Accepted Paper:

Of "Good Averages" and "Happy Mediums": Normative Orientations towards an "Average" in Urban Housing  


Stefan Groth (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses the interplay between urban developments of crowding or increasing rents and normative orientations towards the idea of an "average" in housing.

Paper long abstract:

Modalities of urban housing are in large part restricted by physical, financial, or structural factors. The choice of residential districts, the size of accommodations or forms of cohabitation are contingent on price, income, infrastructure or space, especially in face of urban developments of crowding or increasing rents. In addition, lifestyle, social relationships, or the appeal of districts have an influence on housing decisions. As political stances or ideas of a "good life" are referred to in debates on housing, these factors and developments are connected to socio-political attitudes or normative orientations. Increasingly, perceptions of "good averages" or "happy mediums" feature in such debates. The proposed paper takes the occurrence of normative orientations towards an "average" in diverse fields (such as debates on work-life-balance and medium achievements in the workplace; goals to keep up with average performances in leisure sport) as a starting point to investigate the role of the "average" in urban housing. The paper is interested in the relation between ethical references to an "average" and urban developments of crowding or increases in rents. Based on qualitative interviews, the paper asks how ideas of an "average" discursively feature in explanations of housing choices, how and if they are used in situating oneself as part of a "middle class" and how they are connected to other fields.

Panel Urba03
The vulnerable middle class? Strategies of housing in a prospering city