...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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September 03, 2004 || 7:24 am

I guess I should explain at this point that my project with the other Outreach Programme participants is to design and build a prototype house for low income families that can be built for $20,000 including labour. This is to fill the gap in the federal and state housing programmes for families in extreme poverty, of which there are a devastating number in West Alabama.

Housing grants under the Rural Development Programme are allocated in proportion to household income as compared to the median income of the surrounding area. The government classifies 'low-income' families as having under 80% of the median income for the area. 'Very low income' families have less than 50% of the median. They recently introduced a third category, 'extremely low income' for those with less than 30% of the median. Hundreds of families in Hale County fall into these categories, and are classified as high risk. When the median household income is $25,000, so 'extremely low income' families will have less than $7,500 income per year - around £4,000 per household per year.

Whole families here live on $546 (less than £300) a month, which means that although they are eligible to have a house built for them under the Rural Development programme, it has to cost between $20-30,000 in order for them to afford the repayments. Of course, no construction firm builds for this little; and you have to use an approved builder of which the cheapest I think is around twice that price. You can buy a trailer home of terrible quality, that you can take away with you immediately like a car and only costs $20,000, but these do not count for grant aid and with finance packages from local banks sometimes running at an extortionate 27% interest, your cheap home may cost you twice as much and not even be paid for by the time it starts to fall apart around you.

Many of these families are elderly like Juanita, often with disabilities, and often looking after large numbers of grandchildren while their parents seek work in more prosperous areas. Around 50% of the population in neighbouring Perry County has diabetes due to bad diet. This is who we are trying to house.

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