Youth: Safety and Opportunity

From a child's perspective, what makes a place a good place to grow up? Their answers are different than their parents' answer.

In the page on families, child-rearing is discussed from the parents point of view, where generally safety is the paramount concern. For children, it is about learning, about life being interesting and challenging, yet a place where they feel secure and legitimate. It also is an ever-changing world: Younger children measure themselves as smaller than older children - there is a hierarchy among children. As they mature, their character and interests change. Much of this process of growing up is outside the scope of the MarketTown framework - it's up to the family, the child and the mysteries of Nature. The role of the MarketTown is to provide a strong sense of home and community, and a design that enables the children to become adults. Maori call it TÅ«rangawaewae - a place to stand tall.

Children can form their own societies, and without regular adult interaction, they can become brutal places with bullies and the bullied, cliques and the shunned. The classic book Lord of the Flies took this to the extreme in a society only of children. In contrast, when children live amid and as an inherent part of adult society, excessive behaviour is naturally reined in, especially if the public space are the central village plazas that attract all ages at all hours.

One of the best designs for young children was found in a small Spanish town on the island of Mallorca.

In the middle of the square, they built a beautiful stone area specifically designed so children could play with balls and skates without disturbing the people in the nearby cafes. Architecturally, it is beautiful with irregular angles including a smaller area on the left side that tended to be reserved for younger children.

One of the more natural relationships that has been lost in suburban design is the connection between children and elders. Adults are often to busy to pay attention to children, but life is less pressured for elders. They enjoy forming friendships with the young, often around some form of mentorship - although it might be as simple as providing the child with someone who listens. This happens in the villages because of the way the plazas are designed. There are plenty of warm and comfortable places to sit, places where someone can join in without an appointment... places that naturally encourage human connection. The important element in this sort of design is that it remains public. The interaction is on the public stage.

When children become teens, they prefer their own spots to congregate. These can be as simple as walls they can sit or lean on. If the cafe is nearby and serves food and drink that can be carried out, the teens may prefer to gether separately.

One of the more challenging parts of the transition from youth to adulthood is moving away from home. In Auckland this has become increasingly difficult due to the cost of housing. Young people who do make the move often find they must rent a two bedroom apartment split five or six ways. In the MarketTown, it was originally proposed that affordable youth housing be offered that would be mixed in each village. However, the young people made it clear they would prefer to have a youth zone where the affordable housing was clustered. They wanted to be able to dance in the streets without older people complaining about the noise. They wanted to mix with each other, in part because it makes forming both friendships and relationships easier. They explained that one of the appeals of school is the proximity to other young people, and one of the challenges after graduation was meeting people.  Thus, the MarketTown plan includes a youth zone, with its amenities determined by its founding young people.

Youth Housing

Youth housing is an important component in this. Young people starting out have little in the way of savings, and their earnings capacity is limited. Yet it is important that they get into home ownership early, so they can build the equity they will need when they decide its time to start a family. Thus, purpose-built youth housing is provided. It is designed for a single person, and both small and affordable. Borrowing from the Parisian model where single life tends to be lived outside the home, the unit provides the basics, but is designed to be a part of a wider living space of the youth zone.

The rules on buying youth housing are simple:

  1. You must be under age 26
  2. You must prove you earned the down payment legally
  3. You must prove you earned it, not a gift or loan from parents

These three elements will ensure that the purchase price of youth housing is always affordable. Since the purchase price will be public, the youth will be able to monitor any sales that seem excessive.