Robustness as Resilience, Mobility and Stability: An Actor-Network Approach to Identifying Typologies of Australian Pop-Up Shelters

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

The escalation of homelessness is a growing concern in Australia. The number of homeless people
increased by 14,000 between 2011 and 2016, and in the state of New South Wales the percentage of
homeless persons increased by 27 percent. Root causes include economic factors like the high cost of
housing as well as social factors like domestic violence and family breakdown. A number of longterm strategies have thus been mobilised to address this persistent and multifaceted issue. In New
South Wales, these strategies include increased investments in homelessness services and programs as
well as policies to support affordable rental and social housing, strengthen family connections and
address safety from violence.
Because homelessness has reached crisis levels in key cities, a few short-term solutions have also
emerged. One example is the use of pop-up shelters in buildings awaiting development or on unused
government land, to provide short-term affordable accommodations to specific groups. While there
are early reports about the effectiveness of these pop-ups, their benefits have also been questioned.
Some stakeholders raised concerns about the wisdom of investing in short-term solutions. Other
groups have also been wary of the “pop down”, when residents have to be forced to leave these
settlements. A key question that we wish to address, then, is whether there are ways to make these
pop-ups more robust, to mitigate some concerns about their precariousness. We use actor-network
theory and qualitative techniques to examine four pop-up shelter networks in Australia. Our findings
suggest that there are at least four typologies of pop-ups, with varying degrees of robustness: basic
pop-ups which are readily replicable, seeking to providing short-term accommodations in a single
location; resilient ones which can pop down then pop-up again in more adaptable forms; mobile popups that can be built then dismantled across geographical spaces and finally stable pop-ups that can
persist, even for multi-year periods, thus interrogating assumptions that pop-ups must always be
highly contingent. In the course of our analysis, we identify human actors (developers, property
owners, housing service providers) and non-human actors (buildings, transportable panels,
transportable houses) that need to be enrolled to support such ongoing settlement programs. We also
theorise on how less robust networks can be made more robust through the use of digital technologies
such as dynamic digital town planning models and collaborative technologies such as Hyve 3D.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the CIB World Building Congress 2019
Subtitle of host publicationConstructing Smart Cities
Pages3957-3965
ISBN (Electronic)978 962 367 821 6
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
EventConstructing Smart Cities: Proceedings of the 22nd CIB World Building Congress (CIB2019), 17-21 June 2019, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China - Hong Kong, China
Duration: 17 Jun 201921 Jun 2019

Conference

ConferenceConstructing Smart Cities: Proceedings of the 22nd CIB World Building Congress (CIB2019), 17-21 June 2019, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China
Country/TerritoryChina
CityHong Kong
Period17/06/1921/06/19

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