– based on a book discussion “Housing and Politics in Urban India. Opportunities and contention” by Swetha Rao Dhananka, Cambridge University Press 2020.
Swetha Rao Dhananka, Haute école de travail social de Fribourg (HES-SO)
• Prof. Amita Baviskar, Head of the Department of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, India
• Dr. Luca Pattaroni, Laboratoire de sociologie urbaine, EPFL
• Cyril Royez, Founder and President of Urbamonde Suisse
• Prof. Swetha Rao Dhananka, HES-SO – Haute école de travail social Fribourg
While the pandemic’s effects on health, livelihoods and economy is dominating the public debate, its effect on housing has not gained much visibility. Following the debate about housing and the pandemic, one can discern three aspects that shed novel light on interconnections: First, in the Global North, calls for eviction moratoriums, cancellation of rents for people who have become jobless paired with calls for increased social housing to solve the homelessness crisis are louder. Second, the pandemic crisis has imposed design lessons for cities. From re-thinking urban densities to the need of decentralising urban public essential services, to ensure accessibility and build urban resilience. Third, in countries like India, where due to the sudden lockdown millions of rural migrants took to the roads to walk to what they called home, laid bare their sense of disenfranchisement from the city they helped build and serve. Their often inadequate shelter and dense living conditions did not protect them from the pandemic threats, nor were they able to pay rent, as many endured loss of livelihoods. Civil society organisations have been pertinently asking, how the housing situation and the related sense of belonging impact individual and collective resilience to cope with the health and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. How would housing justice increase this resilience?
The special issue on ‘Housing Policy Innovation in the Global South’ (2018) published by the International Journal of Housing Policy stated that at a global level, housing policy innovation ought to focus less on housing subsidies and design financing schemes and rather on social movements, legal systems, and planning policies. Today’s question is hence, how adequate and affordable housing can be provided on a large scale and quickly. How can communities organize to engage in claiming housing at scale? How can they collectively learn to claim in a united voice, transcending identities, the local state and the repression they face, and how can they learn to reconstruct a collective identity that is constituted by the urban space they inhabit and enrich to build resilience?
The book anchoring the roundtable “Housing and Politics in Urban India. Opportunities and Contention”, describes the impediments that there are to such mobilizing from a theoretical social movement perspective and sheds light on community engagements and tactical strategies to bring about transformative change to claim adequate housing, resist co-opted forces and navigate the socio-political landscapes. Tactical knowledge and social skill based on a particular resource base (often determined by socio-historical positions) are key to sustainable outcomes in community engagements and mobilizing. Based on these lessons, the aim of this roundtable is to engage in a “North-South” dialogue to identify common underpinnings of housing Injustice and to highlight creative initiatives, movements and governance models that resist financialisation of housing to follow the motto of “housing as commons instead of commodity”, especially in pandemic times.
Moderator: Dr. Tobias Baitsch, Head of Mittelbau Architektur Berner Fachhochschule
- Prof. Amita Baviskar, Head of the Department of Environmental Studies, Ashoka University, India
- Dr. Luca Pattaroni, Laboratoire de sociologie urbaine, EPFL
- Cyril Royez, Founder and President of Urbamonde Suisse
Prof. Swetha Rao Dhananka, HES-SO – Haute école de travail social Fribourg