CHICAGO — Informal housing — defined as any construction built without proper building permits or land-use approvals — may help meet demand for affordable housing for low-income families, but they can also potentially compromise the health and safety of those who live in them and strain municipal infrastructure and fiscal health.
Recent evidence suggests this is a significant phenomenon inside incorporated cities. Informal housing can come in different forms, from garages converted to rental apartments to single-family homes divided into multiple units with separate entrances. Knowing where informal housing is located and to what extent they exist is a challenge facing many planners because of the lack of available reliable data.
Jake Wegmann, assistant professor of community and regional planning at the University of Texas-Austin, and Sarah Mawhorter, a postdoctoral scholar at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California-Berkeley, believe they have found a solution to this issue.
In “Measuring Informal Housing Production in California Cities,” published in the Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association (Vol. 83, No. 2), they believe that measuring informal housing at the city level enables planners to harness the potential of this type of housing while addressing its pitfalls.
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