Challenging the Urban Property Regime

Homesteading and Homelessness in St Louis

Abbilyn Harmon is a graduate student in Landscape Architecture at
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, studying activist approaches to ending homelessness and creating home with individuals experiencing homelessness. She is also a community organizer, involved in several projects, including with an East St. Louis service provider; setting up a homeworking operation to aid in creation of local jobs for men; and works on an annual radio broadcast called the Homelessness Marathon.

Since the 1930s, the government has taken a variety of approaches to housing and homelessness. The approaches have varied in degrees of paternalism and ineffectiveness, and, interestingly enough, the two issues have seldom been tackled as one cohesive issue. Even more problematic, governmental approaches to lack of housing and prevalence of homelessness can be characterized by attention to end results and tangible products, i.e. x number of units of housing and x number of nights no longer spent on the street. Newer theories of homelessness recognize that it is more of a pathway than a set existence in one spatial milieu. We must also begin to look at home as a process, where individuals may have differing qualities of home and different pathways to reaching home. I emphasize home instead of housing. Particularly, Im interested in the following questions:

How does HUD currently think about homelessness?

How do these conceptions create opportunities or conversely limit how HUD approaches solutions to ending homelessness?

How does urban homesteading, as a process of creating home,
offer a solution to ending homelessness?

How do homeless activist groups talk about agency and self-efficacy?

What are the parallels to home ownership discourse?

What elements of homelessness does self-help housing alleviate?

Use It or Lose It - "Abandonment Issues" Affordable Housing Project

Abandonment Issues is a Toronto-based coalition of housing activists fighting to get abandoned and underutilized buildings and spaces in the city turned into affordable housing. Abandonment Issues has drafted a Use It or Lose It bylaw that lays out the framework for implementing this goal. [1]

David Wachsmuth is a co-coordinator of Abandonment Issues and a PhD student in sociology at New York University. His research interests include political economy and the politics of urban planning. He is an organizer with GSOC/UAW, the union representing NYU teaching assistants.

Finessing gentrification: "Socially mixed" public housing redevelopment in Toronto, Canada

Over the past fifteen years, the ideal of creating 'socially mixed' communities has become increasingly popular in urban planning and development in the United States, Britain, Western Europe, and elsewhere. The ideal has been applied with the most vigour, it seems, in redevelopment and revitalization schemes planned for communities occupied by low-income and marginalized populations, and particularly in areas dominated by public housing. I argue that while the social mix planning ideal has its historical roots in progressive policy-making, and has the support of many well-intentioned planners and decision makers, its application in public housing redevelopment schemes serves to justify the displacement of the poor, and sugarcoat gentrification. While this approach emerged with the HOPE VI program in the United States, it has been enthusiastically adopted in renewal programs for social housing in several other nations, including Canada. This state-driven pursuit of gentrification in Toronto's Regent Park and Lawrence Heights communities portends a significant loss of political clout for tenants. I will discuss the current state of tenant resistance to redevelopment, and the dynamics that are emerging as these communities are razed and rebuilt as "socially mixed."

Martine August is from Winnipeg, Manitoba: a place once referred to as "like Buffalo, but with Communists" (by Actor Jeff Daniels). Martine is currently a career student, enrolled in the PhD program in Urban Planning at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on public housing redevelopment.

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