I. Urban Investigations: housing, homelessness, structural vacancy and urban homesteading (6 weeks)
—Assignment 1: Urban investigations through secondary source research. Students undertake a secondary source research; analysis of articles, discussions and news related to their research line. Students analyze their first findings. The results will be presented in a writing and visual format (maps, collages, diagrams, etc). Group one will divide in two subgroups and focus on the first research line (GRL1); the economics of housing. (G1) changes in the conception of housing, as well as housing tenure, price, mortgage status, foreclosure and condition; (G2) agents of neighborhood destabilization and decline, such as lack of maintenance, and displacement, as well as class, income and race distribution. Group two will divide in two subgroups to analyze the second research line (GRL2); politics of homelessness and structural vacancy. (G1) homeless geography and demographics, shelter system, programs and subsidies; (G2) structural vacancy, its derivation, geography and ownership, special attention is given to properties owned by the city and financial institutions. Group three will divide in two subgroups to analyze the third research line (GRL3). (G1) the principles, objectives, and tactics of local and federal urban homesteading programs; (G2) urban policy, legal and financial tools supporting and facilitating those initiatives.
—Assignment 2: Exposing the urban investigations through mapping. Students collect and analyze statistics and census data related with their topic of study. (GRL 1) Economics of Housing; (G1) mapping housing ownership, prices, mortgage status, foreclosure rates, and condition. (G2) mapping neighborhoods in transition, gentrification and decline; class, income and race distribution. (GRL2) Homelessness and vacant properties; (G1) homelessness geography and demographics; (G2) structural vacancy, number, distribution, and ownership. (GRL3) Urban Homesteading; (G1) urban homesteading programs are investigated, demonstration cities, number of households involved, number of cases through the years, distribution and management, etc; (G2) urban homesteading policy, public investment, financial tools, outcomes etc.
—Assignment 3: Expanding the knowledge, identifying and reaching key informants. Students conduct a number of key informant interviews. Each student must identify a key person related with her or his research line, set an appointment, conduct the interview, transcribe it, analyze it and represent the analysis in a visual format. The aim of this assignment is to expose key agents, visions, principles and actors related with your research line.
—Assignment 4: Opinion survey on urban homesteading. Students will conduct an opinion survey on urban homesteading programs in selected areas to acknowledge and later expose the level of participation and commitment of households and individuals in need.
—Assignment 5: Disseminating the findings: research dossier. Students assemble a visual report including text and graphic material such as; diagrams, maps and photographs generated during the research phase. The report must expose the findings in a way that any person could read it and understanding it. The research dossier would be an accessible information tool.
—Assignment 6: Drafting a lawful occupation strategy. Using the knowledge acquired and produced in the previous weeks, students design an occupation and rehabilitation strategy including a number of initiatives to outreach, mobilize and engage locals in the planning and design process. This assignment would be comprised by the following assignments (7,8,9 and 10).
—Assignment 7: Analyzing and mapping the intervention area, allies and partners.The district will be divided in six sections, each zone will be investigated by a group. Students will map and categorize all the vacant buildings (industrial, residential, commercial, etc). After a throughout analysis, students will identify potential properties for occupation and rehabilitation, and investigate the number of housing units, years of vacancy and ownership of those. In addition, students will identify and map the following; potential allies in the intervention area and borough (community organizations, faith institutions, local groups etc); and potential partners in New York City and State (city agencies, housing trusts and foundations, etc).
—Assignment 8: What do we have? What do we need? Reaching the communities. Students will conduct semi-directed interviews to different members of the community with the aim of constructing a collective imagination of communities in regard to housing accessibility, production and ownership.
—Assignment 9: What have we learned from the past? what have we missed? Enquiring community and housing organizers. Students will organize and conduct group discussions with the aim of learning from experiences from the past. What type of housing programs and campaigns have been envisioned and implemented in previous years? what has been the main drive? what are the outcomes? what are the success or failure of those initiatives?
—Assignment 10: Formulating local initiatives and financial tools for implementation. At this point of the development of the occupation and rehabilitation strategy, students must already have a draft of the required process including a number of initiatives and/or models. In this phase students must elaborate such initiatives and analyze a number of funding models for housing rehabilitation used by non-profit and public institutions and organizations, as well as implications and outcomes. Students incorporate in the strategy a number of financial tools.
—Assignment 11: Policy and campaigning directions. Using the previous research, students formulate the way their proposed initiatives could be implemented or integrated in current public policy, programs and agencies. The ultimate goal is to give some legislative directions in order to institutionalize the proposed initiatives, and to outreach organizations and individuals advocating for housing and social justice and those struggling with housing acess to push for such legislation.