RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


241 Housing and the Politics of Vulnerability (2)
Affiliation Geographies of Justice Research Group
Convenor(s) Andrew Power (University of Southampton, UK)
Mariela Gaete Reyes (Universidad de Chile, Chile)
Chair(s) Mariela Gaete Reyes (Universidad de Chile, Chile)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Session abstract Housing access has always been contingent on a range of different factors operating from the global to local scale. These factors include international economic forces, national housing policy, local labour markets and individual degrees of social mobility. Each act as a nexus affecting who can buy or who must rent in the private market and who must seek out social housing. In recent times, endless (neoliberal) restructuring of welfare and housing policy, global financial uncertainty causing new banking regulatory pressures, labour market precarity and a squeezing of the middle-class each contribute to different accounts of vulnerability. These accounts include struggles to meet mortgage repayments by the ‘squeezed middle’; a new generation of young people who may never own a home; and growing uncertainty for and displacement of the social welfare class by housing cuts. The nexus of factors and the resulting accounts each take different shapes around the world. In Britain, recent housing cuts include new localism restrictions, the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, thus curtailing people’s choices of where and who to live with – and how long they must occupy precarious spaces of shelter at the margins. Such accounts reveal a complex politics of vulnerability at work. Such politics characterise the myriad triggers and trajectories, both manufactured and coincidental, which are increasingly leading to a sense of vulnerability being shared by us all. Given the global reach of some of these factors and the different politics at play at different local scales, we would therefore welcome papers from the UK and beyond which critically consider the different politics at work and the resulting accounts of vulnerability by people on the ground.
Linked Sessions Housing and the Politics of Vulnerability (1)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Single people's housing vulnerability and the economies of abandonment
Eleanor Wilkinson (University of Southampton, UK)
Iliana Ortega-Alcázar (University of Southampton, UK)
Single people without dependents are one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of housing rights as they are positioned as less in need than other groups (i.e. placed at the end of the line for access to social housing, and not classed as a priority group for the limited range of temporary accommodation). In this context it is vital to consider how single people have been affected by the recent cuts to housing welfare. The paper focuses on the changed age-threshold for the Shared Accommodation Rate of housing welfare, which means single people (without dependents) aged under 35 are now only entitled to claim the cost of a single room in a shared property. This policy has placed the issue of forced sharing firmly in the spotlight, and poses questions concerning the possible negative impacts on health and wellbeing. This paper examines the precarious existence of younger single people in housing need, tracing how the market logics of welfare retrenchment have led to societal abandonment by the state. We outline how the government's fixation with 'family-first' policies position those who are single and childfree as less deserving of state support, thus highlighting the ways in which the neoliberal logics of welfare reform entwine with hetereonormative conceptions of the way a life should unfold.
Politics of Territorial Stigmatisation and its Discourses
Karin Backvall (Uppsala University, Sweden)
In the context of anti-segregation strategies and area-based policies, this article examines how parliamentary responses to government interventions in areas with low-income groups perceive and construct the problem of residential segregation and concentrated poverty. Drawing on ideas of how stigmatisation can impact policy, as well as the influence of neoliberal ideology, the analysis reveals how areas with low-income groups are continuously constructed as "segregated", leading to a focus on such places as the most important targets for anti-segregation policy, combined with a consistent construction of the residents of these areas as people living in "utanförskap". "Utanförskap" is a Swedish term which is central to this paper and the discourse I am analysing. It can be translated as "alienation" or "outsiderness", a term often used to refer to how a capitalist system undermines social relations. However, the meaning of "utanförskap" in neoliberal discourse refers to a condition, or an attribute, of individual failure. This distinction between different ideological meanings of "alienation" is a crucial part of my analysis and will continue to be further developed. Significant differences can be observed between political parties as well as over time with increasingly critical representations regarding anti-segregation policy; however, individual responsibility and "place poverty" remain key characteristics of the discourse on residential segregation.
Domicide, hyper-precarity and the city: the moralisation of housing vulnerability in London's austerity landscape
Mel Nowicki (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper explores the impact of austerity culture and increased housing vulnerability on low-income Londoners through a dualistic theoretical lens of precarity and domicide (meaning the intentional destruction of home). In particular, I explore the domicidal implications of austerity politics in relation to two key housing policies introduced in England and Wales by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government: the criminalisation of squatting in a residential building; and the removal of the spare room subsidy, more infamously known as the 'bedroom tax'. The paper explores the multivalent ways in which the criminalisation of squatting and the bedroom tax act as instances of domicide, embedding precarity and vulnerability within the everyday fabrics of squatters and social tenants' home lives. In particular, I highlight the policies' destabilisation of home-making capacities via the threat of forced eviction; and their wider socio-symbolic implications as they further encourage a moralistic understanding of the city's lowest income residents as socially deviant, and thus undeserving of secure housing. I argue that the multi-faceted nature of these domicidal policies can be understood as 'hyper-precarious'; the home acting as a site through which multiple and prevailing forms of home destruction lead to the compounded precaritisation and increased marginalisation of some of London's most vulnerable citizens.
Right to the City: Housing and Community Development in Brazil
Krithika Prabhakaran (Columbia University, USA)
Maira Khan (Columbia University, USA)
Jon Tristan Sherbeck Jackson (Columbia University, USA)
Lu Sun (Columbia University, USA)
Vicente Arellano (Columbia University, USA)
Ubaldo Escalante (Columbia University, USA)
Neha Krishnan (Columbia University, USA)
Shortage of sufficient housing is a problem burdened by cities all over the globe, in both the developing and developed world. As we enter into an age of rapid urbanization, many of our fast-growing metropolitan centers are struggling to provide safe and effective housing to all of their citizens. Brazil is no different of course, with massive housing deficits being realized in both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The 1988 Brazilian Constitution defines housing as a basic human right that serves the social function of cities and property to serve the people. Unfortunately, these proclamations have yet to be realized as 33%[1] (7.8 million) of the Brazilian population are affected by a housing crisis; Brazilian Geographic and Statistics Institute identifies 3.5 million of these people to be living in precarious housing conditions, while the rest of the 4.3 million are either homeless or living in overcrowded cohabitation. Coupled with the massive 'under-housed' population, there are 6.1 million[2] vacant housing units across Brazil.

This exploratory paper attempts to analyze the spatial, socio-economic and political landscape of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo to better illustrate the housing situation and what can be done to support those affected. Additionally, using global case studies, this paper aims to offer strategies and tools to assist the existing efforts of two of these grassroots advocacy organizations- the MTST (The Roofless movement) and MNLM (national struggle of housing movement). The project presented will be the culmination of a semester-long planning studio's multi-pronged research approach that includes critical studies of local and international precedents, and of historical and current practices of these movements in the two cities mentioned; ethnographic work in sites of occupations (buildings and land lots); interviews with various stakeholders, community leaders, and key government officials; and co-production of housing movements, policy assessments and suggestive proposals.