Session 44

J4 Global Methods for the Study of Housing Affordability and Urban Health?

In the year 2030, more than two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities (UN 2016) where housing scarcity is most acute. Related issues of population size, population density, and diversity as well as the complexity of local coexistence (Vlahov et al. 2007, Freudenberg et al. 2005) additionally challenge the health of urban residents. Around the globe, housing is considered the determinant of health that can be most easily managed for improving public health (Freudenberg et al. 2005: 4). Affordable housing (Wetzstein 2017) has been shown to be associated with health conditions in urban regions around the globe. Housing affordability problems have intensified in recent years, putting some social groups in precarious positions (Dewilde 2022). Health hazards caused by insecure living conditions exist in all contexts and affect those who are worse-off in socioeconomic terms whilst others dwell in suburban mansions. Regarding the nexus housing affordability and health, there seem to be two disparate narratives tailored to the Global North and the Global South, each considering specific methodological implications. The growing urban districts of less affluent regions of the world, in particular slums of megacities, are known for issues of affordable housing and adverse health effects. Slums are characterized by “open sewers, stagnant water, rotting garbage, toxic dumpsites, an unstable landbase, shoddy housing, abandoned lots and buildings, unpaved roads, inadequate electricity, sanitation, schools, clinics, and other infrastructure (…)“ providing favorable conditions for the spread of disease and other health hazards (Birn et al. 2009). From a research point of view, field access is said to be complicated by lack of data, statistics, and infrastructure as well as setting heterogeneity and (personal) problems of many researchers from academic background (Nasreen and Kumar Singh 2020). Participatory research by people affected, practitioners, and researchers aware of their positionality is considered a fruitful solution. In metropolitan areas of the Global North, such as Los Angeles, Lisbon, Oslo, and Sydney, demand for housing is particularly high. Results are tight housing markets accompanied by rising rents and property prices, gaps in housing supply reflecting housing inequalities between affluent and less affluent citizens (Holm et al. 2021), as well as vacant housing (Beran/Nuissl 2019: 18), a decline in relocation mobility (Lebuhn et al. 2017), and associated displacement processes. In this context, housing precarities have been reported to result in health conditions (Swope/Hernández 2019) as well. Scientific efforts of studying housing affordability and health report barriers to field access like, i. a., social desirability, ethics considerations, data security protection, and property relations (Mete 2022). Participatory research is relatively scarce. Already the confrontation of the two basic narratives shows that there are common methodological barriers are, i.e., a lack of data, either by data security protection and social desirability or by administrative issues as well as potential for mutual learning, inspiration and orientation. The question about global methods for the study of housing affordability and health is essential as it is a global challenge to identify solutions for sustainable housing, especially for the urban poor (Smets 2016). There are pilot projects in many places of the world, but dissemination is scarce. Urban science explains the non-spread of innovations with the need for customized solutions as well as for acting upon principles such as “health in all policies”, equity and participation: Housing and health affect multiple realms of society, like economics, politics and culture, often represented by respective stakeholders. The confrontation of the two basic narratives shows, that scientific cultures of knowledge add to dissemination problems. At the same time, it is commonly acknowledged, that multiple perspectives require attention in the process of solution identification – a core competence of science, calling for attention in method selection. As scholars of participatory research with a profound interest in cross-cultural research, we are interested in discussing methodological approaches and innovative perspectives on the study of problem identification regarding issues of housing affordability and health that apply worldwide. Doing so, we wonder whether it is worthwhile to question the separation of the two basic narratives. Based on the suggestion that the unspoken common grounds of research on housing affordability and health may be a reproduction of hegemonial structures and that there is potential for common learning about solutions to be explored, we propose the session Global methods for the study of housing affordability and urban health. In the session, we aim to discuss projects, case reports or intervention/dissemination studies reflecting on narratives of global disparities regarding housing affordability and health, and related methodological challenges and chances. Therefore, we invite scholars to share methodological reflections on the study of housing affordability and health from settings around the globe in common reflections. There may be four to five abstracts.