Publication: Empty housing: critical review on theoretical explanations of housing vacancy
The issue of housing vacancy as a spatial phenomenon, as an outcome of urban restructuring or as part of a rhetoric developed around urban generation, has been considerably debated in the fields of housing and urban studies and policy-making. However, the definitions and the conceptualizations of empty, underused, vacant or abandoned housing in urban agglomerations as topics to look into, as well as the theoretical frameworks developed to understand the procedures and the reasons behind their emergence, are diverse and sometimes controversial, depending on the disciplinary origins and epistemological paradigms adopted. The essay attempts to provide a better understanding of the various types of urban housing vacancy through a critical review on key theoretical frameworks in the fields of housing economics, housing studies, geography and spatial planning to identify key points and assumptions between various disciplinary perspectives; as well as to reflect on whether more or less multidimensional explanations are able to grasp the complexity of the phenomena, which as it is argued, occur in many different contexts for many different reasons. For the purposes of this paper, the most prevailing concepts and theories used and translated by planners and researchers in urban studies to explain housing vacancy phenomena, are explored. The review focuses on literature dating back to the 1960's and attempts to cover the debate on housing vacancy, with a reference mainly to North-American and European cases, through the following three conceptual frameworks: i. housing vacancy as mobility "opportunity" ii. vacancy as demand variation and iii. vacancy as a "shrinkage". Four key concerns are discussed in detail regarding each of the conceptual frameworks: the extent of attention paid to spatial aspects and to cross-scalar relationships, to actors' role and impacts, as well as the understanding of vacancy as part of context-dependant historical processes. The paper concludes with a more general reflection on whether these commonly used theoretical frameworks are able to touch upon the complex social, economic, political and cultural relationships embodied in housing and conceptualize housing not only as a "composite commodity".
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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