Navigating debt-trap urbanism in pandemic times: family homelessness and temporary accommodation in Greater Manchester

Professor Katherine Brickell and Dr Mel Nowicki

Funding period: 1 May 2022 – 30 April 2023
Type of funding: Other Grants

Partner organisations: Royal Holloway, University of London (United Kingdom), Oxford Brookes University (United Kingdom), Shared Health Foundation (United Kingdom)
Lead organisers:
Professor Katherine Brickell and Dr Mel Nowicki
Professor Katherine Brickell
Twitter: @DebtUrbanism

This research project was funded by a USF Pandemics and Cities grant.

Abstract: ‘Trapped’ is a verb widely used to express the experiences of homeless people living in hotels, B&Bs, private hostels, short-stay Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO), or other emerging forms of provision such as modular developments, shipping containers, and converted office blocks. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has increased the number of individuals and particularly families in temporary accommodation. In England 253,000 people – the highest figure for 14 years – reside in what are typically insecure, cramped, and poor-quality accommodation (Shelter 2020). Homeless families, of which the majority are single women raising children, are primarily the result of structural issues, including the lack of affordable housing and welfare reform, the former being especially acute in cities.

The core objective of the study is to learn from families who are residing in temporary accommodation to understand and communicate their stories of trying to cope with and navigate rent-arrears and private debt preceding and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is focused on Greater Manchester, one of the UK’s largest metropolitan areas and where more than a thousand children and their families are housed for an average stay of two years in ‘temporary’ accommodation. The study will explore and develop the idea of ‘debt-trap urbanism’ – the spatial expulsion from, and entrapment in, place – through adverse incorporation into a financialised housing system as renters and debtors. Working in partnership with the Shared Health foundation, it aims to have national policy and public impact through its contribution to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on ending homelessness and new APPG specifically on households in temporary accommodation.