The Housing/Habitat Project: Tracing Impacts of the Affordability Crisis in the Wildlands of Exurban California

17 February, 2020 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
Professor Miriam Greenberg, Department of Sociology, University of California Santa Cruz
FAW 9.05, London School of Economics, Clement’s Inn, London WC2A 2AZ

The recent increase in wildfires in California has raised awareness of the dangerous spread of housing development at the Wildlands Urban Interface [WUI], and how this interacts with extreme weather events caused by climate change. Yet in addition to fire, growing exurban housing development and the infrastructure it requires have caused a range of social and ecological impacts over recent years, including the loss and fragmentation of habitat for wildlife. In this talk I discuss a new research project bringing together scholars in urban and environmental studies to understand these dynamics and a little-understood driver of them: California’s affordable housing crisis. Using the region surrounding Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz as case study, we will first explore how unaffordability and exclusionary housing policies in core urban areas have displaced people to cheaper, sprawled developments in remote, less regulated exurbs, including in rural areas and the WUI. We will then address the social and ecological impacts of this exurban development. Alongside environmental justice implications for “extreme commuters” now living in harm’s way, this includes increasing habitat fragmentation for native species like mountain lions, which depend upon large, continuous ranges to maintain biodiversity.  In short, the project looks at how crises for ‘housing and habitat’ evolved and may now be interacting with each other.  In so doing, it aims to highlight the complex interactions between the “3 E’s” of equity, ecology, and economy under conditions of market-oriented urbanization; bridge often separate literatures in housing studies, urban political ecology, and conservation biology; and inform public policy and political movements aiming for housing, transportation, and multi-species justice within sustainable urban regions.

This event is part of the Social Life of Climate Change Seminar Series.

For further information on this event please contact k.paprocki@lse.ac.uk

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