libraries are more than somewhere to go to merely read, or borrow, a book. They’re often places were people study, work, and, to a degree, socialise. In short, libraries are community hubs.

But the idea that libraries could be expanded upon — subject to certain caveats — to offer affordable housing, is compelling. It is however a proposal the Boston Public Library has been considering, says library president David Leonard:

These three libraries will serve as a model to expand alternative affordable housing options. But Leonard said adding affordable housing may not be right for every neighborhood. Programming studies of the Field’s Corner branch revealed the space was too tight to deliver affordable construction; in Egleston Square, the community valued the existing greenspace over an expanded library/housing footprint.

On paper it’s an intriguing idea. People who need affordable housing would have somewhere to live, and potentially a community to tap into, downstairs in the library itself.


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Sally Rooney on the hardships facing renters in Ireland

25 March 2023

Irish author Sally Rooney, writing for The Irish Times, about the end of an eviction moratorium that may render many people homeless:

The wave of evictions expected to begin from the end of this month is not merely theoretical: we already know that during the period of the ban, tenants in the State sought advice on roughly 1,500 new eviction notices. In a few weeks’ time, if the Government does not reverse course, these evictions will be eligible to proceed. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has even publicly accepted that homelessness will “very possibly” increase when the moratorium comes to an end.

While the situation is different, the outlook for residential renters in Australia is likewise challenging. In January 2023, vacancy rates nationwide were just 0.8 percent. In some centres — Perth and Adelaide — vacancy rates were 0.3 percent, which might as well mean there are next to no residential properties available to rent.


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The exorbitant cost of luxury goods is why people queue up to buy

12 January 2023

Despite their cost, the goods sold by some luxury retailers are not always quality buys, though such matters seldom deter customers. It’s the price tag they’re interested in. And the higher the price, the better, writes American author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin:

Luxury goods are items that are worth more (to some) because they cost more. The cost itself is the benefit that is being sold.

But the exorbitant cost isn’t the only… benefit. The roped-off queuing areas outside the store, where customers must wait for a sales agent to become available, are another. There’s a luxury in lining up to enter a luxury retailer, it’s the hope of being seen waiting for admission. The picture windows adorning many of these stores, and their relatively confined floor space, are another benefit. They combine to create an additional opportunity to be seen shopping.

A large shopping centre I visit has a dedicated “luxury precinct”, an area set aside solely for luxury stores. I’m not sure all the people I see queuing up outside these stores are exactly in the luxury store demographic, but maybe that’s another benefit of the luxury shopping experience.



Australian CBDs will bounce forward, not back, in 2023

29 December 2022

Rob Stokes, NSW Minister for Cities, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Rather than forcing workers back into CDBs, many of whom took to working from home during COVID lockdowns of the last few years, the NSW State government is looking at other ways of reinvigorating city centres across Australia’s most populous state:

Our CBDs are going to bounce forward, not back. They will rebound on a totally different trajectory in 2023. Over the course of the pandemic, the NSW government has invested $66 million in ways to reinvent how our central urban areas function. Programs to move dining into streets and public spaces, pop-up events, new walking and cycling paths, and reduced controls over music, retail and service of food and drinks have all changed the way we experience city streets.

The writing has been on the wall for CBDs for some time. With the advent of robust technologies allowing more people to work from home with greater ease, it was only a matter of time until workers migrated away from city centres. The COVID lockdowns, and work from home mandates, only brought forward the present state of affairs, it did not precipitate it.

None of that helps businesses who have long been based in CBD areas, and are struggling with the change though. Many are still reeling from the impact of COVID, not to mention construction of Sydney’s light rail transit system. Here’s hoping these initiatives are of benefit.

And here’s something intriguing. According to Stokes, the concept of CBDs was devised by white, middle class men, for white, middle class men:

The phrase “central business district” was coined by white, male, middle-class planners in Chicago in the 1930s and 40s, based on the notion that cities work most efficiently when different groups work, live and play in different precincts. CBDs were designed to be used by white, middle-class businessmen, 9-5, Monday to Friday. They were never really designed to include anyone else.


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Today is World Homeless Day

10 October 2022

Today is World Homeless Day.

The purpose of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to the needs of people who experience homelessness locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness, while taking advantage of the stage an ‘international day’ provides — to end homelessness through improved policy and funding.

Homelessness is an issue that seems to have been placed in the too-hard basket by many nations, Australia included. Yet solving the problem may not be as difficult as is believed. Finland, for example, has found an effective way to combat homelessness.



Surging inflation is changing the way books are published

6 October 2022

Not even books are immune to the ravages of surging inflation, and increasing prices in the shops is only one problem afflicting the publishing industry. As production costs rise, printers are being forced to look for ways to reduce overheads. These include using cheaper paper stock, and smaller fonts along with less page margins, so books can be produced using less resources.

Blow on its pages and they might lift and fall differently: cheaper, lighter paper is being used in some books. Peer closely at its print and you might notice that the letters jostle more closely together: some cost-conscious publishers are starting to shrink the white space between characters. The text might run closer to the edges of pages, too: the margins of publishing are shrinking, in every sense.


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Finland abolished homelessness by giving the homeless homes

23 September 2022

Why we in Australia can’t simply to resolve to deal with homelessness in the same way a country like Finland does, defies belief. People say the cost would be too great, but I think it’d be far less than the cost of having people living rough, or in emergency homeless shelters long term.

In Finland, the number of homeless people has fallen sharply. The reason: The country applies the “Housing First” concept. Those affected by homelessness receive a small apartment and counselling — without any preconditions. 4 out of 5 people affected thus make their way back into a stable life. And: All this is cheaper than accepting homelessness.



Doing anything for a living even dishwashing by Dugald Jellie

19 September 2022

Writers in Australia are often forced to work several jobs to support their craft, something Evelyn Araluen, winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, could tell you. Some of the roles aspiring creatives take on — and washing dishes may, or may not, be among them — doubtless would not be their first choice, but are usually a vital means to an end nonetheless.

Then again, force of circumstance may see anyone end up taking on work they are overqualified for, but need regardless. Melbourne based fifty-something Dugald Jellie writes about taking on dish washing duties at a busy cafe, after finding himself in need of work, any work:

How I got here might be a cautionary tale. The choices we make. A few wrong turns, a misstep, some bad timing, and now I work between four sinks — in the kitchen, front-of-house — stacking plates, hands wet, at the bottom of the food chain, a tea towel slung over my shoulder.

Recommended reading for a Monday morning.