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Housing in the era of neoliberalism between adaption and transgression

Monika Grubbauer and Clara E. Salazar

The stream examines the diverse forms and practices through which the urban poor and middleclasses access and improve their housing in the countries of the Global South in the context of neoliberal hegemony. The past two decades have imposed new pressures on households in the globalizing cities of the Global South in securing basic living standards and, particularly, access to adequate housing. Self‐help builders, on the one hand, who engage in informal processes of autoconstruction are in various ways restricted in their actions, e.g. through exclusion from state subsidies, clientelist practices and environmental and property laws. The middle‐classes with access to mortgage finance and formal housing markets, on the other hand, encounter increasing challenges in obtaining affordable housing which satisfies their needs. Mass produced single‐family housing estates in peripheral locations have proved highly problematic, especially in Mexico, because of the poor building quality, long commuting distances and the lack of infrastructure. In both cases, households have to accept precarious housing conditions as legal property titles do not guarantee access to adequate housing. In the context of these market‐driven approaches to housing in which the state limits its interventions to the regulation of markets and households remain with the only option to act according to its rules, we wish to address the theme of transgression in two ways.

First, considering transgression as violation or even collapse of norms we invite contributions addressing the following questions:

  • Which actions and practices allow poor and middle‐class households to confront the precarity of their housing situation with homes serving as sites and sources of multiple practices of construction, dwelling and income generation?
  • Which of these actions and practices can be regarded as transgressive and which have to be seen merely as a reaction in terms of adaption to the circumstances imposed on households?
  • Which of these actions and practices effectively achieve to revert conditions imposed on households and which institutional mechanisms can be seen to facilitate these kinds of transgressions?

Second, considering transgression as violation of the rights of inhabitants, we invite contributions addressing the following questions:

  • Which constitutional frameworks exist in the countries of the Global South which provide legal rights to adequate housing and how are these rights violated through the commodification of housing production and provision?
  • Which actors involved in the regulation and production of housing can be regarded to transgress these rights under which circumstances and how can schemes be evaluated in terms of adaption/transgression which support self‐construction through state subsidies and housing microfinance?
  • Which institutional mechanisms exist to guarantee that the market provides adequate housing to those who have paid for it?