Token Homes – how one artist has responded to the housing crisis

Matthew Plummer Fernandez is a British-Colombian artist who has created a unique installation drawing attention to the growing housing crisis in the UK. Entitled ‘Token Homes’, the sculpture, which consists of 400 miniature houses, brings social housing data procured from local surveys to life.

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Inspired by the artist’s own struggles to buy a home, the structure formed part of the first York Mediale digital arts festival this October and is a comment on the fact that many houses are built and bought as investments, rather than as somewhere to live.

“I’m definitely generation rent”, said the artist, “Buying a property is extremely difficult and unfathomably expensive.

“So I wanted to create a housing estate where the housing function is removed. No-one actually lives in these homes – they’re just financial vessels. They’re just these little units that you can buy and sell.”

The idea for Token Homes came about after the artist had been scrolling through property websites. He noticed that, particularly in London, properties were being built everywhere, but a large proportion of them are aimed at overseas investors. These properties then remain empty and become simply financial devices, rather than homes for people to live in.

Private renting sector figures have risen by 80% since 2006/07, with only around 27% of 25-34 year olds actually owning their own property.

Each of the 400 mini houses will be up for sale at some point and their price will depend on where the artwork eventually ends up. Anyone who buys one will become a co-owner of the sculpture.

Plummer Fernandez said: “I wish York would adopt it, but there are no plans to fix it there yet.”

Sculptures, like houses, are bought as investments and the artist has had fun drawing these parallels.

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North Yorkshire architectural design company, Stage One, printed the 3-D sculpture after Matthew spent a six-month residency there.

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