Fixing the housing crisis or fixing crisis in place? ‘Pop-up’ and ‘micro’ solutions to London’s housing crisis

Authors: Mel Nowicki*, Oxford Brookes University, Ella Harris, Goldsmiths University of London
Topics: Social Geography
Keywords: housing crisis; micro-housing; pop-up
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper assesses two posited ‘fixes’ to London’s housing crisis: PLACE/Ladywell, London’s first ‘pop-up village’, and Pocket Living, developers of micro-flats for first-time buyers.

Temporarily housing homeless families in south-east London, PLACE/Ladywell occupies a ‘meanwhile space’ site and is designed to be moved around other vacant sites across the borough. Operating in a different tenure, Pocket Living promotes reduction in minimum space standards as key to addressing the growing number of Londoners unable to purchase a home. ‘Compact’ properties are sold at 80% of market rate, classing them as affordable in line with UK policy definitions. Both schemes have been highly praised in architecture, planning and political circles as providing innovative responses to London’s housing crisis.

However, we argue that, rather than producing ‘fixes’ to housing crises, such schemes in fact function as means of keeping fixed in place systems and logics that underpin crisis. In the case of PLACE/Ladywell, the celebration of high-quality temporary accommodation further normalises reliance on temporary, rather than permanent, social housebuilding strategies, which does little to respond to the housing crisis in the long term. In the case of Pocket Living, marketing shrinking living space as desirable arguably lowers expectations, rather than improves affordability, of homeownership, perpetuating the financialization of housing while distracting from the need for a systemic overhaul of the housing system. We argue that such schemes not only fail to provide ‘fixes’ to London’s housing crisis, but that they are complicit in keeping the neoliberal housing system fixed in place.

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