The Housing System: State of good repair

How can we better maintain, steward, and improve the housing we already have?

July 8, 2019

Recorded on May 2, 2019.

The Housing System was a six-program series on pressing issues at the intersection of design, policy, and politics in housing in spring 2019.

Housing policy, arguably, and architecture, certainly, typically emphasize the new, but from the perspectives of equity, sustainability, and plain practicality, we should be paying more attention to the buildings we already have. The first event in the series focused on what it takes to maintain, steward, and improve our existing housing stock and the range of labor, skills, and expertise needed to make that happen.

Multidisciplinary scholar Shannon Mattern outlines the broad significance and implications of maintenance, particularly given the current fetishization of innovation. Laurie Kerr, an expert in urban sustainability policy, provides an overview of New York City’s new building energy guidelines and the need to improve existing multifamily housing—including the particular environmental harm of steam heat. Resident manager Jennifer Davis discusses her approach to “holistic maintenance” in the 159-unit converted warehouse building that she oversees. Architect Mitch McEwen questions renovation as part of our housing crisis, advocating instead for reconstruction, reparations, and repair using examples from her work in Detroit. Mattern moderates a conversation about agency and labor in maintenance, whether architects can design with repair and care in mind, and more.