tent cities 2009

There are now tent cities inhabited by unemployed and the foreclosed as reported in the media and oprah. back in the depression, they were called 'Hoovervilles'. Are these 21st century versions worthy of the moniker 'Bushvilles'?

Is this potential work for architects, planners, and landscape architects? Is informal urbanism going to emerge across North America and Europe in the shadows of shuttered big box stores and abandoned malls?

Mar 6, 09 8:44 pm

seattle has had a few for several years

Mar 6, 09 9:35 pm  · 

Looks like a hippie summer music festival, sad indeed

Mar 6, 09 10:34 pm  · 

DUDE WTF ---------(INFORMAL URBANISM) Where do we get this shit..from. some people are so disconnected from the real problems people have.

Those are people homeless, unemployed, who have not place to stay, suffering, and hungry. THOSE ARE REAL PEOPLE..

TIRED OF this arch linguistic bu sh it

Mar 7, 09 3:08 pm  · 

'informal urbanism' is the term used by NGOs and folks that don't want to use the term 'slum'.

Yes, they are real people, living in sub-standard conditions. the least we can do for them is provide sanitation, potable water, and electricity - ie infrastructure. No, we don't all need mcmansions - but pod cities and tent cities represent a valid housing option that we need to INTEGRATE into our cities. They are (mostly) citizens that deserve services as much as paris hilton.

But they do have a place to stay, that is their tents. Compared to the cardboard shelters I've seen, that's not too shabby.

if you are tired, do something instead of just railing on us.

Mar 7, 09 3:58 pm  · 
le bossman

i think integrating them is an important aspect of urban planning in places like mexico city and mumbai, where the situation is completely out of control and the country has less collective wealth (either in the private sector or gov't). in the US however, it could come off as insulting. most of those people don't want their situation to be integrated (and thus considered acceptable) into cities by planners and architects. the immediate problem is to put them back to work, and find them the kind of quality housing that, either privately or publicly, the US is capable of providing, even in the worst of times. i wonder how many million freshly constructed houses are sitting empty all across this country right now because no one can afford them, or because banks can finance the purchase of them, meanwhile these people have to live in tents. i wonder how many of these people went into foreclosure and had their homes repossessed by the bank, and those same homes are sitting empty for the same reasons. this country has a lot of things that need to be sorted out. i don't think providing infrastructure for tent cities is nearly as big a priority as finding a way to get these people into the housing stock that is already existing and rebuilding the workforce.

Mar 8, 09 8:09 pm  · 
le bossman

banks can't (or won't) finance the purchase of them...

Mar 8, 09 8:12 pm  · 

When you start seeing shantytowns popping up in a place like America at the kind of scale you see them in the developing world, i think its safe to say we are in a "Depression".

Mar 8, 09 8:19 pm  · 
"Those are people homeless, unemployed, who have not place to stay, suffering, and hungry. THOSE ARE REAL PEOPLE.."

Yes, real people, but I think it's interesting to note that not all of the people living in North American tent-cities are necessarily "homeless" or "unemployed" in the traditional sense. In Canadian boomtowns like Fort MacMurray etc. it isn't (or at least wasn't during the days of $100+ oil) uncommon for people pulling in $50 000/yr or more to be living in substandard conditions. Huge influxes of "temporary" migrant workers for oil wells, upgraders, refineries, mines, and a plethora of construction projects etc. combined with a severe shortage of housing (either worker's camps or standard accommodation) in places like Estevan, Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie and the aforementioned Woodbuffalo region, left a lot of people living in urban campsites or worse... People earning lots of money, and many of them with permanent homes in other cities and provinces.
The issue of "informal urbanism" (hate it or not) appears far more complex than just employed/unemployed, money/no-money.

Mar 11, 09 1:31 am  · 
Mar 11, 09 12:59 pm  · 
i don't think providing infrastructure for tent cities is nearly as big a priority as finding a way to get these people into the housing stock that is already existing and rebuilding the workforce.

existing housing stock holds another problem due to the high-cost maintaining infrastructure and providing transportation at such a low-density. that's part of the reason these communities are growing - not that people are unemployed.

I do agree that there is a tremendous cultural stigma attached to non-home ownership in this country - and it might be very difficult legitimizing "informal urbanism" politically.

