New journal article “Supported Home Ownership and Adult Independence in Milan: The Gilded Cage of Family Housing Gifts and Transfers”

A new research article reflecting on practices of intergenerational support for homeownership among different generations of families in Milan has now been published online on Sociology and is available at ““. The article explores the meanings and moral reasoning behind the decision to accept (or not) support in context of contemporary discourses surrounding the liquidity and availability of housing and finance. It highlights the moral compromises and emotional negotiations inherent in the giving and receiving of support for housing, contributing to a body of literature concerned with the reproduction of home and family. Furthermore, it stresses the importance of homes and housing assets in mediating dependence and re-affirming family bonds within a family-oriented welfare context, despite conflict, resistance and frustrated aspirations.

Lidia KC Manzo, Oana Druta, Richard Ronald (2018). Supported Home Ownership and Adult Independence in Milan: The Gilded Cage of Family Housing Gifts and Transfers“ in Sociology 00(0). DOI: 10.1177/0038038518798761

Governing the city in a post-crisis context: The case of Dublin

A seminar by Niamh Moore-Cherry
(University College Dublin)
Wednesday, April 27th 2016, 12.00 | 13.30
Aula Master, DAStU | 5th floor
School of Architecture Urban Planning and Construction Engineering | Politecnico di Milano


As has been well documented, the year 2008 marked the demise of what had been broadly heralded as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic miracle as a triple crisis (financial, fiscal and banking) took hold in Ireland. While much has been written about the banking element, the recent crisis was in large part the result of complex inter-relationships between real-estate, financial, planning and banking interests, concentrated particularly in urban settings. Norris and Byrne (2014) argue that one of the fundamental causes of the crisis in Ireland was planning and housing policy. The failures of the property sector, and the inadequacy of government policy in steering it appropriately, are perhaps best illustrated in the phenomenon of unfinished estates (Kitchin et al., 2014). Fox-Rogers and Murphy (2013) argue however that it is not just planning policy but the operation of planning – both formal and informal  – that demand more intense scrutiny. This paper examines the operation of planning in Dublin before, during and after the crisis. It highlights two key issues facing the development of the city-region today: derelict space and lack of affordable housing supply.  The paper illustrates the poor governance arrangements that underpinned planning in the city before 2008 and considers whether any substantive changes have been made that might impact on addressing the challenges currently faced.

Introduction and discussion: Lidia Manzo – Maynooth University and Politecnico di Milano (DAStU)
Discussants: Guido Anselmi – Università di Milano Bicocca,  Marta Cordini – Politecnico di Milano (DAStU), and Francesca Oleari – Università Cattolica di Milano

Download the flyer here

“The Political Economy of Spaces of Exclusion”

A seminar by Manuel B. Aalbers
(Department of Geography, KU Leuven/University of Leuven, Belgium)

The students of the course in Contemporary City: social chance and policies of the MSc in Urban Planning and Policy Design will introduce the lecture.
Discussion: Massimo Bricocoli, Lidia Manzo, Stefania Sabatinelli (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano)

Wednesday December 17th 2014, 13.30-16.30
Aula Gamma, Scuola di Architettura e Società, Politecnico di Milano

Download the full program here.


The housing crisis and the bottom-up strategies of resistance: the case of the anti-eviction movement in Spain

A seminar by Marisol Garcia
(Faculty of Economy and Business, University of Barcelona)

Introduction and discussion: Massimo Bricocoli, Lidia Manzo, Stefania
Sabatinelli (DAStU, Politecnico di Milano), Serena Vicari (DSRS, Milano Bicocca)

Monday, 17 November 2014, 14.30-16.30
Aula B.6.1, Scuola di Architettura e Società, Politecnico di Milano

Download the full program here.


How is family housing property reshaping welfare regimes?

A presentation and discussion on the first results of a European research project on housing markets and welfare state transformations.

Co-organised by Massimo Bricocoli, Stefania Sabatinelli and Lidia Manzo

WEDNESDAY 17th SEPTEMBER 2014, 15.00 – 18.30
Aula Gamma, Scuola di Architettura e Società, Politecnico di Milano

Download the full program here.


