Tag Archives: housing

(235) A hidden homelessness

We had hoped to provide links to more academic papers regarding suburban poverty and related topics by now.  These papers, and the journals and institutions that publish them can pose payment and access issues at times for general internet users.  These important documents, research efforts from academics who do the detailed, heavy lifting when it comes to understanding the world around us, will get more attention in future postings.

An example is the item linked below.  It approaches the under representation of visible minority newcomers in the shelter system in Canada.  It has been assumed that this reflects a strategy of residential crowding based on family and ethnic connections.
The paper is from Canadian Studies In Population 38, No. 1–2 (Spring/Summer 2011), pages 43–59.  The author, Micheal Haan of the University of Alberta, asks if this observation represents a “hidden homelessness.”

Does immigrant residential crowding reflect hidden homelessness?
via homelesshub.ca

photo: See Ming Lee via Wikimedia Commons

(223) Rethinking the corporate campus

Just as the smokestack and the skyscraper symbolized a particular kind of economic development so did the corporate campus.  These were all the rage for decades, groupings of commercial buildings deployed amid greenery and reached mainly by car.  The corporate campus was chosen by high technology industries in particular with the example of Microsoft in Redmond, Washington known internationally.  The corporate campus first took root near the larger, older centres and were eventually replicated all over North America.  They seem to have served their owners well enough in their day, allowing firms to secure, centralize and rationalize their operations on greenfield sites beyond busy and expensive cities.  They were seen as a way to control real estate and operational costs and as enhancers of corporate culture and performance.  Some were plunked down in urban areas, others are suburban with yet others built in the middle of nowhere.  Now the business campus has come in for a timely rethink.  The idea going forward seems to be not to fully segregate places of work from places of residence.  This reduces transportation costs and stress for workers which also goes a little lighter on the environment.  The result is healthier and easier for everyone.

Steps-from-work housing
NYT piece looking at planning efforts in Hartford, CT which add residential uses to a large corporate office corridor

Crain’s Special Report: Corporate campuses in twilight

photo: JonRidinger via Wikimedia Commons

(206) Nova Cidade de Kilamba

From its offices in Mississauga, suburban-poverty.com seeks both topic and audience as globally as possible.  Canada, the United States, Scandinavia, Germany, Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and China have made the (dis)honour roll over the past year-and-a-half.  Thanks to the BBC we can reach out to a reality in Angola.  Once a part of Portugal’s squalid empire the country of twenty million is an oil producer that remains very poor.  Courted of late by China, we see a familiar pattern of weirdness and stupidity in the making of place called Nova Cidade de Kilamba, some thirty kilometres outside Luanda, Angola’s capital.  How bizarre and unexpected, but given the reach of a globalized economy, perhaps not totally so.

Angola’s Chinese-built ghost town article plus video

image: SKopp via Wikimedia Commons

(174) Beijing

Suburban poverty is a genuinely global condition.  Even with a remarkably different set of economic circumstances and historical precedents — including sixty-plus years of communism/fascism — we find suburban poverty in the People’s Republic of China.  Vast amounts of it in fact.

Is This Beijing’s Suburban Future?  Atlantic

Poverty drives one million Beijing workers into undergound ‘mouse holes’
The National (Abu-Dhabi)

(166) Is it a design problem?

Meet St Barbara.  Until Rome demoted her a few years ago she was the patron saint of architecture …and also those who work with explosives.  Kind of an exciting job description.  We hope she’s looking out for us in these precarious times. Given the built environment and economic uncertainty many are stuck with we are gonna need all the wisdom with architecture and explosives we can get our hands on.

Who doesn’t idealize the artist, the architect, the engineer, the designer their ability to go from nothing to something, that is to create, to bring a thing into existence?  It makes sense then that in attempting to comprehened suburbia we turn to the creative class?  Almost since they were invented suburbia has provoked a diversity of critique and brought forth those with a desire in their hearts for something better.  Is it possible that even the growing social difficulty facing suburbia is a design problem?

Allison Arieff thinks so.  She has been professionally involved in design and architecture in America and last year gathered some of her thoughts in the opinion piece linked in this posting, making it dynamite to read.  Ms. Arieff sees people with very low expectations of houses.  People willing to accept boring, unimaginative, sometimes downright shoddy, drywall boxes cranked out and marketed by an innovation-resisting industry that produces something like half of all solid waste in the country.  Acording to Ms. Arieff the commercial building industry is capable of producing a better product than the residential construction industry.  This all seems like a disservice to American consumers and their communities.

Unfortunately the American suburban paradigm is not going to be changed any time soon because it will be too busy being dead.  A couple of postings back we learned that the number of unwanted monster homes in America is in the tens of millions.  Kinda tough to think the industry that produced that is going to set aside its hucksterism and conservatism for a design-ey new approach to everything.  Still, just as the dinosaurs were replaced so too will the homebuilders of America be replaced.  Ms Arieff provides a survey of several builders going in the right direction in terms of energy efficiency, construction methods and cultural value in homes.  Hers is a call for change and action, that of a new Saint Barbara?

Shifting the Suburban Paradigm NYT Opinionator

This article has nearly 170 comments at the time of this posting, including some very thoughtful ones.

(160) Too many monsters

It almost seems too easy to pick on the McMansion or Monster Home these days.  The bloated starter castles of credit- and bubble-driven pseudo prosperity indeed symbolize failure of the most brutal kind.  A recent study suggests that America has some forty million more of these homes than it actually needs.  Hard to imagine forty million of anything, let alone houses.  All that drywall, copper wire, wood, metal, plastic – the furnishings needed for them, the labour and energy put into them.  Talk about overshoot.
Big giant houses, no money down, to go with big giant SUVs and big giant plastic cups of endlessly refillable corn sugared soft drinks.  Did a bunch of seven-year-old boys design such a society?

Today’s monster home is likely to be tomorrow’s slum rental.

U.S. overbuilt in big houses, planners find: 40 million houses too many – one explanation for falling prices U-T San Diego

Photo: Merfam via Wikimedia Commons

(123) Housing voucher shifts in America

The pair of commentators making up the Freakonomics franchise have enjoyed quite a bit of success and a high profile for a while now.  They made people a little uneasy with the assertion in their last book that prostitution is a clever career choice for women as long as they remember to go about it in some kind of nice middle-class kind of way.  Yeah, whatever.  Suburban-poverty.com thought they’d have made more effort to apply their quirky perspectives to the matter at hand.  This item from last fall citing Brookings Institution work seems to be about it, at least since the 2007-2008 crash.  You can confirm suburban poverty in the United States by looking at where housing vouchers are being spent.
The suburb as the slum: housing voucher shifts in America

(118) A word from HUD

Since suburban-poverty.com takes a global view of its namesake issue it is a little surprising we have not mentioned H.U.D.  Apparently the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development has had, shall we say, its ups and downs over the years.  Either way they have made themselves felt and been a factor shaping urban and suburban life in America for some time now.  In the winter of 2012 their Policy Development & Research people produced this item called Meeting the Challenges of Suburban Poverty. 

HUD  [Evidence Matters]