Mar 11, 09 2:34 pm  · 

infrastructure for tented cities needs to start with a good site and study foundations

Mar 11, 09 7:25 pm  · 

im gray: So true....think I was on the early trend of Pre-fab homes moved from Arizona Copper Mining Community to Shirley Basin Wyoming (try to google it). When we arrived our mobile pre-fab had not shown up so we camped for a week in a canvas army tent.....all eight of us. People came around curious as hell what we were pops being an old Wyoming Cowboy...said we be putting up like the old times till our home arrived. Cooking was done over a coleman camp stove, showers were taken at the community building....we all survived.. and damn somehow or for what ever reason we as kids all made something of ourselves. The move was driven by economy, copper prices had tanked but the
glow in the dark stuff was hot at hell! Six kids to feed and a wife a man has to do what he has to do.

Mar 11, 09 8:25 pm  · 
le bossman

i don't know toasteroven. i see your point, but living in a tent or a cardboard shack -- outside of the whole gold-bonanza thing, which is a completely separate issue from the one presented at the start of the thread -- is to me an act of desperation. if those people really aren't unemployed, i doubt the vast majority of them are living in tents because they can't afford the commute to the suburbs. besides, there are a great many condos and apartments right here in the city that are sitting empty as a result of the housing crisis. i know i said "houses," but i wasn't necessarily referring to low-density housing on the periphery.

Mar 11, 09 8:46 pm  · 

I'm still thinking about what I think about these foreclosure tent cities, but my initial feeling is that, ethically, I wouldn't feel too comfortable about working with 'em. They're not about underdevelopment.. they're about injustice: that they are being built in places like Pheonix and Las Vegas, a stone's throw away from neighborhoods where perhaps a fifth of the housing stock sits empty, and while the banks that lent money to build and sell those empty homes are getting billions in taxpayer bailout money. We should be pushing for municipalities to seize that inventory and house their residents, not legitimizing state-sanctioned cruelty by providing foreclosure tent cities with infrastructure.

Mar 12, 09 1:25 am  · 

gets into the discussion along with javier.

The governator has scraped together $1

toolshed urbanism!

Mar 26, 09 1:26 pm  · 


was typing that the governator had scraped together $1m for temporary shelters in sacramento according to NPR this morning.

Mar 26, 09 1:27 pm  · 
vado retro

dem a loot
dem a shoot
dem a keel
in shantytown.

Mar 26, 09 1:30 pm  · 
liberty bell

Nice post, Urbanist, re: the question of development vs. injustice. A gentler term might be misappropriation or inappropriate allocation of resources.

I know when I lived in Vienna, Austria in the early 1990s the story among college students was that most of Vienna was full of empty apartments, flats that owners had no incentive to rent out. I think perhaps the owners could tap into a government fund to cover "lost rent" if their apartments sat empty.

Is there a way to fill all our empty houses/housing units - to allocate the resources to those who need them - that is beneficial for everyone?

Mar 26, 09 2:15 pm  · 

ha ha ha ha, vado, excellent reference.

Mar 26, 09 3:31 pm  · 

and interesting discussion.

sorry i don't have much to add at this point but it's good reading.

Mar 26, 09 3:32 pm  · 
On the fence

So everytime I go camping for an extended period, I am suffering?

Hey, they have a tent, at least.

Of course, i don't know which idiot thought it a good idea to settle the town in the retention pond, but I'd have to vote him off the island at this point.

Mar 27, 09 11:26 am  · 
job job

As le bossman mentioned, I believe there would be a resistance in a privileged country to shantytown integration.

What is more interesting is how this slum living, which has been around for a long long time, is just now becoming an issue

Where was your zeal then, loco77? Are people of colour not 'real' enough for you?

Mar 27, 09 2:19 pm  · 

in my opinion, the resistance to shantytown integration is the result of conditioning with media or of society in general where the 'deviants' are considered lower class citizens when that is not necessarily true at all. like aforementioned in an earlier posts, it doesn't have a direct monetary connection. money or lack thereof may contribute to the scenario but it also includes sociopolitical factors behind it. fortunately, newer architectural technology available these days can be applied for solutions to housing problems that can be applied to many countries, third world or not. modular homes or prefab technologies are a vast improvement when compared to older types and can be a viable solution when applied to cheap mass housing
mobile homes az

Nov 17, 09 4:36 pm  · 

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