GIMME SHELTER. Bill de Blasio’s plan for cheap homes rests on shaky foundations (The Economist)

Homes in New York

20140510_USC851“WE ARE approaching a crisis in the housing situation,” a member of a task force set up by New York city’s mayor declared. “Unless radical action is taken, something drastic will happen.” Those words were spoken in 1920; but to listen to Bill de Blasio, the current mayor, not much has changed. When he campaigned against the growing gap between the rich and the rest last year, soaring apartment prices were his most potent exhibit.

On May 5th he revealed what he wants to do about it: he plans to add 200,000 more affordable housing units over the coming decade by preserving existing ones and encouraging the construction of more.

New York has certainly become less affordable. Between 2005 and 2012, the median inflation-adjusted rent in the city rose 11%, while the median renter’s income rose only 2%, according to the Furman Centre at New York University. It reckons that 54% of New York tenants spent more than 30% of their income on rent (the usual cutoff for “affordable”), up from 40% in 2000.

Plutocrats bear some of the blame. Like London, Miami and other desirable cities, New York has become a playground for billionaires. Developers can earn more selling luxury flats to oligarchs than basic ones to firefighters. But as a driver of the housing shortage, inequality is less important than demand and supply. On the demand side, New York has an enviable problem: people desperately want to live there. After decades of decline, its population resumed growing in the 1990s, reaching a new high of 8m in 2000, 8.2m in 2010 and 8.4m last year. Neither the attack on the Twin Towers, nor Hurricane Sandy nor, it seems, even the financial crisis have put people off. Talented and ambitious folk have more fun, and make more money, when living close to each other.

New York’s housing supply has long struggled to match demand, but especially since 2008, when the recession and the freezing of mortgage markets caused the number of permits issued for new residential units to fall (see chart). Fewer permits have been issued since 2010 than in 2008, even as the number of households has grown by roughly 85,000.

Activity has started to recover, but supply is still constrained by a lack of land and Byzantine rules about what can be built. New York seems like a tall city, but building height is heavily restricted. On average, developers may erect six square feet of floor space per square foot of land, says Richard Green, an economist at the University of Southern California; in Hong Kong, another dense coastal city, it’s closer to 20. Nearly 5% of units are designated for historic preservation, mostly in Manhattan.

Mr de Blasio sensibly wants to boost supply through increased density, but the mechanism he has chosen is problematic. “Mandatory inclusionary zoning” would raise permissible density in some areas, but developers would have to ensure that a minimum proportion of units meets the city’s definition of affordable. Forcing developers to build less profitable units acts as a tax, which could discourage, rather than encourage, supply. Jenny Schuetz, also at USC, says similar schemes in San Francisco and Boston’s suburbs have produced fewer affordable units than hoped, either because developers chose to build elsewhere or because they struck deals that weakened the requirements.

It would be more effective to hack back the regulations that discourage supply and raise costs. These include rent controls and the indiscriminate award of historic designations—which preserve the view for those who live in pretty, low-rise neighbourhoods like Greenwich Village, but put them out of bounds for everyone else.

(Source: The Economist, May 10th 2014 | From the print edition, United States)

Milano Montecity. The Suspended City (article in Italian)

“The ideal city in the city”. This was the claim of the Zunino Real Estate, selling a dream: a passage to a modern life at the outskirts of Milan on a great promenade boulevard. A new cityscape of well-tended green areas and walking avenues, where residents could relax in cafés and mothers with their kids are all around.
However, Santa Giulia-Montecity, rather than a model of ideal city, has remained an ideal type, or rather virtual, because today the neighborhood sadly lives only in the project of its famous architect, Norman Foster. Like avatars, the renderings appear from the parallel world of internet to stress a paradoxical reality; virtually created images that become real objects themselves when they are photographed. Surreal representations that mingle with the images taken from the field and become both, imaginaries and imagined projection of the city, the same that appears in the suspended glances of those who “really” live in Milan Montecity. Far from being just a symbolic opposition, the enclosed social documentary represents an important part of this work, which is about another miserable real estate and financial scandal in the recent history of Milan.

