A Renter's Right to Return: Deprivatizing Resilience In The California Context
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CitationSlade, Shannon. 2022. A Renter's Right to Return: Deprivatizing Resilience In The California Context. Master's thesis, Harvard Graduate School of Design.
AbstractDrawing from history, sociology, architecture, and disaster and housing planning and policy, this thesis seeks to address how disaster preparedness and recovery efforts in the United States have failed renter communities and what can be done to create more equitable risk mitigation strategies for non-homeowners with a focus on the case study city of West Hollywood, California.
With rent control as one of the few remaining safeguards for housing affordability in U.S. cities, a scarcity of affordable rental housing, if combined with the potential for a damaging seismic event, would require much of California’s rent-controlled housing stock to be pulled off the market for repairs. This would create a ‘perfect storm’ of widespread evictions under the State-level legislation with no affordability guarantees should survivors seek to return to their homes and communities after a catastrophic event.
As we have learned from previous crises and the ongoing pandemic, disasters amplify existing vulnerabilities and stress-test our systems for protecting citizens. If we don’t enshrine renter protections within our policy, planning, and development strategies at the city, state, and national levels, renters will continue to lose access to urban spaces. This period in time yields the potential for changes in renter protections at all levels of government by revealing the weaknesses in our existing emergency mitigation and response systems while also presenting a window to reevaluate biases and policies around housing provision and disaster recovery until recently, considered firmly entrenched.
To strengthen a renter protections in a disaster context and to evaluate what should be the model of engagement to advance these protections, different stakeholders must work together with renters and tenant rights advocates to address biases around housing and continue to build on community-driven initiatives to protect a renter’s right to return. At this moment in time, where renter protections and rights are at the forefront of the political consciousness, could there be a new motivation from actors to protect renters and address their root vulnerabilities before the next disaster event?
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