Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Swapped: a Paperclip for a House

A year ago Kyle McDonald embarked on one of those bizarre quests that only the internet can make possible. He started with one paper clip and claimed that within a year he was going to trade it up for a house. Exactly one year and 14 trades later he has done it. His first trade was a swap for a pen, by September he had traded up to an old van, and by earlier this summer he had traded up (or down depending on your view) to an afternoon with Alice Cooper. Tomorrow he completes the transaction that sees him acquire a house (a swap for a role in a movie) in the town of Kipling in the central Canadian state of Saskatchewan.

Who on earth would swap a house for a role in a movie? Well it turns out that Kipling is suffering from a problem we in the UK know about very well. Housing oversupply. There are more houses in Kipling than households who want to live in them resulting in lots of empty homes. What the town council has done is effectively give a way a house in order to attract new residents into the town. It’s a technique that some council’s and housing associations have used here too. We call it homesteading and it can work very well. Declining areas of Sheffield, Newcastle and Blackburn have been turned round. I wrote about it in the Observer last year you can read the article here. What the town of Kipling is going to do with the role in the movie is not recorded.

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