Heteronormativity and Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Housing: The Case of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

Authors: Spencer Nelson*, McGill University
Topics: Urban Geography, Sexuality, Canada
Keywords: urban geography; queer geographies; heteronormativity; housing; policy; discourse; family; domesticity; Vancouver; Canada
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: 8217, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In urban geography and planning research, variables of class, gender, and race have long been used in analysis of urban housing practices and discourse. Although there is emerging literature on sexuality and urban policy, few scholars have engaged with heteronormativity as an underlying ideology in housing policy and notions of “home”. Despite being in the midst of a housing crisis, scholars' analysis Vancouver’s housing policy and discourse is largely, though not exclusively, limited to questions of race and class. In this paper, I argue that heteronormativity and queer geographies can contribute to critical planning and housing studies of the City. I integrate archival research and field observations to argue that policy and discourse on housing and home in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) operates under heteronormative assumptions. In my analysis, heteronormativity is not limited solely to the queer subject, but rather a broader interpretation which includes those who do not subscribe to the City of Vancouver’s and/or Canadian ideals of family and domesticity, including transient workers, the disabled, the elderly, and more. This paper takes a particular interest in the policy and discourse surrounding housing rights, advocacy, and practices in the Downtown Eastside, most notably the removal, replacement, and regulation of single room occupancy housing. Moreover, I argue that a geographical analysis of heteronormativity and use of queer theory is a necessary framework from to dissect the state curated ideals of the proper family across and within a multitude of marganilities, positions, and perspectives.

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