July 8 2017, 106 Union St

HOUSE TALK

PART III OF A POLITICAL-SPATIAL SERIES

IN RESPONSE TO THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE

POLICING THE BUBBLE: HOUSING MARKET GROWTH AND POLICE BUDGETING IN AN ERA OF LOW CRIME  / BRENDEN BECK

The United States experienced a dramatic housing market bubble between
the early 1990s and 2008.  The causes of the bubble and the
consequences of the crash have been well documented, but one change
during the boom years has received little attention: how local
governments expanded their police departments to try and encourage
housing price growth.  Regional economies, especially those in the Sun
Belt, became increasingly reliant on real estate jobs and housing
market growth.  Meanwhile, wages were stagnant.  So, homeowners
weren't getting raises and were increasingly dependent on home equity
growth to buoy their personal finances.  Homeowners, real estate
elites, and policymakers became anxious in this economic climate, and
looked for ways to encourage growing residential real estate prices.
They turned to the police.  As Denver's Mayor said during the height
of the boom, "Crime statistics can affect home values".  Crime
victimization decreased during this time, but police budgets grew,
flush with the new purpose of housing market protection.  Using home
price data and local government budget data, my co-author and I show
how cities that underwent a larger housing bubble also spent more on
police.

STYLE IN POSTMODERN HOUSING PROJECTS IN THE PARIS PÉRIPHÉRIQUE / MATT HOWARD

HOUSING AS INTERVENTION / KAREN KUBEY

In the face of widening income and health inequality across the globe, how can architects make meaningful impacts? A growing body of research, including an ongoing study in New York, demonstrates that people with affordable, well-designed homes lead healthier, happier lives than those who are rent-burdened or ill-housed. Architects seeking ways to make positive impacts in the world might then consider how their housing projects can be interventions toward greater social equity.

 

Despite its potential for impact in the lives of residents – and though it was Modernism’s central project – “housing” is often considered separate from “architecture.” As architect Susanne Schindler puts it, housing is thought of as a “socioeconomic product to be delivered at the least possible cost,” while architecture is considered a “cultural endeavor.” Framing related questions on architecture’s role in housing and equity, Columbia University’s Buell Center asks, in The Art of Inequality: Architecture, Housing, and Real Estate, "How might anyone with a vested interest in architectural design and a commitment to addressing our time’s most pressing social concerns reconcile the two, if at all?"

 

Curators and architects are offering helpful responses to that very question. Marc Norman’s Designing Affordability exhibition at the Center for Architecture cataloged "ways to reduce the cost of housing by rethinking how we build, maintain, and occupy structures."  Beyond cost-saving strategies, architects are taking on expanded roles in housing design and development processes, as a means to produce more equitable project outcomes, or projects that contribute to the health and wellbeing of residents and neighbors in need.

 

In London, Karakusevic Carson Architects led a robust resident engagement process for its Colville Estate Masterplan and Bridport House, ultimately creating beautifully designed social housing, built with the needs of current residents in mind. Closer to home, the Philadelphia architecture firm ISA has partnered with health researchers to develop housing designs that might better support desired health outcomes for residents, like reduced stress and lowered medical expenditures. In Mexico, Tatiana Bilbao rewrote her government-issued design brief and developed an $8,000-house prototype that provides low-income residents with a dignified home, while allowing for flexibility and expansion. Working closely with people displaced by disaster and creating designs simple enough to be built by them, Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first woman architect, has led or influenced the building of 45,000 disaster relief structures.

As David Madden and Peter Marcuse write in In Defense of Housing, “The built form of housing has always been seen as a tangible, visual reflection of the organization of society. It reveals the existing class structure and power relationships.” The pursuit of a more equitable society and the creation of new forms of housing have long gone hand-in-hand. It has never been more urgent for architects to work toward reducing economic, health, and social inequalities.  As the role of the architect evolves, engaging in these interlinked issues has the potential to shift design practice at large.