The Future of Housing: Resilient Property Perspectives and Sustainable Solutions

08 Jun to 09 Jun

Coordinators: Lorna Fox O’Mahony (University of Essex), Marc L. Roark (University of Tulsa )

Description of the meeting

The affordable housing crisis is a ‘wicked problem’: a complex, large-scale, global problem, underpinned by a wide-ranging and evolving range of interlocking issues and constraints. It is both a symptom of, and exacerbated by, an array of other contemporary crises: property and wealth inequality, uneven economic growth, financial and economic crises, political crises, and land use, environmental and sustainability crises. This is compounded, in the current political period, by migration and territoriality crises, the crisis of belonging and the politics of exclusion. It is embedded in a myriad of polarized political and economic debates that seem to offer little prospect for sustainable solutions.

Wicked problems engender a high level of conflict among stakeholders, who advance different views about how to define the problem, and what constitute acceptable solutions. Because the challenges are multi-faceted, our perspectives and the frameworks we adopt to seek out solutions must reflect this. This workshop will build on the emerging approach and methodology of ‘Resilient Property’ to bring together leading scholars who are committed to developing and testing new approaches to housing crises through multiple lenses and with attention to the web of intersecting issues and stakeholders involved in contemporary housing studies—including individuals (owners, tenants, precariously houses, homeless), aggregated interests (neighborhoods, communities, markets, social movements), and the state itself across its multi-layered actors, agencies and institutions (local/city; regional; national; transnational). Crucially, the central focus of the inquiry is on seeking out solutions that enable the production of resilience for different stakeholders, and equilibrium for housing systems.

Access to affordable, sustainable housing relies on property: indeed, a key tension in the pursuit of housing solutions is the conflict between the need for affordable housing and the prior private property rights of owners (of land or capital). This creates a range of binary, transaction-focused frames for tackling housing problems. Housing policies are directed by state actors and institutions, but their reach and capabilities are framed by default private property rights, by the resilience needs of markets, and by the demands of (globalised) capital, which many states now rely on to fund the construction and acquisition of housing. The affordable housing crisis is a system-level problem; but established paradigms for thinking about the scope, structure and substance of real property law, mortgage law and tenancy law are systematically geared to look away from systemic problems and to focus instead on interpersonal transactional justice. Scholarship for sustainable solutions requires scholars to move between these modes, in cycles of analysis and synthesis that take account of the competing resilience needs of stakeholders, including the (sometimes contradictory) needs of differently-positioned state institutions. ‘Resilient Property’ offers an innovative approach and methodology to tackle affordable housing challenges, and the participants who have agreed to develop and present papers at the proposed workshop engage collaboratively with this framework to make progress toward sustainable housing solutions.

The workshop aims to open up new perspectives on the property problems that underpin affordable housing crises, using the frameworks of Resilient Property theory. The planned programme includes the following sessions:

  • Housing Economies in the Aftermath of the Housing Crisis   
    This theme examines the role of states as stakeholders in the most recent housing crisis. Papers will focus on the role of national-state ideology in shaping state responses to housing crises, including the different ways that ideological commitments and constraints affect state responses to mortgage and tenant repossessions/evictions. This session also explores the role of social movements in applying collective pressure on state/government actors and the role of housing movements in shaping debates about sustainable housing systems.
  • Sustainable Geographies: Ruralism, Urbanism, and Housing Sustainability
    This theme draws on case studies from Canada, Israel and Scotland to explore the role of states (national, regional, city, local) and market/owner-led initiatives in influencing place-based housing inclusion or exclusion. Across the theme, the papers will explore how differently situated stakeholders shape the evolution and development of housing systems at different scales. The papers will reflect on how these produce sustainability, and how the location of the power to set agendas for housing resilience affects access to sustainable housing for different populations or groups.
  • Housing Market Eco-systems
    This theme focuses on models for supporting and developing inclusive and sustainable housing systems. Bringing together perspectives from Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands, participants will examine the role of social justice-led strategies for resilience housing systems, including the role of sustainable social housing, and advocacy through human rights frameworks.
  •  Housing and Environmental Crisis
    This session draws insights from sustainable development and practices to explore how resilient housing systems can be advanced through strategies focused on environmentally sustainable land-use. Case studies from the Central African Republic, Scotland and South Africa reflect on how sustainable housing systems can benefit from citizen-led and state-backed responses to the environmental crisis.
  • Housing and Social Belonging: Home, Identity, and Well-Being
    This theme will focus on the interplay between regulation for physical housing environments and the home interests of individual stakeholders, with particular focus on three marginalised groups: homeless people in South Africa; precariously housed people in Canada and ageing populations and people with physical disabilities. The papers will explore some of the barriers embedded in the dominant paradigms that inhibit sustainable housing solutions for these groups and propose new paradigm approaches to supporting access to homes and more sustainable communities.
  • Housing and the Physical Environment: Resources, and Sustainability
    This panel returns to environmental sustainability with three papers focused on the impact of environmental migration for individuals, communities and states; the scope for innovation in property law responses to the climiate crisis through ‘deliberative co-management’ of land resources, and the role of citizen self-help and solidarity on responding to disasters.
  • Housing and the Rule of Law: Property, Ideology and Conflict
    This theme examines recursive relationships between property narratives and norms and the rule of law, focusing on moments of conflict and crisis. Papers reflect on the normative world that property discourses create, their implications for sustainable housing systems, and how the interplay of property theory and housing practice can re-centre resilience and sustainability.

Our experience in Oñati

The Future of Housing: Resilient Property Approaches to Housing, The Environment and Property: Dialogue about Shared Problems and Starting Points.  

For two days, scholars from law, history, environmental justice, geography, and sociology gathered at the Institute to explore how housing problems complicated by property systems, environment, and politics may be approached.  Starting from the view that these problems often have no universal defining point, the discussants worked to find common approaches to advance the problems beyond their ideological frames.

A primary theme of the discussion was finding pathways to solve problems from the material realities on the ground, considering the unique normative place that property plays in each jurisdiction. The workshop highlighted how an approach to problems that does not start from a single ideological perspective or viewpoint can give an opening for a variety of views, inviting dialogue for shared solutions to problems.  

The discussants came from 12 countries, including Spain, the United States, Germany, Canada, Israel, Ireland, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, Chile, South Africa, and Australia, working in Universities, Law Reform, and for NGOs.  Participants in the workshop were Bram Akkermans (Maastricht University), Koldo Casla (University of Essex), Rashmi Dyal-Chand (Northeastern University), Alexandra Flynn (University of British Columbia), Diego Gil (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile),  Amnon Lehavi (Reichman University), John Lovett (Loyola University New Orleans), Robin Paul Malloy (Syracuse University), Gustav Muller (Pretoria University), Sergio Nassare Azner (Universitat Rovira I Virilli), Chris Odinet (University of Iowa), Kate O’Reilly (University of Maastricht), Jessica Owley (University of Miami),  Jacob Remes (NYU), Jill Robbie (Glasgow University), Samuel Tyrer (Monash University & Australian Law Reform Commission), Sue-Mari Viloen (University of the Western Cape), Elsabe van der Sijde (Stellenbosch University, & Amnesty International), Rachael Walsh (Trinity University), and Lua Kamál Yuille (Northeastern University).

The workshop was convened and organized by Lorna Fox O’Mahony (University of Essex), and Marc L. Roark (University of Tulsa) and was built around themes, methods and theories explored in their book Squatting and the State: Resilient Property in an Age of Crisis (Cambridge University Press 2022).

For more information: 

Workshop Coordination Team

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20560 Oñati (Gipuzkoa) - Spain
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