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Cities, Housing and Home Research Cluster

The Department of Geography has a formidable research focus on cities, housing and home in the Global South and North. Our work uses diverse methodological and theoretical approaches to explore social inequalities, urban policy and possibilities for sustainability in the ways we live in cities. This research informs the innovative interdisciplinary MA/MSc Cities programme hosted in the department.

Our research is socially engaged, policy-relevant and involves working with voluntary sector organisations, artists and policymakers. We have strong international links including the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, which hosts our field trip and facilitates students and staff from the two institutions working together and with NYU, New York.

Recent funded projects

  • Tiny housing in Texas (2020-2021): Working with Dr Mel Nowicki (Oxford Brookes University) and research assistant Tim White (doctoral candidate at LSE) Dr Ella Harris will be examining the role of Tiny House developments as a response to the now-chronic US housing crisis, focusing on Austin, Texas; an epicentre of the Tiny Housing movement. The research is funded by a BA/Leverhulme Small Grant and will investigate how Tiny Housing, which champions minimalism, community and anti-consumerism, has become a media sensation and alleged housing crisis solution. Through exploring the aesthetics and narratives used to promote Tiny Homes online, and conducting interviews with both producers and users, this project will acquire an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon’s emerging geographies. 
  • Engineering food (2020-2021): Infrastructure Exclusion and 'Last Mile' Delivery in Brazilian Favelas. In this interdisciplinary projectDr Mara Nogueira examines the supply chains and social networks that stand behind the availability, accessibility and consumption of fresh food in Brazilian favelas in two cities, Belo Horizonte and São Paulo. The project is a collaboration between LSE, INSPER (Brazil) and Birkbeck.
  • SIMETRI (2019-2022): The ESRC-funded SustaInable Mobility and Equality in Mega-ciTy RegIons (SIMETRI) project of Dr Joana Barros seeks to strengthen understanding of the emerging phenomenon of very large urban agglomerations through the development of an innovative platform combining state-of-the-art simulation models, big data from transport and new information technologies. Drawing on research on indicators and predictions undertaken in London (UK) and Randstad (the Netherlands), the project seeks to address spatial segregation, inequality and mobility challenges in the Pearl River Delta Greater Bay Region (China) through the development of a groundbreaking set of tools, indicators and analysis. Dr Barros is working with  University College London (UCL) – Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), King’s College London - Geography, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - School of Business and Economics, Shenzhen University - School of Architecture and Urban Planning, The University of Hong Kong – Shenzhen Institute of Research and Innovation and Sun Yat-sen University - School of Geography and Planning.
  • Navigating Class Tourism (2019-2022): Building on existing work on compensatory cultures emerging from the 2008 recession, Dr Ella Harris, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, is exploring compensatory cultures (adapted ways of living) developing - on a household level - during the COVID-19 crisis. The research uses participatory interactive documentary (I-Doc) making as method, working with communities in two gentrifying areas of London (Deptford and Dalston). The relational process of I-Doc making allows Ella to focus on how compensatory cultures of the COVID era are differentiated by class and how lockdown is heightening class consciousness.
  • Smart cities in India (2018-20): This ESRC-ICSSR funded project examines the phenomenon of 'smart cities' in India: when small cities are transformed by smart technologies and infrastructure. The project is a collaboration between Dr Melissa Butcher and academics from King's College London, Birmingham University, the Institute of Economic Growth (Delhi) and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research. 
  • Youth and gentrification in London (2013-15): This ESRC-funded project explored youth, identity and belonging in Hackney, a rapidly gentrifying area of east London. Dr Melissa Butcher collaborated with a local youth theatre company, Immediate Theatre, and the film production company, Mouth That Roars, to understand how young people experience ‘home’ in a changing environment.
  • Prepping and Survivalism (2017-18). Dr Kezia Barker's Wellcome funded ISSF project investigated the phenomenon of ‘prepping’, interviewing and participating with prepper communities to examine the imagined and material spaces of survivalism in the UK.
  • Gentrification and African-American churches (2016-17): Dr William Ackah received a Fulbright All Disciplines Award based at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Metro Urban Institute to undertake research on the impact of gentrification on African-American church congregations and communities in the Larimer and Hill Districts of Pittsburgh and to compare their experiences to those of African and African Caribbean communities in two London Boroughs.
  • Gender and space in Delhi and Shanghai (2013-16)Dr Melissa Butcher collaborated with artists and with academic colleagues in Heidelberg and Amsterdam to document the experiences of women living and working in Delhi and Shanghai in this European funded project. The themes explored include autonomy, respectability, precarity, and the shifting boundaries between public and private space. An exhibition was held in Amsterdam in late 2016.
  • Au pairing after the au pair scheme (2012-2014): Professor Rosie Cox’s ESRC-funded project provided evidence about the experiences of au pairs and host families in the UK since the introduction of the Points Based Immigration Scheme ended the au pair visa in November 2008. This change is important because it reduced government control of the scheme and there is evidence that numbers of au pairs have been growing in a decreasingly regulated environment. Au pairs are now one of the cheapest and least regulated forms of in-home labour and are relied on by many thousands of households, yet little is known about au pairs in the UK or the people who host them. For many families in the UK, and elsewhere in Europe, the solution to the problem of balancing work and home life is to rely on the low waged labour of migrant women to perform domestic labour. An examination of au pairing, therefore, brings together two important issues for contemporary society - women's changing relationship to the home and the growth in labour migration.