The Commodification of Temporary Housing

Debrunner, Gabriela; Gerber, Jean-David (2020). The Commodification of Temporary Housing. Cities. The International Journal of Urban Policy and Planning, 108, p. 102998. Elsevier 10.1016/j.cities.2020.102998

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Since the 1970s, temporary uses of vacant spaces have become a preferred urban development strategy to revitalise centrally-located neighbourhoods. In the housing sector, however, tempo-rary uses are barely registered as they provide only short-term shelter in buildings shortly be-fore demolition. Therefore, they do not secure a stable right to housing. In Switzerland, never-theless, temporary uses are increasingly gaining momentum in the housing segment. Since the 2010s, besides institutionalised but non-profit temporary housing, a for-profit model has emerged. This commodified model is managed on the owners’ behalf and is based on loaning law contracts that require payment for operating costs, but not rent. Consequently, the legal pro-tection of the temporary users’ rights, namely low-income families, single parents, people with social aid, and students remains weak. This article detects the mechanisms at play explaining the reasons for the shift towards profit-seeking in temporary housing by using an institutionalist and actor-centred analysis approach. Through a qualitative single case study analysis of Zurich, Switzerland, the phenomenon will be analysed in a city confronted with increasing affordable housing shortage and densification pressure.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography > Unit Political urbanism and sutainable spatial development
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Human Geography
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
11 Centers of Competence > Center for Regional Economic Development (CRED)

UniBE Contributor:

Debrunner, Gabriela, Gerber, Jean-David


900 History > 910 Geography & travel
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science








Gabriela Debrunner

Date Deposited:

02 Nov 2020 09:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:41

Publisher DOI:





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