Urban Renewal, Ethnographic Documentary, Milan

Read the article here.

Published in i Quaderni-Urbanistica Tre, Journal of Urban Design and Planning of Università degli Studi Roma Tre, issue on Urban Representations, Year I, 3, September-December 2013, pp. 65-74. ISSN: 1973-9702

Williamsburg Homes, With Neighborliness in Mind

When the architect Carmi Bee first moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn decades ago, the favored activity of his neighbors was to lounge on the stoops of their brownstones, getting to know one another.

“Now that the area’s become gentrified, you don’t see it,” Mr. Bee said, and then laughed. “They’re all working to pay the mortgage, I guess.”

Thus, Mr. Bee, a principal of RKT&B Architects and Urban Designers, said he enjoyed designing a group of 12 contemporary row houses in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that may bring back the former days of stoop-gathering.

Read more on the NYTimes

Affordable Housing Goes Postal: Turning post offices & empty lots into affordable housing & more.

Last week while talking at CUNY, mayoral candidate Joe Lhota proposed an interesting idea for building new affordable housing: close post offices and use the land to build affordable housing.

Now, while the specifics need some work, it’s a good concept.  Publicly-owned land and buildings that are not fully utilized should be re-purposed for better public use,  with much of it used for one of our most pressing needs – affordable housing.  But “public land” is not a one-size-fits-all designation. Jurisdiction might be with the city, state, or federal governments, or one of many public authorities, such as the Port Authority. And within these entities, dozens of different agencies might control the plots, each agency with its own agenda.

It’s difficult for the city to gain control of Federally- or State-owned land. But the next administration can take one very significant step – a comprehensive survey of city-owned underutilized land, followed up by a citywide plan for disposition and development, as ANHD recommended in its report, Real Affordability: Recommendations to Strengthen Affordable Housing Policy. There are several parcels of city-owned land that would be perfect for building affordable housing except for one thing – the parcel isn’t controlled by the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development. But the next mayor, with the stroke of a pen, can transfer them to HPD’s jurisdiction, an action that can allow for thousands of units of affordable housing. In fact, if just half of all publicly-owned vacant land were re-purposed for affordable housing, we could generate space for over 100,000 more units – and that’s without even rezoning to allow for larger buildings.

In terms of deciding land use, many vacant or under-utilized parcels might be perfect for much-needed schools, parks, firehouses, qood-paying light manufacturing and industrial jobs,or a myriad of other things that the city needs, but are under the jurisdiction of a different city agency with no plans, or even ability, to utilize them. For instance, HPD has title to several small plots of land that would have a very hard time even hosting a small house and are the only green space in the neighborhood. It’s natural to turn these into parks or community gardens. Larger plots of land, which could easily host affordable housing but are owned by other agencies, could be turned over to HPD to develop.

It’s understandable that the Parks Department wants the land it controls for parks, the Sanitation Department wants its land for sanitation garages or waste transfer stations, and the Department of Education wants its land for schools. But we’re all in this together, and it’s often the case that the plot of land controlled by the Department of Education would be better used as a park, while the plot controlled by the Department of Sanitation would better used as a school. And many, many city agencies have large parcels of vacant or underutilized land that could be used to build much-needed affordable housing. Vacant and underutilized land should be developed according to its best use for the public, not which agency happens to control it.

The next administration needs to kick off this comprehensive survey right away, within the first 100 days of the new administration, in order to quickly and efficiently identify new sites for affordable housing. Post offices are an interesting idea, one which may or may not be proper or feasible, but either way, they’re only a small part of the puzzle.  The real challenge lies in determining how best to use an increasingly valuable and dwindling resource – our publicly-owned land.

Blogger – Moses Gates

ANHD blog team:  Benjamin Dulchin, Moses Gates, Ericka Stallings, Jaime Weisberg, Barika Williams. Anne Troy, editor.