7: Post-disaster ruins: the old, the new and the temporary

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Structural housing vacancy and abandonment occur in many circumstances and are phenomena that generally happen when something disturbs the overall ‘equilibrium’ of a given area. Urban scholarship has often considered these forms of housing emptiness in relationship to processes of urban decline, suburbanisation, deindustrialisation, financial crises and the collapse of local housing markets (Keenan et al, 1999; Glock and Haussermann, 2004; O’Callaghan et al, 2018). Indeed, in certain contexts, processes of economic and social restructuring have led to declining or collapsing demand, resulting in housing underuse, disuse and eventual abandonment (Power and Mumford, 1999; Couch and Cocks, 2013; Wang and Immergluck, 2019). Far from being natural, these processes are often closely linked to the political economy of uneven development and to the action of discrete actors in the realms of the state, the real estate industry and finance (Coppola, 2019).

However, although there is a growing literature on housing emptiness associated with issues of spatial restructuring and urban shrinkage (see Gribat, this volume), its connections to natural disasters have been largely ignored. Disasters dramatically impact the stability of territories, resulting in places that are suddenly shut off and collapse socially and economically (Myers, 2002; Black et al, 2013; Drolet, 2015). Great natural disasters may exceed the ability of communities to recover, especially when pre-impact conditions make the emergency response and reconstruction difficult and costly. Indeed, the combination of damages and territories already experiencing forms of urban decline or contraction leads to longer-lasting socio-spatial impacts.

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The New Urban Ruins
Vacancy, Urban Politics and International Experiments in the Post-crisis City