Pursuing Equitable Resilience Through Affordable Housing: Examining the Informalization of Formal Housing Projects

This research explores the ways that low-income residents have reintroduced aspects of informality to large-scale formally-constructed housing projects in the Global South. We argue that such bottom-up strategies by low-income residents are a central, but previously understudied, aspect of what it means to develop affordable housing that is resilient in equitable ways. Since the early 2000s, there has been a sudden, simultaneous expansion of housing programs in many emerging economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These industrial-like neighborhoods located on the outskirts of cities are frequently justified as a healthier alternative to informally-built housing settlements, but the formal alternatives fall short in other important ways. The design of the houses and public spaces often fail to consider environmental sustainability, risk protection, and climate adaptation strategies, yielding new forms of vulnerability for low-income residents. We also see a homogenization of construction technologies that look similarly inadequate in terms of environmental challenges and fail to address particular local contexts (Seto 2013; Buckley et al. 2016; Turok 2015 and 2016). For affordable housing to be considered equitably resilient, it needs to 1) reduce environmental vulnerability; 2) produce desirable public space; 3) engage the affected community in ways that empower rather than merely placates; 4) benefit the least-advantaged residents rather than harm or displace them. Our research seeks to identify and document such places, as a way to draw attention to their attributes and advocate for expanding equitable resilience in the practice of contemporary urbanism.

Team: Lawrence J. Vale, Ford Professor of Urban Design and Planning, Director, MIT Resilient Cities Housing Initiative, Laura Wainer, PhD Student, MIT Resilient Cities Housing Initiative. In partnership with: Inter-American Development Bank (Argentina), FundacĂ­on Mario Santo Domingo (Colombia), African Centre for Cities (South Africa). Miho Mazereeuw, Associate Professor, Director, MIT Urban Risk Lab.

This research is funded by 2019 Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism Seed Grant.

IMAGE: Ciudad del Bicentenario, Kira Intrator

Spring 2019