Finding Herland: Can Marxist Feminism teach us how to create a successful council housing scheme for women in Manchester?

Herland, the 1915 novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, imagines the discovery of a land where only women live. Reading this novel after a year of working in Praxxis and understanding the challenges women face daily was the catalyst for this project.

 The United Kingdom currently faces a council housing crisis. The gradual process of housing residualisation means there has been a reduction in council house provision and a curb on housing expenditure, paired with the encouragement of the private sector. As women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less money than men, and face systematic violence daily, it is clear that women are in most need of affordable housing provided by their local governing bodies.

This project (Herland) postulates whether Marxist Feminist methodology can teach us how to create a council housing scheme for women in North Manchester. Herland proposes the population of an abandoned engineering works in Newton Heath, with great re-use potential. The proposal contains a swimming pool, sailing lake, marxist statue garden, parkland, woodland, a new highstreet, a nursery, softplay and community cafe for the public, as well as three different council housing typologies for residents.

This scheme hinges on the idea that affordable housing is a human right. It sends the clear message that those who are most vulnerable in our society, those who cannot afford to house themselves, are of equal worth to those who can afford to buy.