Home Seek: How Poor Families Cope with Housing Insecurity
October 27, 2021
Guy Feldman, Tel Aviv University
Housing has historically been central to the lives of impoverished communities. For several decades, however, scholars of poverty had not fully appreciated how housing dynamics shape the life conditions of people in low-income communities. In recent years, many countries (including the U.S.) have experienced an acute housing crisis that placed a significant burden on poor families. In response to these developments, scholars of poverty have begun to explore the prevalence, sources, and consequences of housing insecurity for low-income families and communities. While scholars have made critical inroads into understanding housing insecurity in poor communities, there are still some important limitations in the literature. In particular, we know relatively little about how impoverished communities experience and navigate housing insecurity. In this talk, I will present findings from a qualitative study examining how differently positioned impoverished families in Israel cope with housing insecurity in the private rental market where many of them live. Drawing on 100 in-depth interviews with low-income adult family members, the study develops an empirical and theoretical understanding of housing insecurity based on the experiences of families living in poverty across differences of gender, immigration, religion, and nationality. Among other things, findings reveal that participants develop three types of coping practices in response to housing insecurity: (1) making compromises on housing quality; (2) engaging in negotiations with the landlord; and (3) overdrawing the bank account and practicing thriftiness simultaneously. Based on these and other findings, I will draw specific lessons for housing insecurity in the U.S.