URP Faculty Receive NSF Grant to Study Informal Housing

Noah Durst and Deyanira Nevárez Martínez will conduct research on: "Informality and Inequality in the Global North: Regulation, Non-Compliance, and Enforcement in U.S. Land Use and Housing Law."

Headshots of Noah and Deya

SPDC faculty members Noah Durst and Deyanira Nevárez Martínez have been awarded a $395,000 grant by the National Science Foundation for their research on informal housing. The project, titled, “Informality and Inequality in the Global North: Regulation, Non-Compliance, and Enforcement in U.S. Land Use and Housing Law,” will be led by principal investigator Noah Durst and co-principal investigator Deyanira Nevárez Martínez, both from the SPDC’s Urban & Regional Planning Program. Other contributors include co-principal investigators Claire Herbert of the University of Oregon and Jacob Wegmann of the University of Texas at Austin. 

“I’m excited to be leading this project with three of the leading scholars of informal housing in the U.S.,” said Durst, before adding, “I anticipate that our findings will illustrate both the causes and consequences of the nation’s deep and widespread housing crisis.” 

Informal housing – housing that violates laws and regulations or is denied their protection – is common throughout the nation. Although these informal units provide a much-needed supply of housing in high-cost metropolitan areas, they can also pose important health and safety risks to residents, as well as exacerbate housing inequalities. 

“This funding provides a unique opportunity to examine the ongoing housing crisis with a focus on the proliferation of informal housing, which has historically been an invisible phenomenon in our nation,” said Nevárez Martínez. 

To do this, the project will examine and document how land use and housing laws, as well as their enforcement, contribute to the proliferation of informal housing.  The team will use national and local quantitative and qualitative data to examine the relationship between the production of informal housing units, the local regulatory environment, and local expenditures on code enforcement. 

“This study will provide insight into the role of discretionary enforcement and its impact on informal housing,” continued Nevárez Martínez. Durst, Nevárez Martínez, and the project team hope to inform more equitable policymaking and planning, as well as improve legal and social science education with their findings. 

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