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Unaffordable socialized housing as neoliberal governmentality in the urban South

Authors: Chester Antonino Cunan Arcilla*, University of the Phllippines-Manila
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Third World
Keywords: Socialized housing, labor precarity, urban South, gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Forced evictions into unaffordable socialized housing underpin the economic expansion of services and real estate in the Philippine capital city. Using housing and macroeconomic data analysis and building on earlier work in housing governmentality, I explicate and trace the economics of unaffordable socialized housing to increasing labor precarity. With immense livelihood informality and huge slum populations in the Philippines, unaffordable socialized housing is a critical neoliberal technology where surplus populations are transformed into consumers for credit-led accumulation and slum communities torn down for gentrification.

The dominant approach to socialized housing – mortgaged and privately-produced completed housing in off-city resettlement – barely address affordability as this focus on lowering housing prices and fail to account for livelihood displacement, increased living costs, and social service inaccessibility. The substantial gap between what prices the private shelter producers find economically feasible and the actual capacities of the poor to pay for housing, highlight that the housing crisis is a problem of labor precarity.

Coinciding with the implementation of the dominant socialized housing program from the 2000s, real wages growth is zero despite increasing workers’ productivity. Decades of declining agriculture and manufacturing production created conditions for the expansion of livelihood and habitation informality in cities. With the withdrawal of labor protection, insecure and informal labor now underpins the expansion in urban areas of the real estate and services sector fueled by foreign investment and overseas Filipino remittances. To free up high value in-city urban space, slum dwellers are involuntarily evicted to unaffordable off-city socialized housing.

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